In good spirits
Isla Fisher is in a sparkling mood as she talks playing posh English for Noël Coward comedy Blithe Spirit
‘BRIDE of Borat’. That’s how US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel recently introduced Isla Fisher in a TV interview that was then dominated by questions about her comedian/actor husband, Sacha Baron Cohen. As a successful comic actress in her own right, doesn’t that ever nark her?
‘It sort of depends what’s going on,’ the Wedding Crashers star admits. ‘At that time, Borat 2 was like the biggest streaming movie ever on Amazon so I don’t begrudge a journalist asking about it.’
It’s hard to imagine Fisher begrudging much. She’s called me today to chat about Blithe Spirit, a new Sky Cinema remake of Noël Coward’s sparkling comedy that she calls ‘a bit of fun’ and ‘just the tonic we need right now’. The same could be said about Isla herself.
I was worried the 44-year-old redhead would be guarded. In advance of our interview I was told not to ask about ‘the kiddoes — my little love bugs’, as Fisher adoringly describes her three children (aged 13, 10 and five), or even her location (Sydney, according to recent MailOnline pictures). Which Fisher then rather gives away in the first seconds of our late-night call by telling me it’s 9am where she is and cheerily confessing that she’s still in her pyjamas.
A self-confessed Pollyanna, Fisher is a glass-half-full kind of gal (‘I like to see life with rose-coloured glasses’). And whether it’s Trump’s toxic America or the Covid pandemic that’s triggered the apparent relocation of her family from LA to Australia, she will likely view it as a blessed homecoming.
Born in Oman to Scottish parents, Fisher moved to Oz aged six. A budding actress, she did her time on Home And Away before meeting Baron Cohen (pictured below)at a party in 2002 and swishing off to Hollywood. As such, she’s adept at accents but Blithe Spirit presented her toughest challenge yet.
As an Aussie, doing a posh British accent while still trying to access the emotional life of the character was a nerve-wracking experience, terrifying,’ she admits.
‘Every day I spent an hour in my trailer just warming up my jaw because Australian comes from really far in the back of the throat and you open your mouth quite wide but with the English accent you push your lips forward and your tongue comes right out to the tip of your teeth.’
To crack 1930s posho-speak she studied Downton Abbey.
‘I watched some ahead of the shoot, then got hooked like everyone else and went completely down the rabbit hole and became obsessed,’ she says.
Her greatest compliment came when Downton’s Dan Stevens, who plays her husband in Blithe Spirit, told her that her dialect was ‘fine’.
‘It meant a lot as he comes from that world and I come from Summer Bay,’ she says.
Much more impressively, she nailed Coward’s tricky comic timing. And if some of the spookier goings on during the shoot — doors mysteriously swinging open, power flickering on and off — led some to believe Coward’s ghost was haunting the set, he was surely pleased with Fisher’s turn.
She is, of course, a writer herself. Her best-selling Marge In Charge children’s series is being made into a Nickelodeon series and she’s now working on another kids’ book ‘in honour of our late dog’.
Even so, she insists with what one suspects is typical modesty that ‘I am not a writer. I just do it for fun. I don’t graft at it for my living.’
Joyful Fisher likes to wear life lightly, a gift we could all do with right now. I ask if she will leave Metro with her favourite joke. Most comics hate being put on the spot with that one but she bounces up to the plate.
‘What do you call a teacher that farts a lot? A private toot-er!’ she guffaws. ‘It’s so stupid but I do love puerile humour and it always makes my family laugh.’
ISLA FISHER ON…
Staying positive during lockdown
‘It is hard to find positives in this overwhelming world situation but I have tried to enjoy the slower pace of being at home and getting to have more family time. I’ve done a bunch of overdue home improvements, taken up cycling (which I love) and read books.’
What makes her laugh
‘I have such a broad taste in comedy. My favourite movie as a kid was This Is Spinal Tap and I grew up on Blackadder, The Young Ones and The Goodies. I remember being really young and watching Eddie Murphy’s stand-up tour, which is where I learned the word ‘f***’. I must’ve said it 1,000 times after seeing that!’
Wearing mankinis at home
‘We once had a box of mankinis arrive at the house for stunts for the Borat sequel so there was a moment where everyone in the house tried on a mankini. Let’s just say, it is not a flattering look.’