Here’s a Question For You Movie Buffs

Not to stump you, but because I genuinely don’t know the answer and wonder if one of you does:

Who is the youngest person to win an Academy Award not in an acting category? Discount also the recipients of the Academy’s Juvenile Award, as they were all also actors.

At the moment, for youngest winner in a non-acting Oscar category, I suspect the answer is Markéta Irglová, who won the Best Original Song Academy Award four days before her 20th birthday.

Anyone else got a different answer? Let me know.

37 Comments on “Here’s a Question For You Movie Buffs”

  1. I can’t imagine you’d get much younger than that. The only other ones I can think of are Orson Welles, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who all won for writing when they were 25 or 26. I think any other category would require technical proficiencies and experience impossible to acquire before age 30. Except, maybe in animated or documentary short?

  2. (Note: that’s not to say producing an animated or documentary short doesn’t require technical proficiency, just that it’s likely easier for a young person working guerilla-style to get an award-calibre piece of short work in front of judges than one at feature length. I mean, Welles was nominated for producing and directing Citizen Kane at 26, though he didn’t win those.)

  3. Charles K. Bradley:

    “I’m not sure, but was it Shirely Temple?”

    Please see the notation about not counting the juvenile awards, Charles.

  4. Charles, Temple won an honorary juvenile Oscar just shy of her 7th birthday but Tatum O’Neal was the youngest recipient of a competitive Oscar when she was 10 (2nd is Anna Paquin at 11). Those, however, were acting Oscars so not exactly what John is looking for.

    I’m going for John Waters for best assistant director in 1935 at the age of negative eleven.

  5. william friedkin was 32 when he won for directing the french connection in 1971.

    (as for nominations, john singleton was nominated for boyz in the hood (1991) when he was 24 so i’m afraid he beats mr. welles by a few years. sorry.)

  6. Norman Rae Taurog is the youngest director to win best director. He was 32 when he won for the movie Skippy in 1931.

  7. Jon Hansen:

    Yes, and that particular Wikipedia page is actually useless to this particular conversation, as it focuses on the acting categories and the juvenile awards, which I am explicitly putting aside for the purposes of the question.

    Also, to be clear, I have no interest in any non-acting Award winner older than Ms. Irglová, as they are older than her and I’m wondering if there are any younger than she. Also note particularly interested in nominations, just wins.

  8. It seems that Irglová is the youngest to win the award for music. I really don’t see someone younger than her winning for one of the big non-acting categories. It is possible that someone on an winning FX team or sound crew was younger but I am doubtful that they played a significant role. It takes time to develop the kind of technical skills that win oscars.


  9. I took a quick trip to the Oscars site and found their list of all nominees and winners since the inception of the awards. There are 1,582 excluding special awards and I doubt any of those folks were younguns. Some of the winners were corporate entities. For exmaple, Paramount Famous Lasky for OUTSTANDING PICTURE, the movie “Wings”, BUT sifting through all this will be a bit of a task.

    here’s the link for the very enterprising >>

  10. That’s a toughie. It is possible to do a comprehensive lookup of all the categories

    And scan each winner for birthdate vs. year of award, but it doesn’t appear that anybody has composed a list of non-acting awards (except for best director) sorted by age of the winner.

    Does your query also cover “group” awards and if so, would that be for individual member of group or average age of group?

  11. A few more data points: Paddy Chayefsky appears to be the youngest winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, at the tender age of 32 — and a 25-year-old Ben Affleck edges out other contenders to be the Best Original Screenplay prodigy: Orson Welles was 26 when he picked up his trophy, and Matt Damon was 27.

    The fact that Wolfram Alpha provides a direct answer to questions like “How old was Ben Affleck on March 23, 1998” is somewhat helpful here, but I think taking it any further will be more research project than idle trivia question.

  12. John @ 4
    I feel so ashamed!! I don’t know why I skipped over that part of your blog today. I made a appt. with my eye doctor today!!! Please accept my apology.

  13. No worries, Charles.

    And to be clear, I’m not expecting anyone to do work for me. It’s just something that if you knew off the top of your head, I’d’ve been happy to know.

  14. Tumbleweed–who is Irina? You can call her Mrs. Hansard if Irglova’s too hard for ya, but the young lady’s name is Marketa…yeesh!

    I think you’re right, Scalzi, I don’t think anyone’s been younger. I’ve been a longtime fan of Glen Hansard and The Frames and I about wet myself with glee when he and his missus won over the Disney hype machine.

  15. You might try posting a question at If there’s anyone younger, someone there is bound to know.

  16. Mmh, one could write a script to screen scrape the imdb oscar page. For each year, the script would be setup to click on names of winners in categories other than acting and take the date of birth from that person’s page and subtract the year from the current oscar year. Output the name and age to a file, then order it in excel or whatever.
    How much are you willing to pay for that answer?

  17. I’d check the rest of the music category. I really can’t imagine anyone won any of the other technical awards at 19 or younger, but other music winners are a possibility.

  18. ioresult has the right idea. I never bothered to explore how wikipedia works, but while there appears to be some standard variable data to correctly generate each page, most specific detail (content) does not appear to be generated in any XML accessible by the casual user.

    So, if I wanted to measure the length of each Pink Floyd album against the running time of each Judy Garland movie to look for possible, peculiar mathematical similarities, I’d be pretty much on my own writing cumbersome scripts.

    damn socialists.

  19. Julia @ 19 – Sorry, major brainfart from being too early (don’t trust the time stamp there – that’s from some crazy other timezone that I’m not in :).

    re: The Frames/etc.

    I really don’t understand why these people aren’t ridiculously famous. Very odd.

  20. Wouldn’t the best Best Boy get one? ;)

    an oscar, or a boy?

    (wonder if my first attempt at formatting will have any luck)

  21. How about the youngest person on a team to win.
    I found Jenny Phelps she was only 19. she work on the movie Babe (1995). she was a fur assistant in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. they won an Academy Award for Visual Effects. sorry worth a shot.

  22. I was all over “Ben”, since it was nominated for Best Song in 1972, but the 14-year old Michael Jackson only sang it, didn’t write it. Darn.

  23. So, we’ve established that there are child actors, but no child editors or child cinematographers. Bummer – I would have liked to read an explosive tell-all biography about the Hollywood technical production industry.

  24. Not an answer to the movie buff question, but mentioned because his work would be very enjoyable– Don Hertzfeldt was only 24 when he was nominated for his short animated film “Rejected” (released in 2000) and I mention it specifically because “Rejected” is a film I think you would love, John, and it’s only 9 minutes long (thus, once found, would not take too long to see). It’s on youtube. Hertzfeldt used to not like having his stuff up there due to the difference in quality between that and 35MM film, but I think his views may have changed.

  25. I find it interesting that such a simple question to ask is so difficult to answer but that is often the way of things. One would think that someone in Hollywood would have published this somewhere but they probably don’t think of much beyond the acting awards.

  26. To the extent that Guilds in Hollywood are essentially Unions, and have to comply with California State Labor Commission rules, there are legal reasons why Signatory Studios and Production Companies are very careful about Child Labor Laws. Lying about ages also causes problems, as the pr0n industry knows. See also
    [excerpt: An arbitrator ruled that producers are NOT agents of the studios, and thus any rewrite {JVP: “insert “by”} a writer for a producer is outside the writer’s contract with the studio. If a producer asks a writer to make changes in a draft, the studio is under no obligation to pay for those changes. If a writer wants to be paid, he or she should simply turn in a draft to the executive named in the contract and ask for payment.]

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