Les Miserables poster girl has reason to smile

Isabelle Allen star of the new film of Les Miserables, with Lesley Watson of Moira House School Eastbourne where she is a pupil. November 22nd 2012 E47123N
Isabelle Allen star of the new film of Les Miserables, with Lesley Watson of Moira House School Eastbourne where she is a pupil. November 22nd 2012 E47123N

It is one of the most iconic images in theatre land but the poster for the stage epic Les Miserables has been updated for the hotly-anticipated Hollywood film – and it is an Eastbourne girl who is staring out from the darkness.

Isabelle Allen was picked from thousands of young girls to star in the big budget cinema release alongside Hollywood heavyweights Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried.

The ten-year-old, who goes to Moira House, landed the role of the young Cosette in the film after being spotted during a school production of Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Jeremy Taylor, who heads the National Youth Theatre, was directing the show in Eastbourne and was bowled over by Isabelle after seeing her sing a solo. A quick call to casting agents in London convinced them to take a look at her and the rest, as they say, is history.

Isabelle was whisked up to the capital for an audition, was given the part and soon found herself filming scenes at London’s historic Pinewood Studios alongside some of the biggest names in the business.

However, if it sounds glamorous rubbing shoulders with Hollywood stars, it was definitely hard work.

As Isabelle explained, “I had to spend around an hour every day in make-up – they had to do things like painting my teeth – and a lot of the time I was walking around bare foot. It was really, really cold. Even when we filmed inside they used fake snow that was freezing. Hugh Jackman asked the director if he could give me something called diving socks but he wanted it to be genuine. My character was meant to be cold so it helped if I was.

“One day we filmed in some woods from 8pm until 6am and I was carrying a bucket of freezing cold water, tripped and spilt it all over myself. Of all the times I could have had an accident that was the worst timing!

“Another time I had to have menthol rubbed under my eyes to make me cry. It stang my eyes but was a good experience.”

Far from being a precocious child star, Isabelle was praised by the director and production staff for her patience and professionalism – no doubt helped by the odd tip given to her by her co-stars.

Hugh Jackman, of X-Men fame, was someone she became particularly close to. “It was a brilliant experience and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “Everyone was so friendly it was like a big family. Whenever I was cold people were wrapping me in blankets.

“Hugh Jackman was really nice and friendly. He was funny and helped me a lot. He gave me a great tip on how to look scared but told me not to tell anyone what it was.

“There is a picture of us sitting on a wall during rehearsals – he is telling me how annoying I was! He was great fun.”

Moira House headteacher Lesley Watson was full of admiration for her pupil, who is also an excellent dancer, and said it was refreshing to hear the praise lavished in Isabelle’s direction by so many professionals.

“We are all very proud of her and what she has already achieved,” she said, “but the most important thing is how much she is enjoying it. It is lovely to see.”

Isabelle has already auditioned for more movie roles and is appearing in Les Mis on the West End stage, performing twice a week until March. Next up though is the film’s premiere in London followed by a trip to New York to tread the red carpet in Manhattan.

Isabelle though remains grounded. Like most girls of her age she is looking forward to a trip to the Disney Store in Times Square almost as much as the screening itself.

“I just love performing,” she said, “ever since I saw my first show I knew I wanted to be the.

“I owe a lot to Jeremy Taylor. If he had not seen me and put me forward, I wouldn’t be doing any of this.”