One half of a Hollywood power couple, Isla Fisher talks films, family and living with the hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen.
Diminutive Isla Fisher, the one-time Home and Away actor-turned-movie star, has been married to the Brit comedian Sacha Baron Cohen since 2010, following an eight-year courtship.
She converted to Cohen’s Judaism (which took three years of study) to marry him and they now have two young children: Olive, aged five, and Elula Lottie Mariam, aged two.
“Oh my God,” says Fisher when asked about her husband. “He’s a disaster. Who goes to the Golden Globes, marches up to Cate Blanchett and says, ‘Hi, nice to meet you, what do you do for a living?"
“I’m literally running away as fast as I can!” she laughs.
"It’s a cliché, but for a woman this famous, Isla Fisher is remarkably down to earth, opening up about her marriage, her children and her insecurities.
Isla plays Tom Buchanan’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, alongside Toby Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.Known primarily for her comedic roles, such as in Wedding Crashers and Confessions of a Shopaholic, she recently landed one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood — in Baz Luhrmann’s newly released The Great Gatsby.
It’s a long way from Summer Bay, her stint on Home and Away. Does she still get fans of the soap stopping her in the street?
“Not really. If anything I get Wedding Crashers— people really loved that movie so that’s my main one,” she says.
Following Australian TV, the young actress landed a role in Scooby-Doo, then hit indie comedy I Heart Huckabees. But it was the aforementioned Vince Vaughn smash-hit that propelled her to the big time, and now film roles come surely and steadily.
Inevitably, a work-home balance has to be struck, but thankfully she has Sacha to help out.
“Honestly, he makes like one film every two or three years so there’s rarely any problem there. And while the little ones are small, I only want to take supporting roles — no leads unless it’s something I couldn’t possibly turn down. I just want to be there while they grow up. We both do.”
Would she ever work with her husband? “Maybe,” she says.
“It’s like we are already working together so closely on so many other things in our lives. I think we have enough going on already, but never say never.”
And what’s it like living with Borat or the Dictator?
“You really have no idea! I mean I’ve had the Dictator finger, I’ve had everything, the Justin Bieber haircut, the Borat moustache. Let’s just say life with Sacha is never boring,” she says with a smile.
Isla is continually open in interviews about their relationship and clearly finds the Ali G creator hilarious. She recently named Bruno as her favourite movie of his, going as far to name her stand-out moment.
“My favourite line will always be when he looks up at the sky and goes, ‘So many stars in the sky. Makes you think of all the hot guys in the world.’ That’s so freaking random and funny.”
But as mentioned earlier, the cringe moments never stop.
“I remember being invited to a screening of a movie that Jack Black produced and a, let’s call her a heavy-set, lady gave a really long speech after the film and then Jack got up at the end and briefly just thanked everyone for coming.
“So later, Sacha asks Jack why he made such a short speech and told him he should have told the lady with the massive tits to shut up. He wouldn’t stop talking and Jack’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s my mother.’
“So just to deflect, Sacha says, ‘Well, Isla always wanted to have big boobs, didn’t you Isla’... See, this is what I live with.”
Isla is famously petite, at 160cm (5ft 2in) against Sacha’s towering 190cm (6ft 4in) frame, cue jokes about the long and the short of it.
Even Isla herself has been quoted saying the height difference makes her look like a circus freak.
The couple first met in 2002 at a party in Sydney and became engaged two years later. They finally wed in Paris in 2010, with Elula arriving five months later.
And splitting her time between homes in LA and London with Sacha and the girls, Isla manages to juggle it all, though, as she pragmatically remarks, it’s rather less difficult with the resources at her disposal.
“I think it’s hilarious when you hear these mothers who champion themselves for having it all,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, if you have the money to hire nannies and help, then of course it’s much easier.’
“That’s not the norm for so many millions out there and I do count myself incredibly lucky in that regard.”
It’s not the only thing she feels lucky about. In previous interviews she’s talked about her children, how it has changed her perspective on life and how she shed 31kg after pregnancy.
There’s no denying it: for a mother of two, she looks remarkable. How does she stay in such great shape?
“SPANX!” she says, laughing loudly, while snapping the band underneath her clothes. “Never leave home without them. You can’t eat very much and it’s restrictive like a girdle but hey, you look really slender and slim!”
She’s being a little modest.
“I also believe in the power of breastfeeding,” she says. “I know that some women say it doesn’t help them lose the weight but I think it burns an extra 250 calories a day. I breastfed for two years with both my children and by the end of that period I was back to normal.
“I swear by it. I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve been able to afford the assistance so i can go out for a run or a workout.”
She’s also incredibly glamorous, looking nowhere near her 37 years, today radiant and impeccably dressed.
She doesn’t believe us. “Really! Well, you should see me on the school run!” she says. “I was never really that into fashion until Confessions of a Shopaholic, which theoretically ruined me.
“After working every day with Patricia Field from Sex and the City, I went from wearing what was clean in my laundry basket to sporting the wares of high-fashion designers. I love Zac Posen, which I’m wearing right now.
“And I’m a big fan of Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Phillip Lim. I’m only tiny, as you can see, so many labels aren’t catered for me but these designers don’t swamp me,” she says.
She may be taking only supporting roles while her children are young, but post-Gatsby, the offers will fly in. That wasn’t, she says, always the case.
"It was very difficult [after the initial success of the Wedding Crashers], and I think I was pretty depressed about it actually. So it was quite a hard period emotionally.
“It’s one of those things where, if you’ve been an actor for a really long time, you learn to appreciate the highs and the lows. You learn that things go out of fashion and not to personalise that.
“It’s hard to predict whether you’ll be hot or cold, but that’s the nature of the business.
“I’ve always been quite frugal with my finances and prepared for a rainy day. And during those bleak periods, you do acting classes and keep busy and wait for the next opportunity to come your way... hopefully.”
Nowadays, things are different. There’s plenty of upcoming movies on her plate.
“I’ll be working on a new one soon with Jennifer Aniston so I can’t say too much about that,” she says, “only that I’m very excited because I’m a huge, huge fan of hers. And I think I’d like to do so more animation [after working on Rango and Rise of the Guardians].”
Which reminds us… wasn’t she supposed to be in The Simpsons a few years back?
“Don’t get me started on that, I’ll be ranting for days!” she says “I was cut out. Axed… axed is the word. I was seriously disappointed, really heartbroken. I was playing a bomb consultant who came in to prepare all the characters for the fact that the world was ending and it was so funny.
“And they said, ‘Oh you’ve done such a great job.’ Oh, but then they cut me. Clearly they were not telling the truth. I never saw the movie, I was too bitter. I’m a huge Simpsons fan, so I was devastated,” she says, failing to conceal a philosophical smile.
All that’s behind her now as she eyes up the big time.
Photography: Debby Wong/Shutterstock.com, Paul Smith/Featureflash