Belfast boy who's the new Kenneth Branagh is tipped to be the youngest male Oscar nominee for 91 years

  • Jude Hill’s stellar performance has him topped to be Oscar nominee since 1931
  • The movie, about a boy growing up in a working class family during the Troubles in the late 1960s, is largely shot in black and white and has received rave reviews
  • Jude, now 11, has been hailed as ‘a natural’ by actor Sir Kenneth Branagh
  • Dame Judi Dench said he was ‘like an actor who had had 25 years’ experience’
  • American star Jackie Cooper was nine when he was nominated for the best actor
  • The youngest best actor Oscar winner was Adrien Brody, who was 29 at the time 

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He was nine when he beat 300 hopefuls to play a fictionalised version of a young Sir Kenneth Branagh in the director’s semi-autobiographical film, Belfast.

Now Jude Hill’s stellar performance has seen him tipped to become the youngest actor to receive a best actor Oscar nomination since 1931.

The movie, about a boy growing up in a working class family during the Troubles in the late 1960s, is largely shot in black and white.

It opened yesterday and has been garlanded with praise – in his five-star review, the Daily Mail’s critic Brian Viner called it a small masterpiece.

Jude, now 11, has been hailed as ‘a natural’ by Sir Kenneth, while co-star Dame Judi Dench said he was ‘completely like an actor who had had 25 years’ worth of experience’.

Jude Hill’s stellar performance in Belfast has seen him tipped to become the youngest actor to receive a best actor Oscar nomination since 1931

The schoolboy from the village of Gilford, about 25 miles from Belfast, has been named best newcomer by the Hollywood Critics Association for his role as Buddy alongside Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe as his parents and Dame Judi and Ciaran Hinds as his grandparents.

Jude, who trained at the Shelley Lowry School for speech and drama, secured the part after sending in a tape of his work and having a series of virtual interviews and auditions.

‘The first audition I ever did was a self-tape,’ he said. ‘I go to speech and drama lessons and I do poems and extracts from books and my teacher sent through this self-tape and I filmed it and I got called back like five or six times.’

The self-tape was a scene from a film chosen by his mother. He used a scene from Belfast for future auditions before the final hurdle: A call with Sir Kenneth.

‘When the email came through I ran around my house screaming for about five minutes,’ Jude said of winning the role. 

‘I didn’t even get half way through and I read it all and I found out who would be in it and I was amazed... It was just crazy.’

Jude Hill and his mother Shauneen Hill arrive the 24th British Independent Film Awards at Old Billingsgate on December 5, 2021 in London. It seems that his newfound fame is not going to his head. His mother said: ‘He’s very humble and he’s such a good boy about it'

Jude Hill (centre)with actors Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds, his co stars in the film 'Belfast'

Jude, who lives with his parents Daryl and Shauneen and has a younger sister and brother, has now been signed up by Los Angeles talent agencies.

But it seems that his newfound fame is not going to his head. His mother said: ‘He’s very humble and he’s such a good boy about it. 

Even when he went back to school after [filming], his teachers were asking him lots of questions and he didn’t really talk about it.

'He’s just a normal boy and that’s how we and him want to stay.’

She said that she spotted her son’s talent when he was only four, after he recited the poem Roger Was A Razor Fish at school.

Director Kenneth Branagh (left) and actor Jude Hill (right) on the set of Belfast

‘He was actually unreal just in terms of the delivery and his expression,’ she told the Hollywood Reporter.

American star Jackie Cooper was nine when he was nominated for the best actor Oscar for his role in comedy Skippy in 1931.

The youngest best actor Oscar winner was Adrien Brody, who was 29 when he took home the Academy Award for his role in The Pianist in 2002. 

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Belfast boy is tipped to be the youngest male Oscar nominee for 91 years

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