INTERVIEW: Isla Fisher
QUESTION: Are you a Shopaholic?
ISLA FISHER: No I am not a Shopaholic, I don’t shop very well at all. I tend to buy things which end up not being quite right – whether it is a clothing item that does not match anything in my wardrobe, or some cooking apparatus that is utterly useless. I am just not that good at it.
QUESTION: Are you an impulse buyer?
ISLA FISHER: I usually go into a store with a mission. My idea of a fun thing to do would not be to go to a mall and shopping.
QUESTION: In what way did you identify with the character in “Confessions of a Shopaholic”?
ISLA FISHER: I identified with her in the sense that I would like to think that I am optimistic and energetic like she is. I would also like to think that I have a big heart, like Rebecca has. I don’t need to always identify with all the characteristics of my character, sometimes it is the differences that help you to lose your inhibitions when you are performing.
QUESTION: How did you make Becky so funny?
ISLA FISHER: Becky can be a goofball and very funny and I have always felt comfortable tapping into my inner idiot. I have a side of me that doesn’t care. I really enjoy physical comedy, thinking of an idea and pitching it to the director. For example there is one scene in the movie in which I do a fan dance with Hugh. I thought of that years ago, I always imagined how funny it would be to have a scene in a movie where a girl seduces a guy by dancing. She thinks she is really sexy but actually she is repulsive. So I went to PJ and suggested it to him and he said ‘oh I always have a dance in my movies, ok let’s do it.’
QUESTION: How tricky was it to do the scene when you dive across the boardroom table?
ISLA FISHER: The scene was quite well planned…where my knees were going to go, where the props are…it was very specific. I slid safely and I wore kneepads. I made it look more dramatic than it was.
QUESTION: Were you surprised to be cast in a Jerry Bruckheimer film?
ISLA FISHER: Absolutely! I was very proud and excited to be on the list of actresses who were considered and to get the opportunity to meet with Jerry Bruckheimer. Being a fan of the books, this was a dream role. I didn’t have to audition. I took a meeting and at the time I was five months pregnant. I just met with Jerry Bruckheimer and the director, PJ Hogan and we discussed the character and they asked me a lot of questions about the script and the comedy. I came up with some ideas and pitched some jokes. Then I got the call that they had chosen me and I couldn’t believe it! It was a terrifying feeling. When you audition you are chosen because they have seen that you are right for the part but when you just get offered a job like this – which is something that has not happened to me before – you think…Oh gosh, what if they are wrong and I mess it up!
QUESTION: Jerry describes you as the next Lucille Ball, what is like getting compliments like that?
ISLA FISHER: That is very nice of Jerry to say that and also slightly terrifying to fill those shoes. But wow, I love her, she is very funny and fantastic. I grew up watching “I Love Lucy.
QUESTION: How soon after our baby did you do the film?
ISLA FISHER: Four and a half months. Jerry hired a personal trainer for me. He wanted me to work out every day but I said no way and got him down to three times a week. I used to pretend that I was working out on the days he was not coming to the house. My daughter was on the set and I was breast-feeding every three hours. PJ Hogan had his three-year-old daughter on set. So there was a total family vibe.
QUESTION: You seemed to have no trouble with the American accent for “Confessions of a Shopaholic”?
ISLA FISHER: I was given a dialect coach on the film, which was a great luxury.
QUESTION: Have you ever bought something and then later on thought you had made a ridiculous purchase?
ISLA FISHER: I very rarely go to hardware store but once I am there I see all sorts of things that I never knew existed and then I convince myself that I need them. Whether it is a drill, or a pot of very cool, neon pink paint, which I am never going to put anywhere! Then I buy all the brushes. Or I might see a little shovel and think that I might get into gardening. There is something about a hardware store because it seems so different.
QUESTION: What was your favorite outfit in “Confessions of a Shopaholic”?
ISLA FISHER: I liked the purple dress that Rebecca wears on the TV show – I thought it was classy. But I am not too into fashion because I am more of a jeans and T-shirt girl. Thanks to Patricia Field I have become more confident about the way I dress. But I am more comfortable in trainers or Ugg boots.
QUESTION: Is it true you requested five-inch stilettos for this part?
ISLA FISHER: I did. I thought there’s something funny about a Shopaholic impractically buying ridiculously high heels and tottering throughout the stores. I thought it would be amusing. But it was less amusing, of course, when I was actually doing it! Walking in them was tricky but they were so great for the character. They put her off balance and Rebecca is off balance because she doesn’t have a sense of who she is. At the start of the movie she does not know where she is going to end up.
QUESTION: Did your feet ache at the end of each day?
ISLA FISHER: Yes! My feet ached constantly, they really did! In my every day life I would not wear shoes like those.
QUESTION: You do a lot of physical comedy in the role, so how was that?
ISLA FISHER: The great thing about doing physical comedy for film is that if it doesn’t work you’re not exposed. It ends up on the editing room floor, so it gives you a lot more room to experiment I guess. But I really enjoy doing it. I’m very comfortable tapping into my inner idiot.
QUESTION: What was the last thing you bought with a credit card?
ISLA FISHER: I actually bought some magazines at the airport. I don’t carry cash, so it’s not very interesting. I try to remember to carry cash but more often than not I end up putting it in jeans pockets, which get promptly washed.
QUESTION: What was the most embarrassing thing to shoot?
