SAG Awards nominee profile: Helena Zengel (‘News of the World’) would be youngest winner in history

At 12 years old, Helena Zengel could become the youngest Screen Actors Guild Award winner in history for her supporting performance in “News of the World” opposite Tom Hanks. The youngster was noticed by director Paul Greengrass after her breakout performance in the 2019 German film “System Crasher” and was subsequently cast to play Johanna Leonberger in the Universal Pictures film.

Zengel will face off against Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”), Oliva Colman (“The Father’) and Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”). Bakalova, Youn and Zengel are all celebrating their first nominations this year, while Close and Colman seek to add another statuette to their already decorated careers.

Close has received 10 nominations from her peers at the SAG Awards, winning two times: TV movie/mini actress for “The Lion in Winter” in 2005 and lead actress for “The Wife” in 2019. Colman has seven bids to date, including three this year, and one win in 2020 for drama ensemble in “The Crown.”

SEE Full list of SAG Awards nominations

In “News of the World,” Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran and widower who travels from town to town in Texas as a non-fiction storyteller. After crossing paths with Johanna (Zengel), a 10-year old orphan taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own, Kidd ultimately agrees to return the young girl to her living relatives residing hundreds of miles away. During their journey, the pair must learn to communicate as they face challenges from both human and natural forces.

In addition to her SAG nomination, Zengel was nominated for a Golden Globe and has been longlisted for consideration at the BAFTAs. Her performance in “News of the World” has earned high praise from critics, including Brian Truitt (USA Today), who writes, “Zengel holds her own with a Hollywood icon by imbuing her character with a wild-child manner that ultimately cracks to show the innocence underneath.”

A victory at the SAG Awards would make Zengel the youngest actor to win in any acting category. At age 20, Kate Winslet became the youngest winner on the women’s side in 1996 for her supporting turn in “Sense and Sensibility.” Dakota Fanning became the youngest nominee at age 7 for “I Am Sam” in 2002. On the men’s side, Heath Ledger is the youngest winner for his performance in “The Dark Knight” at age 28 in 2009, a year after his death. Jacob Tremblay is the youngest nominee among males, earning his bid at age 9 for “Room” in 2016.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders in film and TV.

SAG Awards odds for Best Supporting Actress
Glenn Close is out front

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