The Scotsman – November 24th 2012

Isla Fisher on her new Christmas film and being married to Sacha Baron Cohen

Isla Fisher is one of the stars of the animated Christmas movie Rise of the Guardians, in cinemas next week. Here, she talks to Siobhan Synnot about work, family and marriage.

Siobhan Synnot (SS). What appealed to you about doing a Christmas movie?

Isla Fisher (IF): You know what? I loved the Bill Joyce books and I loved the images they showed me. From an acting perspective, it’s just a great gig to do animation. You’re in a sound booth, you’re in your sweat pants, you’re getting to eat fancy sushi, and you’re getting to try 100 different ways. And if it doesn’t work, they just press a little button and delete it. So, there’s no fear of failure.

SS. You’re no stranger to animation, having starred in Rango and Horton Hears a Who.

IF: And I actually also did The Simpsons Movie but I was cut out! Heartbreakingly I was axed. I was seriously disappointed. I never saw the movie, actually, I was too bitter. I’m a huge Simpsons fan, so I was devastated. But I played someone like a Bond consultant who came into prepare all the characters for the fact the world was ending. It was so funny. I got to do it with the Simpsons actors and so it was exciting. And they all said: “You did such a great job!” But then they cut me, so clearly they were not telling the truth.

SS. In Rise of the Guardians you play a manically energetic Tooth Fairy – was it hard to keep up the energy?

IF: No, once I saw the pictures of her being part humming-bird, and those giant wings, and her little pointed face, I felt like she had to have a very quick voice with ordering the teeth around. I also wanted her to be very sweet so that you felt for her when the teeth were taken.

I sort of improvised the stuff where she’s obsessed with teeth and very passionate about gums. It added a slightly comedic edge to her. I just came in and did what I could. I didn’t get to invent a whole lot of dialogue or bring that much of myself to the role. I do specialise in silly voices, so at my first meeting I had 20 options of ridiculous voices for the movie and they said: “Oh, we want you to be you, but with an American accent.” I felt quite vulnerable just doing my voice: “Is this enough? Am I enough?” But they’re happy with it, so…

SS. Is it nice for you to do this movie for your kids, especially with Olive, who is five now and maybe starting to believe in all of this?

IF: My kids are still getting teeth and I think they’re too small to see this movie. I think Pitch Black, particularly the Boogeyman in this movie, some of the images are quite scary… you know, changing the dreams and stuff. So, I don’t think that they need to see this.

SS. Have they seen any of your films?

IF: No.

SS. So, they have no idea what you do?

IF: No, they don’t know what I do.

SS. Have they a theory about it?

IF: Um, no because I’ve been so lucky and strategic in the way that I’ve chosen to work. I basically work quite rarely and no one really notices, so everyone thinks I’m a stay at home mum [laughs]. So, no one thinks I work at all!

SS. Do you play the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny in real-life?

IF: No one’s lost a tooth so I don’t have to think about it. But I do feel weird about lying to my kids. I haven’t lied to my kids yet. I’ve managed to divert if questions have got hairy. I’m not ready to make a decision on what I want to do in that respect.

SS. Do you have to negotiate the going rate for a tooth in the near future?

IF: Oh I know. I think in this economy people cannot expect more than 50 cents. I think it’s terrible giving kids iPads and £20. It’s too much.

SS. You converted to Judaism when you married Sacha, so what part does Santa Claus plays in your household?

IF: I’ve been lucky because Hanukkah always falls around Christmas too, so Christmas comes and then grandparents give presents too. At the moment it’s all a little foggy. We’ll see.

SS. You’re busy now but there was a point after Wedding Crashers where you didn’t work for about a year. How did you stay motivated then?

IF: I don’t think I was that motivated then. I think I was pretty depressed about it. I’ve only ever acted since I was 12 years old, so it’s not like I’ve developed another skill set aside from writing. I’ve also written a couple of kids’ novels when I was younger. So, it was quite a hard period emotionally. And it’s just one of those things that if you’ve been an actor for a really long time you learn to appreciate the highs and the lows and that you go in and out of fashion and to not personalise that or make your sense of identity come through the external employment. You can’t predict whether you’re going to be hot or cold. So, you just try to stay busy and try to keep either taking acting classes or enjoying a hobby. I’ve been pretty frugal throughout my career. I’ve been lucky enough to know to save for a rainy day.

SS. Melissa George was recently on one of the Australian TV shows and didn’t take too kindly to being reminded that she was a former Home & Away star. Do you still hold onto your heritage as Summer? Or don’t you like being associated with that either?

IF: Really? No, I feel like everything in my past has led me to where I am today and I still feel incredibly grateful, actually, for that experience and that exposure. I’ve been lucky that the people that come up to me and remember that part of my life feel quite sentimental about it. So, I always feel sentimental about it too.

SS. Does Sacha Baron Cohen try his characters out on you for advice?

IF: Put it this way, I’ve lived with a handlebar moustache, I’ve lived with the Justin Bieber flick, I’ve lived with The Dictator finger.

SS: Who are you living with at the moment?

IF: Good question! He’s writing at the moment. So, a writer.

SS. It’s the role of every wife to say ‘you’ve gone too far’ to their husband. But in your house this must be a common refrain…

IF: You have no idea [laughs]! Particularly at social functions, my husband’s faux pas are really fabulous. I remember him asking Cate Blanchett at the Golden Globes what she did for a living.

SS. Will you and Sacha work together at any stage?

IF: Well, I’m obviously a huge fan of what he does, but we work together in so many other areas in our life that I’m quite happy to do my own thing and have him do his own thing.

• Rise of the Guardians is in cinemas from 30 November.