Isla Fisher arrives to our interview wearing a short yellow maternity dress and looking very pregnant. Promoting her supporting role in the anarchic comedy “Hot Rod,” the luminous, 31-year old actress, engaged to actor Sascha Baron Cohen, is consistently shy about discussing any aspect of her personal life.
But babies are on her mind these days. “I was at Naomi’s baby shower,” she admits, referring to fellow pregnant Aussie Naomi Watts. Fisher concedes, reluctantly, that she is due “some time in the winter”, and that she is prepared to change her priorities. “I don’t have any plans to balance my work and motherhood at this point. This is my priority and project right now, smilingly pointing to her stomach.”
Fisher became noticed as the sexually aggressive Gloria in “Wedding Crashers”, displaying the comic actress that she says has always existed. “We were very nomadic as kids and travelled a lot, and I’m sure, just to kind of fit into a new school, I sort of used comedy as a tool to make friends,” Fisher says. In “Hot Rod”, an oddball comedy starring TV’s Andy Samberg, Fisher plays the straight girl to Samberg’s none-too-bright aspiring stuntman. The actress, who thought she was signing on to do a comic role, said playing ‘the girl’ in this was “very frustrating at times. It was a real departure from what I’d done in Wedding Crashers and originally when I was cast in the movie, she was going to be funny,” she says, laughingly.
“I flew up to Vancouver four weeks early and we wrote this really funny character – we created it together. Then literally I think it was three days before shooting, everybody kind of decided that there was no one for the audience to relate to, because these boys as characters were living in this really isolated, immature world. They wanted some of the audience to basically feel – Wow, I’m doing really great. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Denise ended up being the straight girl, so I literally started filming kind of confused as to how I was going to pull it off,” the actress confesses. Yet, she says, she was still able to identify with this somewhat romantically naive character, but more “in terms of watching these kinds of emotionally stunted boys be silly, because my brothers went through the skateboarding phase and were constantly banged up, so I definitely felt like I spent a lot of my childhood watching my brothers try to do reckless things on the skateboards.”
Fisher has come a long way since forging a name for herself back in Australia on the prime time soap, Home and Away. Though she has no regrets, ask her about that show and she laughs with a degree of flushed embarrassment. “I’m going to get into trouble answering that,” confesses the actress, who has been acting professionally since age 13. But she does concede that doing the daily grind of TV soap is “a great apprenticeship. You learn a lot about acting, about working with three cameras and working on soap is really the toughest acting you’ll ever do. Some of the dialogue, you would never say and you have no time to prepare because you do fifteen scenes a day but I think it’s definitely a great training ground.”
For Fisher, she eventually faced the challenge transitioning from a TV soap opera to serious acting. “I think it’s always difficult to break out of being typecast in a role, but for me going to Clown School in Paris, studying where Geoffrey Rush and Emma Thompson had trained and taking time out of that world if you will, and really train, definitely changed peoples’ opinions of me.” That, and of course time. “I’ve really been battling away.”
Fisher divides her time living in London and Los Angeles, where she says she has no intention of working with her partner in parenthood, Borat’s Sascha Cohen. “I like to keep the work separate,” she says. And spending time in Los Angeles has entrenched her in the city’s Australian acting fraternity, which includes the likes of Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman. “Yes we call it the Koala mafia. Most of my friends are Aussies.” The actress has no immediate plans beyond that little thing called childbirth. “I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself”, but has completed another comedy, “Definitely, Maybe”.
“That’s a movie that I made straight after Hot Rod and it’s not a boys club for once. Rachel Weisz is in the movie with Abigail Breslin, it’s a romantic comedy and a story of Ryan Reynolds, who tells his daughter about his romantic history and through a series of flashbacks we meet the women in his life.” Fisher plays one of the women. “She’s a really complex character, someone who’s very emotionally unavailable, stubborn and very independent. I really enjoyed playing her and I had to age from about twenty-one to her mid-thirties. That was an incredible acting experience.”
Fisher is now busy promoting Hot Rod while dealing with pregnancy, and as for coping with both, she merely laughs. “When you watch me waddle out you’ll see.”