Isla Fisher interview: the actress talks about Sacha Baron Cohen, humor and why Australia will always be at home
This month the 45-year-old once again flexes her comedic muscle in Joyful spirit, a film adaptation of the classic 1941 Christmas Coward play. It’s a bubbly farce set in 1930s Britain, all slapstick, fun with a supernatural edge. Fisher plays Ruth, the housewife of screenwriter Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens), who accidentally calls his ex-wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) back from the dead – and hilarity ensues.
“It was so nice to read a script where the language was rich, layered, and witty, especially since we all communicate with emoticons these days,” says Fisher. Being cast alongside “our greatest living actress,” Dame Judi Dench – who plays an eccentric clairvoyant – was also a major asset. Fisher is unmoved that Dench is actually a huge Home and Away fan and has taken on the project of working with her, then bursts out laughing. “I had to shoot two really big scenes with her and I kept saying to myself, ‘Fisher, don’t forget your lines!’ », She remembers. “And it was almost like she got that energy back, and she made a really funny dirty joke that put me at ease.” She has the most fantastic sense of humor. From then on I relaxed and it was a masterclass, watching Dame Judi Dench play.
While the film is largely faithful to the original, Fisher points out that it has undergone a subtle feminist rewrite. “With a text from 1941 and two women arguing over a man, 2020 updates were needed,” she says. “There is a twist to ensure that women are empowered and have a greater impact on the bottom line – they are not just victims of circumstance.”
Shot in London in mid-2019, the film’s lavish glamor and easy escape couldn’t come at a better time. Around the same time last year, Fisher was locked up with her family in Los Angeles. She is quick to note that she doesn’t want to complain about her position, although being locked at home with three young children has had her challenges. Home school, she thinks. “Let’s just say I found the long division in the fourth year very difficult! ”
The fact that her husband was away for 70 days for the filming of Borat After Moviefilm put pressure on Fisher’s mathematical sense. Baron Cohen has rekindled his controversial character for the mock political documentary, apparently rushing to have it made and published ahead of the 2020 US election.
“It was hard for me [while he was away], but Ash was very kind not to share what he intended to film each day, ”Fisher said of her husband’s outrageous pranks designed to expose prejudice in modern America. “He would wait until he got home safe and sound and say, ‘Oh, I was at a pro-gun rally, everyone was carrying guns.’ I’m so grateful that I didn’t know that before, so I didn’t have to worry. Later, footage emerged of Baron Cohen leading a racist chant at the event, then rushing into a getaway car in a bulletproof vest after armed protesters realized his identity. But the dangerous effort was worth it – some speculate the film helped topple Trump, and he won two Golden Globes.
The couple first met at a showbiz party in Sydney in 2002. Baron Cohen said The New York Times that they bonded to “take the mick” from other pretentious guests. They tied the knot in a small ceremony in Paris in 2010 – after Fisher converted to Judaism – and next year they will celebrate their 20th birthday together, a life by Hollywood standards. Is there a secret to their lasting relationship? “I would like to have an answer. I’m very lucky to have met him, ”says Fisher, suddenly shy. “I really think humor helps.”
Fisher is known for her personal life, and before this interview she politely asks that we don’t name her children. “I think all parents try to protect their kids, especially in the age of social media,” she explains. “I want our children to have normal childhoods – to be able to play outside without pressure or control. All children have the right to be children, and I would never sell a movie or magazine talking about [mine]. Motherhood is actually my favorite subject – but I keep it private. “
Fisher’s own childhood was filled with stories and adventures. Born in Oman, Middle East, to Scottish parents (her father was a United Nations banker and her mother was a novelist), she moved to Perth at the age of six and quickly began to sharpen her humor. “I was little with big ears and I had an English accent,” she recalls. “I went to a different school every year from elementary to middle school and had to learn to be funny to make friends.” Growing up with two brothers and two half-brothers prepared her for the rejection she would inevitably face in her career. “As an actor, you are told that you are not athletic enough to play a superhero, or that you are not old enough to play a mermaid,” she says. “Whatever excuse they gave me, my brothers had already prepared me by pointing out my faults as a teenager! I had thicker skin when I entered show business and that may have contributed to the longevity of my career.
Although she now evolves in A-circles – she counts Courteney Cox as a close friend and once rented Jennifer Aniston’s house in LA – Fisher insists she neither feels nor succumbs to typical beauty pressures. Hollywood. “I think it’s because I often work in comedy where there is more space for me to be [different]. But I’m also very good at cutting those voices if I don’t agree with them.
The place where she can truly disconnect and disconnect is on the white sand beaches of her homeland, where she has temporarily settled with her family. “I feel like I can be myself in Australia,” she says. ” I like people. I love the colors and the views and the taste and the smells. And there is something about being at home that’s right… it’s very magical. I miss it so much when I’m away and have a very Australian sensibility. Every time I meet another Australian I always think to myself: ‘Oh my God, we are twins!’ “
Today Australia has been dubbed Aussiewood, teeming with stars who have made the trip down to work on film and television productions. So how does Fisher think the big celebrities will find us, the Australian bogans? “Hollywood actors feel so lucky to be in Australia right now,” she laughs. “Americans always comment on how hard the Australian crews work. The government and the people have handled COVID with flying colors, and Australia is now reaping the benefits. “
Politics is uncharted territory for Fisher, often prompted to share her opinions given her husband’s steadfast position. “I have always been outspoken personally, but I have strayed from politics publicly. I don’t know if anyone wants to hear me talk about it, ”she said. That said, some events in 2020 left her with no choice but to use her platform and voice, and she regularly used Instagram to campaign for democracy.
“This is something we all need to be as proactive as possible about right now,” she says emphatically. “It was clearly the spread of conspiracy theories online that led to the storming of Capitol Hill. And people like Mark Zuckerberg are making money from lies that cost lives, and these social media companies should be creating jobs that save lives.
No social media account should incite violence, spread hatred or misinformation. I think these companies can afford to hire moderators to prevent the spread of disinformation and save lives.
The usually sunny star admits the problem turns her on, but tempers her fury by struggling to live life with her glass half-full. “I’m always surprised to have a job, to be married and to have my family – everything else seems like a bonus to me,” says Fisher. “Now I am optimistic about the future. That the vaccine will allow me to see my parents [overseas] and that we can all hug each other again. Until then, I just want to focus on staying positive. “
For her, that means spending time with her family (her “number one priority”), watching a hilarious female-directed comedy (“You must see Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar with Kristen Wiig – this is the funniest movie, you won’t regret it! And, whenever the moment calls, takes off her shoes and taps into her inner clown.
Blithe Spirit is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.