Hollywood star Isla Fisher reveals her Scots dad named her after the home of his favourite whisky
The Great Gatsby beauty is swapping film festivals for a book festival when she comes to Edinburgh next month to promote her series of children’s stories
HOLLYWOOD star Isla Fisher revealed her Scots dad named her after the home of his favourite whisky.
The Great Gatsby beauty — married to Ali G and Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen — is swapping film festivals for a book festival when she comes to Edinburgh next month to promote her series of children’s stories.
But the actress shared for the first time how her banker dad Brian christened her after the home of his most cherished tipple.
Isla — whose mum Elspeth Reid is also an author — says: “My father is from Bathgate and my mother is from Stranraer.
“I was actually named after the island of Islay where they make the whisky my father loves. I didn’t spend much time in Scotland as a kid but all my memories from there are very special.”
Born in the Middle Eastern country of Oman, Isla left Bathgate, West Lothian, when she was six for Perth, Australia.
She began appearing in TV ads from the age of nine before landing the role of schoolgirl temptress Shannon Reed in the Aussie soap Home And Away.
Isla went on to land major movie roles including Scooby-Doo in 2002 and Wedding Crashers in 2005 with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan.
She also starred as mistress Myrtle Wilson alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 Oscar-winner The Great Gatsby.
However, the 41-year-old reveals her acting put the brakes on her writing career after her mum helped her pen her first novels Bewitched and Seduced by Fame when she was still a teenager.
She explains: “I’ve always loved to write and when I was 18 my mum encouraged me to try young adult fiction.
But things did get a bit awkward when they started working on the sex scenes together.
She adds: “It was great until we got to collaborating on the love scenes. I haven’t seen either of those books in 19 years — and that’s a relief.”
Isla married Sacha, 45, in 2010. They now have three children, Olive, nine, Elula, six, and two-year-old Montgomery, splitting their time between homes in Europe and Los Angeles.
But it was starting a family which allowed her to begin writing again, producing kids’ books Marge In Charge and the sequel Marge and the Pirate Baby in the last year.
Isla says: “I started writing because I was pregnant again and couldn’t work. So I could either develop an obsession with gardening, get into Pilates or have a mid-life crisis.
“I considered all three and then decided to write Marge. Also my kids were sick of my animal noises and impressions and they didn’t want to see me pretend to be Peppa Pig anymore.
“So I began making up stories in funny voices and Marge, this naughty babysitter who breaks the rules mummy gives her, became the most popular character.”
And Isla admits she’s so into her books she now writes everywhere — including in bed.
She says: “I write in a bookshop and sneak away at 10am every morning, shove pastries into my mouth and type away.
“It’s never quiet there and I chat to people, which gives me the perfect excuse to take breaks.
“I ate one croissant an hour and then if I was really stuck I would eat another croissant or if I got writer’s block I would eat a croissant — in fact I probably ate over 2,000 croissants.
“I also love to write in bed and I have a dictaphone setting on my iPhone so I record a lot of my ideas then email them to myself.”
She adds: “I will also write or dictate any ideas on the school run or when I am in bad traffic. That said, I am the worst procrastinator. I can make up the most amazing excuses of ‘urgent’ stuff that needs to be done.
“Like reorganizing the cupboards, or Googling a potential ailment I may develop in old age or online shopping. But the thing that always sparks my creativity is fear of my deadline.”
However, Isla – who worked with her hubby for the first time in last year’s comedy movie Grimsby – reckons she gets a bigger thrill when fans like her books rather than her movies. She says:
“It is utterly thrilling to hear that children like the stories and that parents enjoy reading them. It feels so much more satisfying to have my books connect to tiny people than my films for some reason.”
And she reveals her own brood help ‘edit’ her books too.
She says: “If my books are successful, I owe it all to the kids in my life who have read them and helped in the editing process. Kids are so honest and the moment the story becomes boring they make it all too clear.”
But Isla insists her family always comes first as she tries to juggle her home life, acting and writing careers.
She says: “I wish I had the secret to balancing it all but I don’t have a clue. ‘Don’t worry about being perfect or you’ll miss out on the fun!’ – that’s the message from Marge in Charge. I try to keep it as a message for myself.”
She adds: “My favourite ever acting role would be Myrtle in The Great Gatsby. I was able to work in my home country Australia with my favourite director, Baz Luhrmann, with a stellar cast. I love acting and I always will, but my young family is the priority.”
Isla is now preparing to return to Edinburgh for the International Book Festival for the first time since starring in 2010 Simon Pegg caper Burke And Hare, filmed in the Scots capital.
She says: “I was last there shooting that movie. It was such a fun experience.
“But I feel grateful that I can do both film and book festivals. It’s so wonderful to be able to meet the children who love Marge and of course the people who love the films.”
And although she was raised in Australia she insists she still feels Scottish.
She jokes: “Every time I eat a deep fried Mars Bar or dodge a Glasgow Kiss, I am reminded of my Scottish roots.”
Isla Fisher will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Saturday August 19. See edbookfest.co.uk