Sadly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams have not graced this planet by actually mixing their beautiful genes together to create a child, but they do play parents in the boxing drama Southpaw , opening in theaters on July 24. In the film, the fake couple have a daughter, and she'll be a familiar face to many viewers. So who is the actress who plays Gyllenhaal's daughter in Southpaw , Leila Hope? It's none other than 12-year-old Oona Laurence. And while the star might be pretty young, she's certainly no newcomer to the business.
To theater fans, Laurence is best known for playing the lead role in Matilda on Broadway, sharing the part with fellow young stars Sophia Gennusa, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro. In 2013, Laurence and her little colleagues won a special Tony Honor For Excellence In Theater award for their work in the musical, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's famous novel. It's a daunting role, even with the actresses splitting their Matilda duties (since Broadway musicals have eight shows a week, that amount of work usually means that kid roles are cast in groups of twos, threes, or fours). I've seen the show, and Matilda is in almost every scene. It'd be an impressive task for an actress of any age, let alone one not even into her teens.
Yet clearly, working on Matilda paid off for Laurence (and not just because of that Tony). The play, which deals with some heavy subject matter (remember the Trunchball? That shot-put? Those parents?) prepared her for her work in a drama as intense as Southpaw. She learned how to play both optimistic and tough, and to delve deeply into distressing work that's far more emotionally taxing than what you'd usually expect out of a "kids" show.
Matilda takes the emphasis off of "cute" and encourages kids to find their inner strength. ("You musn't let a little thing like 'little' stop you.") With a part like this on her resume, Laurence became poised to handle even more serious material, and her role in Southpaw is a great first step. There's a lot of adult stuff for her character to deal with in the film, from being exposed to physical violence and the repercussions of it, to being taken into custody by Child Services. Watch this interview with the young actress and tell me she's not prepared for her newest role.
And even if it wasn't clear that Oona Laurence is most definitely smarter and more mature than the rest of us, a quick look at the rest of her qualifications ensures that she's up for the challenge. Aside from her theater work, she's appeared in big-time televisions shows like Louie, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and (squee) as a young Pennsatucky in Season 3 of Orange Is The New Black. She's been tapped by Disney to star in an upcoming Pete's Dragon remake. Her accolades include a prestigious dance scholarship and even a Grammy award for the Matilda cast album. So clearly, she's just getting started.
Check out Laurence's major motion picture debut in Southpaw to see her hold her own against big-time Hollywood stars, and see why she's one of the biggest up-and-comers in Hollywood.