Rise of the Guardians - Isla Fisher interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
ISLA Fisher talks about lending her voice to the role of The Tooth Fairy in animated fantasy adventure Rise of the Guardians and why she likes doing voice work.
She also talks about roles in forthcoming films, Now You See Me and The Great Gatsby, living with husband Sacha Baron Cohen and raising her children.
Q. So, was it the idea of doing a Christmas movie that most appealed to you?
Isla Fisher: You know what? I loved the Bill Joyce books and I loved the images they showed me. Jeffrey Katzenberg did his… you know, he’s a very charismatic and persuasive man and I thought: “Oh, what a wonderful cast and what a great idea and what fun it just seemed like.” It just seemed like, 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 o fear of failure as such. I guess you’re more courageous. You can pull any ugly face you want because there’s no leading man to judge you. And so it’s fun.
Q. Sofia Vergara said that when she did an animated film, she wouldn’t dream of going to the booth in her sweat-pants. She still went glam…
Isla Fisher: I didn’t glam up. But that’s because that my publicist had said that I had to sign off on any… even though they record you doing it, you get to sign off on what images they have of you. So, I felt slightly in control of what was going to come out. But I’m not a glam person. When I do the school run, I’m in my sweats.
Q. Was it easier doing this role having done Rango and Horton?
Isla Fisher: And I actually also did The Simpsons Movie but I was cut out!
Q. Ooh, shocking!
Isla Fisher: Shock, horror! Axed is the word. Heartbreakingly I was axed. I was seriously disappointed. I thought that was the end of my career in animation.
Q. Which character did you play?
Isla Fisher: I had one great scene… well, it clearly wasn’t that great [laughs]. 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 real 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.
Q. Was it a challenge to play a character with such manic energy in Rise of the Guardians?
Isla Fisher: No, once I saw the pictures of her being part humming-bird, and those giant wings, and her little face, the pointed-ness of it… felt like she had to have a very quick voice with ordering the teeth around. It seemed right for her. 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. But because the character already existed, I just sort of … it was paint by numbers. 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. But I do specialise in silly voices, so at my first meeting I was ready… I had 20 options of ridiculous voices for the movie and the said: “Oh, we want you to do you, but with an American accent.” So, I felt quite vulnerable just doing my voice: “Is this enough? Am I enough?” But they’re happy with it, so…
Q. 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?
Isla Fisher: 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.
Q. Have they seen any of your films?
Isla Fisher: No.
Q. So, they have no idea what you do?
Isla Fisher: No, they don’t know what I do.
Q. Have they a theory about it?
Isla Fisher: 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!
Q. Do you play the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny in real-life?
Isla Fisher: Um, again, 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. But I haven’t had to outright create… so, I don’t know how I’d feel about it yet. I’m not ready to make a decision on what I want to do in that respect.
Q. So, what do you tell them about Santa?
Isla Fisher: Well, again, I haven’t had to… it’s all very… 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
Q. Do you not do many films by choice? And what motivates you to choose what you do choose?
Isla Fisher: Yeah. It’s just gut instinct really, other than the obvious… the material – if it ‘aint on the page, it ‘aint on the stage, I’ve found to be really true. And the character. And honestly, if something really terrifies me and I think ‘oh my God, why would they offer that to me, I’m totally going to ruin it’, then I think I should do it.
Q. Which ones in particular?
Isla Fisher: I just shot this thriller called Now You See Me and I’m playing this sexy, bad-ass magician who swims with piranhas… I mean, me?! Why would I be offered that role? I don’t see myself as particularly courageous or sexy or any of those things. So, I took the role because that’s just an interesting thing to do.
Q. 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?
Isla Fisher: 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.
Q. What is the secret to looking as good as you do after babies?
Isla Fisher: Well, I believe in breast feeding. I know that some women say that it doesn’t help them lose the weight but it does burn an extra, I think it’s 250 calories a day. I don’t know what the specifics are. I think that breast feeding really helps everything shrink back. And spanks help… I’m wearing them now and they come up to here. It’s like a very tight elastic band, like a girdle! Breathing is difficult but looking slender is achievable. I’ve also been lucky enough to afford to have some help with the kids while I go out and hike somewhere or do some yoga or work out. And I also try to make healthy choices with what I eat. It’s an uphill battle after 30. I breast fed both my kids for basically two years and by the end of that period I was back to normal and I still felt like I got to eat cake now and then.
Q. Is being able to work in Australia important to you? You just got to do that with The Great Gatsby, so how was that?
Isla Fisher: Oh, that was amazing. I mean it’s one of those jobs that I auditioned for and you never even let your mind wander to the hope that you could get the gig. You just think, this is a great opportunity to even be in a room with him [Baz Luhrmann]. And then when I got the job I think I screamed down the phone and deafened my poor agent. It’s just wonderful. They recreated Long Island in the 1920s in Sydney. It was surreal. And it was exactly how I’d imagined it from the book. Baz is my favourite director, obviously… he’s Australian and I love all of his films. So, it was fun. It was fun to work in Australia too. It’s just nice to go home.
Q. 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? Or don’t you like being associated with that either?
Isla Fisher: 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.
Q. Do you still get people reminding you of it?
Isla Fisher: I don’t actually. No one’s really brought it up… when people come up to me now it’s always Wedding Crashers, not Home & Away.
Q. With The Great Gatsby and Now You See Me, is that a conscious decision to change the perception of you as a funny girl?
