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Young actress surprised by nomination

Teen was plucked from obscurity to play role
/ Source: The Associated Press

New Zealand anticipated Oscar success Tuesday for homegrown director Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” finale. But a best-actress nomination for 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes — the youngest-ever nominee in that category — was a surprise to the “Whale Rider” star.

The film’s distributor was pushing Castle-Hughes in the supporting category. Instead, the New Zealand teenager will be up against Diane Keaton, Charlize Theron, Samantha Morton and Australia’s Naomi Watts for best actress.

“My Mum came running into my room saying ‘Keisha, you’ve just been nominated,”’ Castle-Hughes told National Radio.

“I was like, ’I thought I was still sleeping.’ I thought, ‘I’ll be happy in the morning.”’

But within three hours she was up, taking media and congratulatory calls.

Castle-Hughes’s performance as a New Zealand girl who defies tradition to lead a tribe of Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, was praised at film festivals around the world.

Castle-Hughes was plucked from obscurity at 11 to play Paikea in what was her first acting experience. After the whirl of international travel and publicity, she told The Associated Press last year she was not sure acting would be her lifelong pursuit.

“I’ve always wanted to be an actress, but now that I’ve had the chance I don’t know if I really want to,” she said. “It’s really hard.”

The Academy Awards ceremony will be held Feb. 29 in Hollywood.