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French leave made me a real actress.

Isla Fisher decided she wanted to be an actress when she was just three years old … so she should have felt on top of the world when Australian soap Home and Away made her famous.

But, although she had played Shannon in the series for four years, Isla knew she had to leave to fulfil her ambitions.

Which is why she swapped Summer Bay for Paris to study mime and movement at a stage school in the city.

The 22-year-old redhead said: “After four years of soap fame and being in the limelight, I thought it was time to have some training so I might have longevity in my career.”

Isla is no novice when it comes to acting – as well as Home And Away, she has also starred in several Australian mini- series. And when she announced she was quitting the hit soap, she was told she was crazy.

Isla said: “They said that offers of film work were coming in, but I left because it was a gut instinct.”

That gut instinct has paid off. Isla is now starring opposite Darren Day in the musical Summer Holiday in Blackpool, and she is one of the new presenters on the ITV kids’ show Scoop.

All of that seemed a long way off when Isla arrived in Paris last year: “It was quite a challenge – my French was so hopeless I couldn’t even order a croissant and coffee. But, eventually, I picked up enough of the language to get by.

“I have adored being in Paris, particularly because no one knows me from Home And Away. All this is great experience for me.

“Now I can put some of the stage craft I have learned in the past eight months into action.

“Summer Holiday is another part of the progress I want to make. It will be more terrific training, especially as I have never sung before.”

Ironically, her stay in the most romantic city in Europe hasn’t meant love for Isla. Her last romance, with record producer Anthony de Rothschild, the son of a merchant banker, ended in tears.

She admitted: “I’m always falling for guys who don’t love me back. I have been hurt or hurt myself so many times that I have become a pretty tough cookie. But I want to find a relationship that works.”

While she’s stepping out on stage, Isla will also be tackling an action- girl role on Scoop when she has a go at everything from fencing with two- handed swords, handling alligators, rodeo riding and leaping off the high- dive board.

But one of her biggest thrills was interviewing fellow Aussie star Kylie Minogue: “That was exciting because I think Kylie is wonderful. She’s really beautiful and a real role model. We are both small and proud of it.”