Isla Fisher: No. I actually wanted to play the funny girl but those opportunities weren’t around and obviously an opportunity to work with Baz was a no-brainer. And Now You See Me, again, as I mentioned was such a different role from anything I’ve played. The script was really wonderful. It’s got such a great cast. I mean I worked with Sir Michael Caine! I worked with Sir Michael Caine. For me, that’s a huge honour.
Q. And did you have to learn about magic?
Isla Fisher: Yeah, I got to learn all about magic. I got to study magic. My character is an escapologist. I studied Dorothy Dietrich, this lady who does these amazing… she’s an American lady and she can get out of a straight-jacket in a second and catch a bullet between her teeth. Obviously not [laughs] but it’s fascinating learning about magic. In a way, it spoils you because you lose that innocence. You know you can’t believe in a trick anymore. But now I can do any trick.
Q. So, you have some party tricks to pull out?
Isla Fisher: I do, I do. But you know what? A lot of the magic I did… I used a lot of contraptions to help me, so I don’t know if I could do any of the coin behind the ear ones.
Q. So, did you actually have to go underwater tied up and all that stuff?
Isla Fisher: I was chained underwater. That’s why it was so exciting!
Q. Didn’t you just ask to pretend?
Isla Fisher: You know what? Because of my… when I got offered the job I thought this would be good for me. I’d be more courageous. I thought it would be a good exercise for me to take on these kind of stunts. Actually, the director [Louis Leterrier] gave me the hugest compliment, for me, at the end. He said: “You know, I’ve had a lot of actors – and he’s done these big action movies [The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans] – that haven’t wanted to do the amount of stunts that I was doing.” So, I was quite pleased with myself.
Q. Was there anything you said ‘no’ to?
Isla Fisher: No, I did everything!
Q. So, you’re totally fearless?
Isla Fisher: I don’t know what happened to me because I’m a really fearful person in real life. But I did do all of the stunts.
Q. Weren’t you scared when you suddenly found yourself in water with water going up your nostrils and all that sort of stuff?
Isla Fisher: No, because you run through the stunts so many times and you practise and you’ve built up your lung capacity and you understand where the quick release is to break the handcuffs. There was one stage, actually, where the chain got caught underneath one of the bars at the bottom, where even though I could release this part [gestures], I couldn’t get that part out and I did think: “Oh, is this how I’m going to go? I never saw it coming!” But they also had two stunt guys with a little oxygen who would have dived down and given it to me and they had a quick release on the tank. I think it was within maybe 50 seconds that the entire thing was drained.
Q. What was going through your mind when you thought that might be your last breath?
Isla Fisher: I was strangely… I wasn’t concerned. I was just surprised. But I really enjoyed that movie.
Q. Do you and Sacha [Baron Cohen] take turns over who is going to work?
Isla Fisher: Well, I’m really lucky in the fact that he makes one movie every three years [laughs]. And then I only take smaller roles. I don’t take leading roles anymore. I would if it was really amazing. But I’ve chosen to… while my munchkins are really small, I don’t want to miss anything.
Q. Does he try his characters out on you for advice?
Isla Fisher: 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… yeah, you know, it’s definitely… that’s part of life.
Q. Who are you living with at the moment?
Isla Fisher: Good question! He’s writing at the moment. So, a writer.
Q. 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…
Isla Fisher: You have no idea [laughs]! Particularly at social functions, my husband’s faux pars are really fabulous. I remember him asking Cate Blanchett at the Golde Globes what she did for a living. And then there was one time where we went to see.. oh my God, Jack Black invited us to see a screening of a movie. It was his movie that he’d produced but this rather heavy set lady with really big boobs stood up first and gave a really long speech. And at the end of the movie Jack stood up and said ‘thanks for coming’. But then Sacha goes to Jack: “This is a great movie! Why’d you make such a short speech? You should have shut up that lady with the massive tits who wouldn’t stop talking…” And Jack said: “That’s my mother!” And then Sacha says: “Well, Isla always wanted to have big boobs, didn’t you Isla?” I’m like, ‘yes, yes’.
Q. You mentioned the school run, so have you had the situation where other mums are bringing out autograph books?
Isla Fisher: No, I’ve been really lucky actually. They’re really too cool.
Q. Will you and Sacha work together at any stage?
Isla Fisher: 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.
Q. When you were a kid do you remember that awkward moment when you maybe didn’t believe in the stuff that’s in this film but you didn’t want to question it for fear of not getting enough stuff?
Isla Fisher: [Laughs] I think you’d get more goodies by just being able to manipulate face-to-face instead of writing a list. That’s interesting. No, I believed in Santa Claus until I was six and I think my brother Daniel dropped the bombshell at the same time. I think he also dropped the Tooth Fairy bombshell. It was a double whammy.
Q. Do you have to negotiate the going rate for a tooth in the near future?
Isla Fisher: 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.
Q. Coming back to your childhood, what scared you as a kid because this is a film that plays very much into childhood fears?
Isla Fisher: I did suck my thumb… I’m not going to tell you to what age. But I used to always think… one of the kids at school rather cruelly told me that if you sucked your thumb you got teeth that jutted completely out so that your lips couldn’t close and you couldn’t eat, so you would starve. Obviously, I believed that and so I used to lie awake every night… I couldn’t stop sucking my thumb but at the same time I was utterly terrified of what kind of contraption an orthodontist would have to use on my mouth. So, that’s what I was scared of.
- Read our review
- Chris Pine interview
- Isla Fisher interview
- Rise of the Guardians UK Premiere Photo Gallery
- Watch the trailer