Isabella Allen and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables (Photo: Universal Pictures)Just one year ago, young Isabelle Allen was acting in a school play (as a boy, no less). Today, she's the featured co-star of Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway in director Tom Hooper's big-screen adaptation of one of the longest-running musical in history, "Les Miserables."
The ten-year-old Allen plays the younger version of Cosette, the illegitimate daughter of factory worker turned prostitute Fantine (Hathaway) who eventually grows up to look like Amanda Seyfried. You know that little girl on pretty much every "Les Mis" poster ever -- including the one for the film? That's Cosette.
Photo: Universal PicturesYeah, it's a pretty big deal. And the story of how this girl from Eastbourne, East Sussex got the part is definitely your classic Hollywood tale of suddenly "being discovered" by the right person.
In Allen's case, that person was Jeremy Taylor of the National Youth Music Theatre, who saw the young actress in the Moira House School production of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." Taylor was so impressed with her portrayal of a lame boy that he persuaded the "Les Mis" casting agents to let her audition.
Allen's parents thought their daughter would be playing, if anything, an extra in the production. But no -- she was destined to beat thousands of other candidates and become the poster girl for one of the most anticipated movies of the year.
"When I found out I'd been picked I was so excited," said Allen. "I was jumping up and down on my bed. But I was also a little scared and nervous, because I didn't know what to expect."
What she got was a set full of new friends ... especially Hugh Jackman, who plays Cosette's father figure and the film's protagonist, Jean Valjean.
"He would joke about what my favorite cocktail was and I'd say it was a water cocktail," she said. "He was very funny and would talk in these different voices. He tried to persuade the director to let me wear shoes while I was filming because it was cold, but we weren't allowed to. He was very kind to me."
You get to star in the "Les Mis" movie and become BFFs with Wolverine? Young Cosette herself never had such luck.
And things are just getting started for Isabelle, as she'll be reprising the part of Cosette in the West End stage production of "Les Mis" and is currently fielding other movie roles, including one in an upcoming Disney project. And, like a true professional, she seems to be taking all this excitement in stride.
"She's never changed," said her mother, Eliane. "She's still just the same Izzy. It's been an incredible year and we'll have to wait to see what happens next."
That we will. And for now, we're brushing up on all the lyrics so we can sing along with "Les Miserables" when it opens in theaters on December 25.
See the trailer for 'Les Miserables':