Empire – 2008

Isla Fisher

The Definitely, Maybe star talks funny women

There are not many young actresses who dream of becoming Madeline Kahn. Most wouldn’t even know who Mel Brooks’ favourite comedienne was. But Isla Fisher doesn’t really have a lot in common with most young actresses. She might have the looks of a romantic lead, but there’s a big, bumbling character actress trying to pratfall her way out.

“Oh god, I love that, thank you!” Squeals Fisher at this suggestion. “I’m going to write that down, that’s just how I’d like to be. I like to embrace my inner idiot”

Fisher’s inner idiot has been getting a lot of love since she broke through with her role as a borderline psychotic nymphomaniac in The Wedding Crashers. She’s calming down a little for this month’s Definitely Maybe, in which she plays one of three women from a divorced man’s (Ryan Reynolds) past who could be his true love. “It’s a real struggle to explain it, because I don’t want to give away who’s he one! But my character’s very sweet, not strange at all this time… Ryan’s character is in the process of a messy divorce and his daughter wants to know how he ended up where he is. So he tells her the story of these three women he’s fallen in love with during his life and you see, in flashback, how things turned out with each of them. It’s kind of an essay on love, really. But it’s not all glossy and shiny; everyone is flawed and fallible.”

After a brief break for motherhood – she’s just given birth to her first child with Sacha Baron Cohen – Fisher will next be back to mild mentalism for Groupies, a female buddy comedy in which she plays a rock fan with SNL’s Amy Poehler.

Her project with Poehler, which the pair developed themselves, comes from her belief that there aren’t currently as many great comedy roles for women as men in most Hollywood scripts. “I have no clue why that is,” she sighs. “It’s certainly not for a want of funny women. There are millions of funny female actors, but I just think that there are fewer roles for them. So you have to create your own opportunities. You can’t wait for them to appear out of thin air”.

Fisher’s DIY mentality is one shared by a number of female comedians in America currently refusing to wait for the boys to throw them a bone and making hits on their own. “If you look at Amy Poehler or Sarah Silverman, they’ve been making names with their own material. And Tina Fey, she’s writing Mean Girls and 30 Rock and all sorts. She’s absolutely amazing. Big inspiration. Or Diablo Cody writing Juno. It’s really exciting to see good funny women doing well. I’m lucky, in whatever small way, to be part of that”.

It’s a far cry from Fisher’s earlier years in the movie business. Post Home and Away, the Australian soap that provided her first break, she was taking roles that “just let her work”. For a few years, her biggest credit was a supporting role in Scooby-Doo. But it’s all been worth the wait. “There were a few years where I wasn’t doing work that I was particularly proud of,” she says, “But I’m having an amazing time now. I love that I get offered slightly bizarre people. Bizarre is fun”.

Definitely Maybe is out now.