Ex-Neighbours actor Bella Heathcote lands role in Fifty Shades Darker

Call it the Neighbours effect.

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Fifty Shades of Grey opens on 12 February in New Zealand

From Guy Pearce to Margot Robbie and the Hemsworth brothers, the long-running Australian soap opera set in suburban Melbourne has long been a fertile training ground for future Hollywood stars.

A role on Neighbours (or indeed, its competitor Home & Away) seems to be more valuable than an acting degree from the National Institute of Dramatic Art for actors hoping to land acting jobs in U.S. movies and television.

Bella Heathcote has landed a role in <i>Fifty Shades Darker</i>, the second instalment of E.L. James' trilogy.
Bella Heathcote has landed a role in Fifty Shades Darker, the second instalment of E.L. James' trilogy. Photo: Beau Grealy

The latest Ramsay Street graduate whose star is rising in Hollywood is Bella Heathcote who will play Christian Grey's former submissive lover Leila in Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to S&M blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey.

The film made more than $US500 million at the worldwide box office, but was mauled by critics such as The New York Times' A.O. Scott who concluded: "Fifty Shades of Grey might not be a good movie — O.K., it's a terrible movie — but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment."


Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson will reprise their roles as billionaire Grey and his whipping-girl Anastasia "Ana" Steele in the sequel and the third instalment of the S&M trilogy Fifty Shades Freed, Variety reports.

Heathcote's character Leila will provide one source of melodrama in the second instalment based on E.L. James' bestselling book series, stalking Ana after she suffers a breakdown following the death of her lover.

Bella Heathcote as Josette du Pres in Tim Burton's 2012 film <i>Dark Shadows</i>.
Bella Heathcote as Josette du Pres in Tim Burton's 2012 film Dark ShadowsPhoto: Peter Mountain

The 28-year-old actress from Melbourne played mean girl Amanda Fowler in Neighbours in 2009, waging a vendetta against fellow Erinsborough High School student Kate Ramsay, played by Ashleigh Brewer (who is now on daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful).

Heathcote won the Heath Ledger Scholarship in 2010 and landed a role in Tim Burton's 2012 film Dark Shadows alongside Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Bella Heathcote with Brendan Cowell, her co-star in <i>Beneath Hill 60</i>.
Bella Heathcote with Brendan Cowell, her co-star in Beneath Hill 60Photo: Melanie Dove

She is in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a reimagining of Jane Austen's classic as a horror story, which opened in US cinemas in February to mixed reviews.

Heathcote will also appear in Nicolas Winding Refn's thriller The Neon Demon, featuring Keanu Reeves and Elle Fanning and scheduled for release later this year.

She appeared in the 2010 Australian war drama Beneath Hill 60 as Marjorie Waddell, the love interest of the film's protagonist Captain Oliver Woodward played by Brendan Cowell.

Heathcote's lawyer father was apparently not happy when his daughter moved to Hollywood to pursue her acting career, reported the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

Heathcote's Melbourne-based agent Joanna Milosz said everyone on the actress' team "is very happy and very pleased" with news of the role.