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True confessions

Isla Fisher may play a shopaholic but she insists she’s just a casual shopper in real life

FOR Isla Fisher to say she can think of nothing worse than shopping is surprising, considering she plays a shopping addict in Confessions of a Shopaholic. The romantic comedy, based on British author Sophie Kinsella’s best-seller, is directed by P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding).

Fisher admits: “I shop rarely and poorly. When I shop, I just want to get in and out. I have a mission and I fulfil it.” But the actress loves to play characters unlike herself, which is why she was eager to portray Rebecca Bloomwood, a magazine writer with a passion for fashion and a mountain of debt.

She takes a job at a finance magazine in hopes of parlaying it into a more desirable gig at a fashion publication owned by the same company. Yet, even though Rebecca knows nothing about money, except how to spend it, her handsome editor, Luke (Hugh Dancy), thinks Rebecca may be just what the magazine needs.

Fisher, 33, was a little anxious about tackling a beloved modern literary character. “I felt a lot of people could be angry at me if I wasn’t able to execute it in a way they imagined the character in the book,” reveals the petite actress.

Her concerns were eased after she won over Kinsella, who serves as an associate producer on the film. “She told me after she saw the movie that I captured the essence of the character, which was the greatest compliment.”

Of course, as the central character, Fisher also had the burden of carrying the comedy and setting the tone. “I was genuinely shocked and perplexed that somebody would give me my own movie. It feels unbelievable.”

That ‘somebody’ was famed producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose Hollywood blockbusters lean towards big-budget, effects-laden action aimed primarily at young men.

Why a chick flick? “We love the character,” Bruckheimer says. “Rebecca Bloomwood is such a unique, fresh, interesting young girl who embodies a lot of what young girls around the world deal with. Besides, her closet explodes in one scene.”

Bruckheimer says Fisher was the obvious choice to play Rebecca. The actress, who was born in Oman to Scottish parents and raised in Australia, drew rave reviews for her breakthrough role in The Wedding Crashers, where she played Vince Vaughn’s off-kilter love interest. She subsequently co-starred in Definitely, Maybe; I Heart Huckabees; Hot Rod; and Scooby-Doo.

But it wasn’t simply her comedic chops that made Fisher right for the leading role. “She’s a wonderful dramatic actress,” says Bruckheimer. “This movie wouldn’t work without the ability she has to pull that character off and see that she is serious.”

Fisher visited Shoppers Anonymous meetings, where she discovered various types of compulsive buyers: image shoppers, trophy shoppers, bulimic shoppers and collectors, among others. “As funny as it sounds, it’s pretty sad too,” she says.

Shopaholic was made before the economic downturn, which was partly caused by credit problems. “Obviously, it’s timely,” says Fisher. “But when we conceived the movie, it was a different economic period. The lesson Rebecca learns in the movie is a lesson we’re learning painfully. But the movie takes a responsible tone.”

Though she doesn’t like shopping, Fisher became a little more fashion-savvy while making Shopaholic. Famed costume designer Patricia Fields (who outfitted the Sex and the City gals and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada) dolled her up in designer duds and accessories.

“At the beginning, I couldn’t believe we were spending 40 minutes discussing a belt,” Fisher recalls. “Then I began to understand there really is a sort of science to it.”

Fisher suggested having only extremely high heels in Rebecca’s wardrobe. “There’s nothing funnier than a comedic character tottering and the impracticality of wearing something that clearly doesn’t fit her and is uncomfortable. But she’s a shopaholic so she has to have it.”

Fisher also suggested a humorous scene in which her character performs a quirky fan dance during a night out with her editor.

“I’ve had the idea for that scene in my mind for about five years and never found the right movie to put it into. There’s something funny about a girl trying to seduce a guy by doing what she thinks is a sexy dance that’s actually repulsive.”

Fisher attributes her comedic success to her willingness to go for broke. “I’ve always been someone who loves to tap into her inner idiot. I’ve always been the clown of my family, and I’ve always enjoyed mucking about. I’m just fortunate that I get paid to do it now.”

Fisher is engaged to comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) and has a 16-month-old daughter.

She is currently filming an animated movie with Johnny Depp called Rango.