Isla Fisher in charge: the actor on upcoming movies and more
The Australian actor gives us the low-down on The Beach Bum, and why we need rom-coms in a politically dark era
People are constantly confusing her with fellow red-headed actors Amy Adams and Emma Stone, but Isla Fisher is more than just her hair. Sacha Baron Cohen’s better half, and star of movies such as Confessions of a Shopaholic and Wedding Crashers — who celebrates her birthday tomorrow — is also a writer and mother of three. “My children have been keeping me busy in the past few months,” she laughs. As for work, she says, “I’ve been shooting a film called Greed, which is directed by Michael Winterbottom. We shot in Mykonos, Moscow and London, in November/December.”
Next on screen
Despite a busy schedule — involving school runs and the occasional episode for TV’s Arrested Development — Fisher has averaged around two feature films a year. First up in 2019 is The Beach Bum, written and directed by Harmony Korine, with a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Jimmy Buffett, Leah Van Dale and Martin Lawrence. “I play a character called Minnie, and I’m married to Matthew McConaughey’s Moondog, who is the protagonist. He and his wife have a very passionate and loving relationship. They are twin souls, they are very hippie and don’t conform to society’s idea of a traditional couple. They have an open marriage, they are very sexual with each other and others. It was just sort of a wild trip working on it,” she says, adding, “The story sort of follows his rise and fall and rise and fall and maybe rise again at the end… It’s hard to tell what will happen!” The film will be released at the 26th edition of the SXSW Film Festival in early March.
The director was a major factor why she picked the role, says Fisher. “I’ve been a big fan of Korine ever since I watched Spring Breakers. He has been on my radar because he is quite an avant garde director who thinks very differently. He will shoot a scene a certain way, and then re-shoot the same thing in a different location. He seemed like a very creative person, and he was. I really enjoyed the experience of working with him.” Another favourite is Baz Luhrmann, who directed her in The Great Gatsby. She recalls that he was a kind and thoughtful person on set. “One of the reasons I don’t go back and watch my own work is that all I can think of is the experience of shooting it, rather than what is unfolding in the film,” she admits.
Like her husband, satirical genius Cohen, Fisher too is happiest acting in a comedy. “I enjoy improvising — you know, the adrenaline hit of going for a laugh.” Drama is another favourite, because they come from the same place. One difference, however: “If the character that you’re playing in a drama doesn’t work, you can get away with it easier because people have less of a visceral reaction watching a bad dramatic performance than while watching a bad comedy. So you are definitely more vulnerable in comedy if you fail.” While she did not enjoy the thrillers she has done — “there was a lot of screaming, crying and jumping around” — her role in Now You See Me was great. “There was the brilliant cast of Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Sir Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, and lots of fun magic tricks! It was one of my favourite genres, just for something new,” she explains.
However, what she would really like to do again is a romantic comedy. “I miss the rom-com days. I grew up watching those, and I feel like they haven’t been done well in a while. Politically, we are in quite dark times, and it would be nice to see a celebration of romance and love in film again,” she says.
Fisher published two teen fiction romance novels — Seduced by Fame and Bewitched — back in 1995, and got back to writing in 2016 with a series of children’s books called Marge in Charge. “I think I am done with this series as books, but I may look at creating a TV character out of it simply because I love her so much,” she says. She is passionate about getting young ones to read, saying, “My dream is to get kids reading again, protect them from the social media age of the Internet just taking over their lives. That was my motivation for writing; when you are lost in the world of books, you are never alone. They save us from both depression and ignorance.”
While she figures out what she wants to write next, she ruminates that being an author is wonderful when you have a family. “You can do it at home or even in the car with a dictaphone — it’s something you can do around your family. Whereas in an acting job, so many of them involve travel and may fall during the school year, and you don’t want to pull your kids out of school… I’m just trying to keep myself engaged and creative without missing out on the childhood of my kids,” she concludes.