'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Newcomers Discuss On-Set Surprises: 'You Wouldn’t Expect Fire to Explode That Much' (Video)

Fledgling actors Dwight Henry and Quvenzhane Wallis built a relationship as friends before playing father and daughter in Benh Zeitlin's award-winng directorial debut.

In Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, nonprofessional actors Dwight Henry and Quvenzhane Wallis play father and daughter, and they work beautifully together on some incredibly complex and dramatic scenes. But the duo tells THR that during the incipient stages of their collaboration, Henry won her heart only after appealing to her stomach.

“They told me that the two other guys they had cast to play her father, she didn’t approve of them,” Henry said. “She didn’t feel comfortable with them.”

Wallis revealed that the actor, which is a chef in New Orleans, brought her some treats from his day job. “The first day I saw him, he brung me some sweets like cookies, brownies,” she said. “And then I ran to Benh and said, ‘he’s the one’.”

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The film marks both actors’ debuts on screen, and Wallis is a force of nature as Hushpuppy, the scrappy little girl who battles against the elements to protect and sustain the small community in which she lives with her father. She says the duo spent the first couple of days just getting to know one another before they threw themselves into the hurricane forces of Zeitlin’s script.

“We had about one or two days to meet each other and get in a relationship like as friends,” she explains. “We would just high-five, play around and do different things like father and daughter would do.”

Among the many challenges Wallis and Henry faced was fire, floods, and mythical creatures called aurochs. Wallis says that these elements provided plenty of surprises while she was on set. “Doing the different scenes, like the aurochs and the fires, you wouldn’t expect the things that happened with the fire,” she explains. “And the floods – you really wouldn’t expect the rain to just soak you that much, and the fire to explode that much.”

Watch the video above for more revelations from the pair about the process of bringing Zeitlin’s film to life. Beasts of the Southern Wild is being released nationwide on Friday, June 29.