ISLA FISHER: It’s interesting but when I’m in character I don’t really feel any embarrassment. In real life I’m obviously a lot more shy, but once I’m on set and in costume and I’m hidden behind the person I’m playing I feel quite free to experiment. Except for Hugh [Dancy] probably, when I slapped him in the face with a fan.
QUESTION: When you were in “Home and Away” did you ever dream of being in a movie like “Confessions of a Shopaholic”?
ISLA FISHER: I am still completely bewildered and absolutely flattered that I was chosen to be the lead in this movie. The first time I saw the movie poster I was at The Grove in Los Angeles. There was a poster of Cate Blanchett for “Benjamin Button” – she is one of my favorite actresses – and then I saw who I thought was Deborah Messing and then I realized it was me! I froze. It was so thrilling and at the same time terrifying and perplexing that I was up there. So I have a tremendous sense of achievement because I never dreamed I would end up here. I have always been someone who loves their job and I am totally aware of how lucky I am and appreciative of this opportunity. I started acting when I was 13 and I am now 33 so I have been it at it for 20 years. Now it feels as if it has led somewhere.
QUESTION: Playing journalists seems to be quite a popular career choice for actors. How much did you enjoy it and what kind of research did you do?
ISLA FISHER: My girlfriend from high school is a journalist so I spoke to her. But I also researched the shopping end of the character by visiting some overspend/under earner groups who essentially are Shopaholics and who, rather sadly, their lives have essentially become unmanageable because of their shopping addiction. But I don’t want to focus on that side of it because the film is supposed to be escapist fun.
QUESTION: Can you draw comparisons between the scale and the expense of a Hollywood movie compared to the kind of movies and TV material you started out on? Does it seem like anything goes in an industry this huge?
ISLA FISHER: I tend to not focus on stuff like that, or notice it. You do feel the difference, obviously, when you have a trailer that’s warm and has a television, versus when you’re getting changed in the back of a Winebago.
QUESTION: How was working with costume designer Patricia Field on your wardrobe?
ISLA FISHER: She’s incredibly imaginative. She’s not married to any designers and she’s open minded. Every single look tells a story. I really enjoyed working with her. I’m not a Fashionista. I don’t have much experience in that world, but I felt I was kind of educated in the end and that even my own fashion style is now sort of braver. I enjoy dressing a lot more.
QUESTION: Did you keep anything?
ISLA FISHER: I didn’t keep anything. I loved wearing the costumes but they’re Rebecca Bloomwood’s costumes and I felt like her in them. I don’t know how I would feel in my everyday life in those heels.
QUESTION: What are your shopping temptations?
ISLA FISHER: Books… and more recently cook books. I think its wish fulfillment. I never have time to cook, so I just look through the books and imagine the dishes I would make if I wasn’t going out for a business dinner.
QUESTION: What would your favorite dishes be?
ISLA FISHER: Probably Italian… or French.
QUESTION: You’re part of a very famous comedy couple [with fiancé Sacha Baron Cohen], so how advantageous is that in terms of advising or testing each other? Or do you keep work separate?
ISLA FISHER: Well actually Sacha was the reason I got into comedy. I was actually auditioning for a lot of dramatic roles and having no success at all. I was losing confidence in my abilities when he recommended that I do comedy. He felt I was really funny, so when someone as funny as him recommends that I listened and actually auditioned for “Wedding Crashers”, which ended up being my big break.
QUESTION: Which one of the two of you will be the first to do a dramatic role?
ISLA FISHER: Oh gosh, I have no idea. I don’t know. He’s definitely a lot funnier than me.
QUESTION: Did it feel like you were actually taking on a novel hero with this. She obviously has a big fan base already and were you worried about the reaction from fans?
ISLA FISHER: Extremely worried. When you’re in the lead of a movie suddenly you’re more responsible for the tone of the film and there’s obviously the added pressure of taking on such a beloved character. But I was so fortunate in that I was truly the biggest fan of Sophie Kinsella’s books. It’s going to sound pretentious, but I’d had the vibrations of that character since I’d read it in my imagination. When I met with Jerry and discussed the role, I was so lucky he chose me, and then I just thought about it every day, in everything I did, whether I was driving my car, or cooking. Whatever I was doing, I was thinking about Becky Bloomwood and what she would be thinking. So, that’s how I began.
QUESTION: What are you doing next?
ISLA FISHER: I’m working on an animated movie that Gore Verbinski is directing, called “Rango” with Johnny Depp. It has a really nice schedule and a very creative experience. Normally with an animated movie you are in a booth and it is very sterile but Gore has us all acting out the scenes and he films it and then you go into the booth while the performance is still fresh in your mind and you repeat it. I have also been working on ideas for a couple of projects…Cookie Queen and Groupies. Groupies is about two girls who are in love with a rock band but the band has a restraining order out on them. Cookie Queen is a girl who sold the most Girl Scout cookies and built her entire adult life round that. Then a nine year old girl overtakes her record and the woman descends into madness as she starts selling cookies again to get her crown back. I sold Girl Scout cookies in Australia, but, as I recall, I ate most of my box. My mom had to bail me out.
QUESTION: You have traveled a lot. Do you think it is in your genes since you were born in Oman?
ISLA FISHER: That is probably fairly accurate because we traveled a lot when I was a kid and I have probably always lived a nomadic existence and I am comfortable doing that.
QUESTION: How are you coping with motherhood and acting?
ISLA FISHER: Motherhood is my favorite topic, personally. But I don’t discuss it professionally because she did not choose to be in the business, she is not an actress and she has the right to privacy. I have not worked for eight months and I have been able to focus on being a mom.