Samantha Barks is a young woman of great expectations. The above photograph is of a rather extraordinary night in the 21 year-old musical performer's life. Since she came third in the BBC's search for a young woman to play Nancy in a revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver! in 2008, Miss Barks has been seen consistently on stage in London most notably as downtrodden street urchin Eponine in concerts at the O2 arena to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables. Last Tuesday, she was playing the role of Nancy in a U.K. tour of Oliver! in Manchester when legendary theatre impressario and the man behind the Les Mis phenomenon, Cameron Mackintosh, joined the company on stage to surprise the recently-resurrected tart with a heart with the news that she has been cast as Eponine in the much-anticipated big-screen adaptation of Les Miserables. Quite a coup!
Given the extreme star wattage to be found elsewhere in the cast, it was presumed that the coveted role (Eponine does sing On My Own, after all) would be awarded to a Hollywood starlet, the latest name in the frame being that of country superstar and wannabe actress Taylor Swift. This is a rather charming underdog story and Mackintosh, who is producing the movie, and the director Tom Hooper must be commended for opting for Samantha Barks who, despite being a relative unknown, has already proven herself in the role. She will now enter a revolution-torn love triangle with the man of the moment, Birdsong's Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Mamma Mia's Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, who will arrive in London in the coming weeks straight from filming the title role in a biopic of the notorious 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace. Eponine's neglectful parents, the odious Monsieur and Madame Thernadier, will be played by Sweeney Todd's Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.
Meanwhile, the exciting international cast of Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Hugh Jackman as Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert and Broadway and Gossip Girl star Aaron Tveit as Enjolras will be joined by the original stage Valjean and Eponine, Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle, in cameo roles as the kindly Bishop of Digne and "a fabulous whore" - respectively!