Year
2004

Thirteen-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes nominated for Best Actress Oscar

On this day in 2004, the actress Sigourney Weaver joins Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to announce the 76th annual Academy Award nominations.

Weaver was a three-time Oscar nominee herself (twice for Best Actress, for 1986’s Aliens and 1988’s Gorillas in the Mist and for Best Supporting Actress in 1988’s Working Girl). She and Pierson announced the nominations, which were chosen by the Academy’s 5,803 members by mail-in ballot, before 400 members of the international media at a 5:30 a.m. news conference in Los Angeles.

In addition to the 11 nominations racked up by Peter Jackson’s trilogy-ending The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, undoubtedly one of the leading stories to come out of that year’s nominations was the Best Actress nod given to Keisha Castle-Hughes, the 13-year-old star of the independent film Whale Rider and the youngest actress ever to be nominated in the category. (The youngest winner of a contended Academy Award was 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal, who collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1973’s Paper Moon.) Born in Western Australia to a Maori mother and an Australian father, Castle-Hughes moved with her family to New Zealand when she was an infant. While attending primary school in Wellington, the 11-year-old was spotted by the Whale Rider casting director. She was later chosen from among several hundred young girls to play Paikea, the heroine of the film.

Directed by Niki Caro, Whale Rider told the story of Pai, the only grandchild of a tribal leader who resents her for not being the first-born son who can traditionally inherit the leadership role. Named for the tribe’s ancient ancestor, who as legend has it rode into town on the back of a whale, Pai must overcome the tribe’s chauvinism and her grandfather’s animosity and prove herself as the tribe’s rightful leader. The film became one of the year’s biggest independent hits at the U.S. box office, and Castle-Hughes won raves for her precociously nuanced performance, culminating in the historic Oscar nomination. Though she eventually lost the Best Actress statuette to Charlize Theron (Monster), the nomination marked her arrival on the Hollywood scene. She soon appeared in the controversial video for Prince’s song Cinnamon Girl, in which she played an Arab-American girl who dreams of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on an airport after she is victimized in the aftermath of 9/11.

In 2005, Castle-Hughes played the Queen of Naboo in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and the following year she starred as Mary in The Nativity Story. She gave birth to a baby girl, Felicity-Amore, in the spring of 2007; the father is Bradley Hull, her boyfriend of several years. Castle-Hughes promptly returned to film work, starring opposite Toni Collette in Hey, Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger (2007) and reteaming with Caro for a second collaboration, Vintner’s Luck (2009).

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Somali dictator flees

Muhammad Siyad Barre, the dictator of the Somali Democratic Republic since 1969, flees Mogadishu as rebels overrun his palace and capture the Somali capital.In 1969, Somalian President Abd-i-rashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated, and a few days later Major General Barre seized ...read more

Baird demonstrates TV

On January 27, 1926, John Logie Baird, a Scottish inventor, gives the first public demonstration of a true television system in London, launching a revolution in communication and entertainment. Baird’s invention, a pictorial-transmission machine he called a “televisor,” used ...read more

Astronauts die in launch pad fire

A launch pad fire during Apollo program tests at Cape Canaveral, Florida, kills astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. An investigation indicated that a faulty electrical wire inside the Apollo 1 command module was the probable cause of the ...read more

Shelby GT 350 debuts

On this day in 1965, the Shelby GT 350, a version of a Ford Mustang sports car developed by the American auto racer and car designer Carroll Shelby, is launched. The Shelby GT 350, which featured a 306 horsepower V-8 engine, remained in production through the end of the 1960s and ...read more

National Geographic Society founded

On January 27, 1888, the National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C., for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”The 33 men who originally met and formed the National Geographic Society were a diverse group of geographers, explorers, teachers, ...read more

Siege of Leningrad is lifted

On this day, Soviet forces permanently break the Leningrad siege line, ending the almost 900-day German-enforced containment of the city, which cost hundreds of thousands of Russian lives.The siege began officially on September 8, 1941. The people of Leningrad began building ...read more

Paris Peace Accords signed

The United States, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam formally sign “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” in Paris. Due to South Vietnam’s unwillingness to recognize the Viet Cong’s Provisional Revolutionary Government, all references to it were ...read more

Donald Evans earns Medal of Honor

Specialist Four Donald W. Evans, a 23-year-old medic from Covina, California, was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for action on this day in the Kontum Province.Evans’ platoon had not yet been committed to the battle near the hamlet of Tri Tam when firing broke out in an ...read more

Reagan serves in film unit

On this day in 1943, future President Ronald Reagan, an Army Air Corps first lieutenant during World War II, is on an active-duty assignment with the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit.Technically, Reagan was a unit public relations officer, however Warner Brothers Studios and the ...read more

Dante is exiled from Florence

On this day, poet and politician Dante Alighieri is exiled from Florence, where he served as one of six priors governing the city. Dante’s political activities, including the banishing of several rivals, led to his own banishment, and he wrote his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, ...read more

Explosions trigger deadly panic in Nigeria

On this day in 2002, explosions at a military depot in Lagos, Nigeria, trigger a stampede of fleeing people, during which more than 1,000 people are killed.The Ikeja armory was located just north of the city center of Lagos and housed a large barracks and munitions depot. On ...read more

The so-called Dracula killer

On this day in 1978, Richard Chase, who becomes known as the “Dracula Killer,” murders Evelyn Miroth and Daniel Meredith, as well as Miroth’s 6-year-old son andanotherwoman,in Sacramento, California. Chase sexually assaulted Miroth with a knife before killing her and mutilating ...read more