Isla Fisher on voicing a deadly Aussie snake: ‘We’re so proud about how many things can kill you’
Isla Fisher is not someone you would expect to play a character whose appearance guarantees entry into a group known as the Ugly Secret Society, yet in her new flick Back to the Outback she’s not only frightening to look at, but also deadly.
9Honey spoke with the Australian actress about her new animated comedy, which premieres on Netflix today, asking the 45-year-old how she reacted when approached to play Maddie, a taipan described as a “hideous monster”.
“I thought, ‘That’s me before hair and makeup at work’,” Fisher tells 9Honey, laughing.
“I was very excited. I’ve always wanted to play a creature and never thought I’d be cast as a snake.
“She’s a taipan, which is the deadliest snake in the world, and I saw an image of her and she was so iconic and such a cobalt blue and she seemed really cool.
“It seemed like the perfect job for me during lockdown to celebrate Australia in this way.”
Back to the Outback is a celebration of Australia’s unique flora and fauna, with some of the world’s cutest, and deadliest, animals calling Down Under home.
Maddie is part of a ragtag group of deadly critters that plot a daring escape from the reptile house of a Sydney zoo, where they’re tired of being gawked at by humans who look at them like they’re monsters.
They want to return to the outback, and to their families, where they hope they’ll fit in without being judged for their scales and fangs.
Joining Maddie on the adventure is thorny devil lizard Zoe (Miranda Tapsell), funnel-web spider Frank (Guy Pearce), scorpion Nigel (Angus Imrie) and Pretty Boy (Tim Minchin), a cute but annoyingly obnoxious koala.
The group is pursued through Sydney and the Blue Mountains by zookeeper Chaz (Eric Bana), and along the way there are some very familiar voices.
Listen out for Jacki Weaver, Keith Urban, Celeste Barber and Kylie Minogue, who plays Susan the Bush Pig.
Fisher didn’t get to hang out with her co-stars due to them all living in different time zones and the movie being made during coronavirus lockdowns.
“It’s not until you see it all together that you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s Jacki Weaver, Kylie Minogue, Keith Urban, Eric Bana, Tim Minchin’ — it’s such a treat to watch a movie like this come together,” she says.
Although Maddie the snake is feared for her fangs and her venom — one drop of which could kill 100 men in 10 seconds — she does have a heart of gold.
The movie aims to show a new side to these scary creatures, something that attracted Fisher to the role.
“We’ve all seen platypus and kangaroos and wombats be adored. It’s time we had some reptiles and venomous creatures getting love.
“There were so many cool messages that resonated with me, from not judging a book by its cover, to put aside our differences, home is where the heart is. And that’s what’s wonderful about this story, it will give parents an opportunity not just to laugh and enjoy the adventure but also to talk about these messages.”
The Wedding Crashers star says her own family “loved” the film, having watched it during one of their regular movie nights.
She and husband Sacha Baron Cohen celebrated 20 years together this week (they married in 2010) and have three children — Olive, 13, Elula, 10, Montgomery, five.
“We watched this movie as a family and we all loved it,” she says.
“We’d just come from Australia and it was so emotional seeing the landscapes and hearing the accents and all of the critters, seeing the Blue Mountains animated, it was so magical.
“I always love a family movie night, it’s something to look forward to, particularly during lockdown.”
The film also gave Fisher the opportunity to sing during a particularly emotional moment when Maddie is thinking about escaping.
But Fisher wasn’t overly thrilled about her singing talents being included in the final cut.
“That’s so sweet that you would say it’s a talent, I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic,” she laughs during our interview over Zoom.
“I will say, Natalie, that I can’t sing but I did my best and I sang in the movie and they left it in the movie, which is not my choice, it is the directors’ choice [Clare Knight, Harry Cripps] but nonetheless recording that was very challenging for me but I did it.”
Back to the Outback is now streaming on Netflix.