Adelaide Now – 2009

Isla Fisher Fesses Up

Aussie actress Isla Fisher who stars in Confessions of a Shopaholic still has to pinch herself when she sees her picture alongside those of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

And lately her image is plastered across buses and billboards all over the U.S.

“How am I on a poster?’ Fisher says is her first thought whenever she spots them.

“Somebody has given me a movie,” she reminds herself.

Truthfully, she explains to Box Office: “It’s a little unnerving.”

Sitting in a plush suite inside New York’s Ritz Carlton and wearing impossibly high Jimmy Choo shoes, 32-year-old Fisher looks every bit as young as she did playing troubled teen Shannon Reed on TV soap Home and Away in the late 1990s.

But those days are long gone.

Now, she has that subtle international accent peculiar to so many nomadic actors.

“That’s so annoying,” she says, sounding part British.

But still Aussie enough.

“Thankyou,” she says, relieved.

When she is not shooting, Fisher makes her home in London where she lives with actor fiance Sacha Baron Cohen (of Borat fame) and the newest addition to the family, daughter Olive, 16 months.

Born in Oman to Scottish parents, Fisher was raised in Perth, lived in Sydney while part of the Home and Away cast then left Australia in her early 20s to sate her appetite for theatre in Paris.

There, she enrolled in the well-known Jacques Lecoq theatre college – known in the industry as clown school.

Her lessons there prepared her for her latest role – one that looks set to thrust her firmly into Hollywood’s spotlight.

The bubbly Fisher plays the shopping-mad financial journalist Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic, the screen adaptation of the books by British author Sophie Kinsella.

Despite moments of promise and a high-energy soundtrack (courtesy of Lady Gaga), the film’s improbable plot and heavy, sometimes tedious, slapstick have underwhelmed critics in the U.S.

Nonetheless, it grossed $US27 million in its first 10 days.

The role, Fisher’s first Hollywood lead, demands big, physical comedy – a challenge she relished and met with her natural comic flair.

“It’s definitely not a hard comedy but is has some great comedic moments, some great heart and for me it was great to play in a romantic comedy where it’s not all about the romance – she’s not sitting around moping, waiting for a date, she’s someone who has a full life – a career and her friends and her family,” she says, speaking ahead of the film’s world premiere.

In the movie, she is constantly throwing herself across tables, under tables, over desks and into large, heavy objects.

“I’m not afraid to tap into my inner idiot,” she says.

“I think it’s that I am willing to do it.”

It was work so bruising, she had to wear knee and elbow pads in some scenes.

“It is a lot of fun,” she says.

“I’ve always been doing a lot of physical comedy but I’ve just kept it to my private life, for my mates, now I get paid to do it – that’s pretty amazing.”

She replies with a firm “no” when asked if she misses Summer Bay, but concedes her experience in Australia helped her through her biggest role yet.

“Shooting the lead of a movie is something I’ve never done before – it’s a test of endurance,” she says.

“You’ve only got a certain amount of time to shoot a lot of material and I’d never considered that before I had started shooting.”

“When you play support you get to go there muck around and go home.

“With the lead, you’re there all day everyday for three months so Home and Away, which was those hours, prepared me.

“You have to make sure you eat all the time and make sure you conserve your energy off camera because we covered so much material in such a short amount of time.”

Despite her passion for her art, she considers herself a mother first and foremost.

In this case, she had to juggle the demands of parenthood and performance simultaneously.

Baby Olive was on set during filming and costume designer Pat Field – the stylist on the TV smash Sex and the City – had to make Fisher’s outfits newborn-friendly.

“All my costumes were breast-feeding proof,” Fisher says.

“Olive probably knew these costumes better than me.”

Blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who bought the film rights to Kinsella’s books eight years ago, hired Fisher a personal trainer immediately after casting her in the role to help her lose the weight she had gained during pregnancy.

Fisher and the trainer did not see eye to eye.

“He said I had a bad attitude,” Fisher laughs.

“I would be hiding cakes behind my back – there was nothing I was allowed to eat.”

There was an entire list of prohibited foods.

“I wasn’t allowed to eat bread, pasta, muffins – the list left me nothing, so obviously I was living a double life.”

She told more than one white lie about her diet, but managed to shed the extra weight anyway.

“I honestly think it was breast feeding that took the weight off,” she says.

Fisher has never been much of a fashionista – on Oscars night, she stayed home in her Ugg boots.

So to spend 90 minutes in make-up each day and spend hours talking about silhouettes and textures was a strain.

“The first fitting went for about 12 hours, we were having conversations about belts that went for 45 minutes. I was starting to sweat I couldn’t handle it at all but as I got used to the process I learned all the lingo that goes with fashion and got really into it,” she says.

“I wanted every silhouette of the character to say Shopaholic and and I wanted her in very high heels because there’s nothing funnier than a comedic character tottering on really high heels.

“I thought the bigger the better.”

She won serious praise from those who worked with her.

Bruckheimer calls her “the next Lucille Ball’.

Australian director PJ Hogan says: “I love improvisation and she has a real gift for it.”

Her fellow actors were flattering, too.

“You can see in the movie the range that she has,” says emerging British actor Luke Brandon, who plays Bloomwood’s magazine editor love interest.

Even Kinsella, who guided the actors and direction on set, lauded her performance.

“I though Isla did an amazing job,” he said.

So what does Isla think?

“It’s hard to be objective about it,” she says.

“After the movie wrapped I was involved with re-shoots and it’s been a part of my life for a really long time, so for me I can’t be objective about the outcome, I have no idea how it will be received.”

“I’m happy with it.”

Confessions of a Shopaholic opens today.