HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. - Hastings native Benh Zeitlin has two shots at winning an Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, having been nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
Zeitlin co-wrote the screenplay with longtime friend Lucy Alibar, who penned the original play, "Juicy and Delicious." Zeitlin used an amateur cast to make a critically acclaimed independent film in backwater Louisiana with a budget of about $1.3 million. The film has grossed just over $14 million.
"The most exciting for me is that we now have the leverage to keep working on our own terms and continue trying to make independent films in Louisiana with the family that created 'Beasts,'" Zeitlin told the Daily Voice last week.
"So, in many ways, we just get to stick with the plan. But it feels great to know with relative certainty that I get to keep spending my life making movies."
The Oscar-nominated film follows 6-year-old Hushpuppy and her terminally ill father, Wink, who live in "The "Bathtub," a-beneath-sea-level community struggling to survive against constant storms and flooding.
Quvenzhané Wallis plays Hushpuppy and is the youngest actor, at age 9, ever nominated for Best Actress.
Zeitlin's parents, Amanda Dargan and Steve Zeitlin, left for Los Angeles on Friday and will attend the Oscars. The couple's daughter, Eliza Zeitlin, was the production designer on "Beasts."
"As we get ready to leave on Friday for the Oscars, Amanda summed up this whole madcap year," Steve Zeitlin said about their children's success with "Beasts." "Amanda said, 'I imagine that I woke up this morning and told you, 'Steve, I had the strangest dream about our kids last night.'"
Zeitlin's competition for Best Director includes Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln," Larchmont's Ang Lee for "The Life of Pi," Michael Haneke for "Amour," and David O. Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook."
The other nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are "Argo" (Chris Terrio), "Life of Pi" (David Magee), "Lincoln" (Tony Kushner) and "Silver Linings Playbook" (David O. Russell).