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.
This movie is about a boy who grew up in a working-class family in Troubles during the 1960s. It was mainly shot in black and brown.
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
For his role in Buddy, the schoolboy hailing from Gilford (25 miles north of Belfast) has won the best newcomer award from the Hollywood Critics Association. He is joined by Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, and Ciaran Hinds, his grandparents.
Jude received his training at Shelley Lowry for drama and speech. He was able to secure the part by sending in a tape, and then undergoing virtual interviews.
‘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.’
His mother chose a scene for the self-tape. To audition for the next round, he used an excerpt from Belfast before calling 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, his mother Shauneen Hill and he arrive at the 24th British Independent Film Awards in Old Billingsgate on 12/12/2021 in London. His newfound fame seems to be 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 Judi Dench & Ciaran Hinds), his co stars in “Belfast”.
Jude lives with his parents Shauneen, Daryl, and has an older brother and sister. He has been signed up for Los Angeles talent agencies.
His newfound fame seems to be going well, but it does not seem that he is getting any attention. His mother said: ‘He’s very humble and he’s such a good boy about it.
Even though he returned to school shortly 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.
On the set for Belfast, Kenneth Branagh (left), and Jude Hill (right).
‘He was actually unreal just in terms of the delivery and his expression,’ she told the Hollywood Reporter.
American comedian Jackie Cooper was only nine years old at the time he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Adrien Brody was the youngest Oscar nominee for best actor. He was just 29 years old when he won the Academy Award in 2002 for The Pianist.