Oscars: 'It's been a hell of a ride' - Jude Hill's Belfast journey

By Judith Cummings
BBC News NI

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Image source, MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS
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Jude Hill accepts the award for Young Actor at the Critics Choice Awards

It's been a hectic, whirlwind of a few months for Belfast star Jude Hill.

Or to put it in his own words: "I'm very, very lucky, it's been a hell of a ride.

"I mean, not many 11-year-olds get to go to Hollywood and go to the Oscars."

A ride that began just 18 months ago when filming began for Belfast - the fictional account of Sir Kenneth Branagh's childhood in the city.

Jude was chosen from more than 300 boys to play Buddy, a young boy who loves where he lives, but must move away from everyone and everything he knows.

Jude's Belfast journey has taken him around the world, but the focus of the last few weeks has been Hollywood and the awards circuit.

Image source, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Image caption,
Will Smith and Jude Hill at the Critics Choice Awards

So how does a young boy from Northern Ireland deal with the limelight?

"My motto is just go with the flow. Because if you sort of worry about it, like: 'What if I do that?'

"Or 'What if I don't do that?

"I just go with the flow and every time I meet someone I'm really, really dizzy after."

But there have been shocks along the way, winning Best Young Actor/Actress at the Critic's Choice Awards.

"That was a massive surprise.

"I seriously didn't see that coming because I watched everything that all the other nominees were in and there were so good. "

Image source, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Image caption,
Jude Hill meeting Andrew Garfield at the Critics Choice Awards

Surely the nerves kicked in at that stage?

"I had like Will Smith, Andrew Garfield, Nicolas Cage watching me and I walked up and I was like, trying not to be nervous," he said.

"But actually behind stage they take photos of you with the awards, but I was bawling my eyes out so they said: 'Oh, we'll bring you in at a later time.'"

And he's made a few new friends along the way.

"I've met Andrew Garfield, Will Smith, and those two are very, very big names," he said.

"Will Smith told me that my jacket was hot. I was just like: 'That's a compliment I'll never forget'.

"I would love to meet Nicolas Cage and have a chat with him. He shouted me out at the HCA (Hollywood Critics Association) awards.

"I had to go to bed because it was too late that night, but I really wish I could have been there."

Media caption,
Oscars 2022: Making friends with Will Smith and Andrew Garfield

But is hasn't been all work, with the family squeezing in a trip to Universal Studios last week.

"It was very, very hot. But it was such a cool opportunity to just hang out with my siblings and the rest of my family.

"And while we were there we actually saw up on one of the buildings, they had a Belfast poster. It's just crazy."

The Hill family have been able to experience a little of the Belfast whirlwind and mum Shauneen said they were all "incredibly proud".

"To think that he's in a feature film, his first job was Belfast.

"We feel so lucky that he was picked from over 300 kids that auditioned for the role, but he makes us proud every day. We've been back and forth to LA for quite some time.

"He's been working really hard, but he never complains that he works hard. So we're just so incredibly proud of him."

Image source, CAROLINE BREHMAN/EPA
Image caption,
Jude with Ciarán Hinds, Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan and Sir Kenneth Branagh at the SAG awards

Sunday's Academy Awards brings the Belfast journey to a close.

With seven nominations, Jude and his on-screen parents, Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe, are Oscars-bound.

It's still not clear if Sir Kenneth Branagh or Ciarán Hinds will make it after recently testing positive for Covid.

Best song nominee Van Morrison won't be there either as he's performing in Spain.

So what does Jude think about Hollywood's biggest night?

"I'm so excited and I've my fingers crossed.

"It's pretty cool because you get to wear all these fancy outfits, you get to get your hair all done up and you get to go on the red carpet - it's really, really fun and cool.

"And I have no fashion sense, it's all my mum. She controls all the outfits and hair.

"I just go with the flow."