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Batman begins for Sarah; Hollywood has come calling for one of Hollyoaks's best-loved actresses.

Byline: Emma Johnson reports

SHE was sexually abused by her father and held hostage by her psychotic best friend, she lost half her family in tragic circumstances and her baby in a cot death, so you could forgive Hollyoaks's Mandy Richardson if she sometimes wished a superhero would come and whisk her away.

Sadly, none of DC's finest ever set a lycra-clad foot in the Chester suburb. However, actress Sarah Jayne Dunn, who played Mandy for over a decade, could be about to come face to face with the Caped Crusader himself.

After setting the internet ablaze with rumours that she could be making the leap from Liverpool to LA, last week Sarah confirmed to the Daily Post that she has been cast in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight.

"I am so excited," says the 26-year-old of her first Hollywood role. "The audition came up about three months ago and I was just made up that they would even see me. As with any audition you do it and then you have to not think about it. If you hear you hear, if you don't you don't.

"I assumed nothing had come of it because I didn't hear anything. Then I found out a couple of weeks ago and I just went: 'Omigod!'"

Set for a 2008 release, The Dark Knight is director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 movie Batman Begins, which reinvented the comic book franchise.

Christian Bale returns for another outing as the vengeful hero, as does Michael Caine as his long-serving butler Alfred. The villain of the piece is The Joker, played by Heath Ledger, while indie star Maggie Gyllenhaal takes the female lead.

For Sarah, filming is due to get under way this week, sadly not in the LA sunshine but on the streets of London. And while she can't wait to get started right now she knows very little about her role.

"I know that I am in it," she laughs excitedly. "I know that I am working with Eric Roberts - Julia's brother - and that is as much as I know. They are being very secretive because they don't want leaks."

Whether she will actually get the opportunity to get up close and personal with Christian Bale remains to be seen, but it is safe to say Sarah would relish some screen time together.

"I would love to. God, if I got on set and Batman was there I would just wet myself," she laughs.

Appearing in a bona fide Hollywood blockbuster is quite a leap for Leigh-born Sarah.

Playing Mandy, who arrived in Hollyoaks village as a 14-year-old wannabe model, was the first acting role for the former Lowton High School pupil. But, after starring in some of its biggest storylines, she decided to call it a day last April.

Post-soap stardom success can be notoriously tough to achieve, but Sarah seems to be bucking the trend. After a little break to do "nice things", Sarah quickly found acting work with roles in the BBC's legal drama The Innocence Project and Doctors, as well as a part in a short film called Northern Cowboys.

"I was at Hollyoaks for 10 years and I always knew I would know when I was ready to leave, you just get a feeling like in any job," Sarah recalls. "I probably decided I wanted to leave a couple of years before I did but with the storylines it took another two years.

"By then, I had completely made up my mind. If I didn't move on then I would never have left. It is scary but I was lucky in that I had been on it so long I was secure enough to be able to leave and not work."

In Northern Cowboys, Sarah teams up with ex-Emmerdale actor Jeff Hordley (Cain Dingle) for a comedy about two country and western bands from the North West going head-to-head in a battle of the bands, with a Nashville recording contract at stake.

Sarah plays Jeff 's girlfriend in the film. "We filmed it in Preston - of all places - on a cowboy ranch, which was the weirdest thing," says Sarah, who lives in Liverpool. "It was so much fun it was a nice little script - all tongue in cheek ."

The film, which was made as part of a series for North West Vision and the UK Film Council, went to the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Not that Sarah got any red carpet action.

"I didn't get to go as I was working," she laughs. "There were about 12 short films altogether and three will get commissioned to be made into full feature films next year for Capital of Culture. I think we have been shortlisted, so fingers crossed we will get to do it on a bigger scale."

IN THE meantime, Sarah can next be seen on our screens in the second series of the comedy drama about the modelling industry Drop Dead Gorgeous which starts on BBC3 on Sunday.

Set in Runcorn, the hit show charts the highs and lows of Runcorn teenager-turned-supermodel Ashley Webb and her troubled family.

"I play Justine, who works at the modelling agency on the front desk," Sarah explains. "She has a real power struggle with Pauline (Ashley's mother, played by former Corrie star Kathryn Hunt) who has taken over the agency while the owner goes on honeymoon.

"Pauline's older and is set in her ways they have a big problem with each other. It is fun. The scripts are amazing."

On top of the acting work, last week Sarah helped launched the first Paul Nicholas School of Acting in Liverpool, which she will be teaching at. Looks like she is covering all her bases.

"Everything I have got I have had to audition for and work for," says Sarah, who confesses being an "ex-soapstar" is a double-edged sword.

"So far in my case, I have been very lucky. Some people won't even see you because you have been in Hollyoaks, casting directors just say 'No, we don't want to see her' which is a bit narrow-minded but you have just got to take it and hopefully prove yourself in other work.

"At the end of the day it is a job, it is an acting job in a soap. People criticise but, if they were offered a part, are you telling me that they turn it down just because it is a soap?"

Once Batman filming is over, it will no doubt be back to the audition circuit for Sarah but she is philosophical about the actor's lot.

"Acting is just like any other job except that you have to keep going for job interviews and every time you have to put in a good interview and hope that something comes from it. I am happy as long as I am working, getting to do different things and meet different people."

And they don't come much more different than Batman.

DROP Dead Gorgeous starts on Sunday, September 16, on BBC Three.

I found out a couple of weeks ago and I just went: 'Omigod!'

emmajohnson@dailypost.co.uk

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Former Hollyoaks star, Sarah Dunn, worked hard at her acting career but can only dream of ending up collapsed in Christian Bale's arms when she takes a role in the next Batman movie
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2007
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