5 Things to Know About 'Southpaw's' Oona Laurence

Southpaw Still 3 - H 2015
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Southpaw Still 3 - H 2015

The Tony-winning actress plays Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams' characters' daughter.

While Jake Gyllenhaal may be the one getting awards chatter for his role in Southpaw, his young co-star Oona Laurence, who plays the daughter of his and Rachel McAdams' characters, is also receiving critical acclaim for her performance. Richard Roeper says she delivers "a winning performance" and Time's Mary Pols calls her "fiercely good."

Laurence also impressed director Antoine Fuqua and her co-stars.

"You’re fighting for your life when you’re on the screen with her," Fuqua told the Los Angeles Daily News of the young actress. "She’s a talented young lady."

Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, gushed to Good Morning America of Laurence, "She would improvise with me and I was always following her. She was much more skilled than I was in so many ways."

The actor, who underwent rigorous training to play boxer Billy Hope, revealed that his onscreen daughter is a gifted fighter, too, demonstrating that talent in a scene where Laurence's Leila becomes so frustrated with her father she starts hitting him. "I told her to hit me as hard as she could. I told her she’s not hurting me, she’s just helping the movie," Gyllenhaal told the L.A. Daily News. "That said, Oona throws a hard right hand."

McAdams, meanwhile, told Good Morning America of her young co-star, "She's just such a special person. She's just wise beyond her years and has an emotional wisdom. She killed me in this film. I knew what was coming and she brought me to tears about four times."

Read on to find out more about Laurence.

She won a Tony and was nominated for a Grammy for her role in a Broadway hit:
Laurence and the other three actresses who shared the title role in Matilda the Musical all received a special Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre award in 2013, after the Tony Awards Administration Committee ruled that they were ineligible for a lead actress nomination. Laurence and her fellow Matildas, who rotated in the title role, were also nominated for a Grammy. Laurence found out she got the part, her first on Broadway, in a restaurant after trick-or-treating with her friends. Her dad got the call, she told Time Out New York Kids, adding, "When I heard, I covered my mouth and couldn't even say anything." The two-and-a-half hour musical required Laurence to speak in a British accent throughout, a skill she and the other Matildas demonstrated in an interview with CBS This Morning, deliver several lines in Russian and literally swing from the rafters, the L.A. Times noted. Director Matthew Warchus also forbid the actresses from smiling onstage, something Laurence mastered by getting into the mindset of her character. "I go into the little dressing area where nobody is and think what would it be like if I was actually her, so that kind of helps me get my smiles out," she told The Times.

Watch Laurence and her fellow Matildas perform on the Tonys.

Southpaw isn't her first movie (or her last):
Laurence started acting at the age of five, starring in her dad's film, Days Dance. She also starred in the short film Penny Dreadful and appeared alongside F. Murray Abraham and Ralph Macchio in A Little Game. She had parts in indie films The Grief of Others, I Smile Back and Lamb. And she's playing the role of Natalie in Disney's Pete's Dragon remake.

She's part of an acting family:
Laurence's dad and two sisters are all actors. Her father helps her prepare for roles and auditions and her sisters, Aimee and Jete, who sing and dance like Oona, have appeared in short films and TV series, with Jete playing a young Paige Jennings in The Americans.

She's a native New Yorker:
Laurence grew up in New York and feels like most locals do about Times Square during the holidays. "It’s annoying when we’re trying to get to Matilda and there’s so many people crowding around us," she told New York magazine. "We’re like, 'Ahhh, excuse me!' And it takes fifteen minutes to get from 44th to 45th Street." She told Time Out New York Kids that she also likes going to Coney Island and Madison Square Park.

She reads a lot:
During an interview with USA Today to promote Southpaw, Gyllenhaal talked about Laurence being an "avid reader." Laurence previously demonstrated an affinity for reading in interviews to promote Matilda. She chose three books when Newsday asked her to pick her favorite: Matilda, The Hunger Games and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. She also told CBS This Morning that if she had telekinetic powers, like her Matilda character, she'd use them to bring books to her.