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Funny girl

Isla Fisher knows she, too, can bring the funny.

Former soapie star Isla Fisher has stepped out of her famous fiance’s shadow to become a star in her own right. She talks to Sal Morgan.

“Motherhood is my favourite topic and I never shut up about it in my personal life” says Isla Fisher. But the mother of Borat’s baby (four-month-old Olive) is as secretive about her private life as fiance Sacha Baron Cohen – even if the sunny Australian actress behaves as if she’d talk the legs off a blue heeler if she weren’t doing press.

Maybe the Home and Away alumnus got burned by all the tabloid interest in her previous engagement (to British TV presented Darren Day). So Fisher gabbles enthusiastically about Tim Tams, grocery shopping, how much she still loves Australia, la la la, but keeps shtum about her celebrity love life.

Happily, Hollywood’s new funny girl has plenty of work to talk about. After years of tiny parts in little movies, Fisher is grabbing lead roles in mainstream comedies. She’s just played the down-to-earth love interest in the Valentine’s Day rom-com Definitely, Maybe. She voices one of the lead characters in the upcoming Dr Seuss cartoon Horton Hears a Who!. Her talent for physical comedy is about to get a showcase in Confessions of a Shopaholic. And she’s just signed on to star in the comedy Groupies.

Her new role as one of Hollywood’s favourite funny girl is all thanks to her runaway cameo as an uninhibited bridesmaid in a 2005 box-office hit The Wedding Crashers. When she grabbed Vince Vaughn’s crotch and demanded, “Where’s my little friend?”, she stole the movie and kick-started her career. It was at this time that Fisher discovered her funny bone, with the help of her future husband.

“I got offered so many scripts after Wedding Crashers, but I found most of them to be pretty predictable and the characters one-dimensional,” she explains. “But that’s what I liked about this one. It’s different in so many ways.”

In Definitely, Maybe, Fisher plays “fiery and forthright” April.

“April’s complicated, but she’s a real woman. She’s a free spirit, but also afraid of her own heart and I could easily relate to that especially when I was in my early twenties.”

Now 31, Fisher says she’s much more confident and welcomes the challenge of playing the leading lady in Confessions of a Shopaholic.

“It’s so much fun,” she says. “I basically get to play a girl that loves to shop so, yeah, its not exactly hard work!”

Now that Fisher is famous in her own right, Australia will be anxious to claim her as its own again, but, as her family are all based in Europe now, there’s not much to bring her back.

“My mother lives in Greece and so do my brothers. Dad and my other brother lived in the Sultanate of Oman – that’s where I was born.”

Fisher says she became the funny one as a child travelling around the world with her father, who worked for the UN, making jokes to fit in at new schools every year.

“And also being kind of little and having red hair, you get teased a lot, and making jokes is a way to turn it around. I don’t mind making a fool of myself: let’s just put it that way!”

But it was Baron Cohen, she says, who encouraged her to be funny professionally. “It had never crossed my mind to do comedy. It’s normally the guys that get to be wacky,” she explains “and the girls just roll their eyes.” The idea “was such a compliment coming from him though. I mean, obviously, he’s biased, but he just said, you’re funny, just be yourself!”

Now Fisher knows she, too, can bring the funny. “If I had to say I had a strength, it would be that I can improvise. Sometimes, I find it hard to do the emotional stuff, sometimes it’s really easy, but I am constantly good at hearing the sound of my own voice!”

Definitely, Maybe is on general release.