Glass interviews the Hollywood actor Isla Fisher

ISLA Fisher broke into the Hollywood comedy genre with a defining part in Wedding Crashers. However, the actor came to prominence for her portrayal of Shannon Reed on the Australian soap opera Home and Away from 1994 to 1997, garnering two Logie Awards nominations. Fisher soon started to amass wider attention for a plethora of productions as the lead female comedy character by encapsulating the essence and multifaceted aspects of being a woman in modern society.

Her early years were pivotal in shaping her into the performer that we know today. Born to Scottish parents in Oman and raised in Perth, Australia, Fisher spent her childhood moving cities nearly once a year. As a young girl, she used comedy as a way of adapting to society. “Obviously I have a complicated cultural identity. We were very transient when I was small – I went to a different school almost every year of my life until high school. When you’re the new girl, you have to develop skills to fit in fast because you don’t have those old relationships, so maybe my humour was born out of a need to make friends quickly at a new school,” Fisher reflects.


Isla Fisher. Photograph: Angelo D’Agostino

To quote British TV writer Ricky Gervais, “If you can laugh in the face of adversity, you’re invincible.” Humour and comedy are embedded in each individual’s character, making it the easiest trait to tap into if you’re looking to make a connection. Fisher picked up on the social aspect of comedy early on in her life. “I think humour is such a great way to connect with people. Even from the time we’re babies and you blow a raspberry on a baby’s belly or you put on a funny hat, or when kids start learning how to talk and you start with simple wordplay or diction jokes. Humour is such an important part of society; it keeps us very happy,” she tells me.

And this happiness that she deliciously describes with pathos became the driving force that skyrocketed her to household fame. Fiercely passionate and with a personality that transits the silver screen, the actor is now synonymous with hilarity in cinema. Not to confuse hilarity with ridicule, however, as the line between the two is easy to cross in film. She embodies naturalism at its core, whether it’s through playing a shoe addict in Confessions of a Shopaholic or an outrageously hedonistic maid of honour in Bridesmaids.


Isla Fisher. Photograph: Angelo D’Agostino


Now 43 years old, Fisher started her career in the industry at a very young age – some would even classify her as a child actor. Her mother, who was very active in amateur dramatics, would regularly bring Fisher backstage with her at shows. “My mother was actually an amateur dramatic when I was a kid, and I remember seeing Twelfth Night when I was about four, and she was the lead in that. I thought, ‘Ooh, this seems really exciting and fun’ when I was backstage and everyone was getting their dresses and makeup done. From the time I was very young, I always liked the idea of performance, but equally, I was very shy,” says Fisher.

Her shyness did not impact her decisions though. Even as a child, she had a clear vision of her future and courageously pursued her passion. “I got to about 11, and I thought maybe I want to try and pursue it professionally now. I managed to look in the yellow pages, pre-Google days, and I found myself an agent, spoke with them on the phone, and then I was lucky enough to get cast in something. I began as a child actor and have continued ever since.”


Isla Fisher. Photograph: Angelo D’Agostino


Her early days as an actor were easier than most would expect. It was only later in her career that Fisher would experience rejection. “My first job was for an advertisement for the lotteries commission in Western Australia, and I was just an extra, in the background of the show. I wasn’t featured and I didn’t have any dialogue, but I was just so excited that I can remember my mum saying, ‘Isla, you’re hyperventilating, relax!’ and then my next audition was for a TV show called Home and Away, and I got the job. Actually, back then my hit rate was really good. Almost every job I ever went for, I would get. It’s only as an adult I’ve got worse at auditions. Now I struggle with auditions actually. I’m very lucky because now I tend to get involved at an earlier level, so I can avoid auditioning, but when I do have to audition for a role, I’m always so much more nervous than I used to be.”


Isla Fisher. Photograph: Angelo D’Agostino


However, Fisher nurtured a healthy coping mechanism for herself when faced with rejection. In spite of the rollercoaster situations that you find yourself in as a performer, the actor has found a way to ground herself in reality and not get carried away by pitfalls. “It is just part of the business; you never personalise it. Sometimes a reason can be so simple and silly, like, ‘You’re not a blonde,’ and they can’t imagine putting a wig on you. Or ‘You’re too short’ or ‘You’re not sporty enough’ or ‘You’re too sporty’ or ‘Your ears are too big’.”

Fisher is breaking a mould when she speaks unresentfully of her rejections. Many performers fall into the false belief that they are being objectified in the audition room, whereas the actor is completely aware of the fact that some circumstances are outside her control. “It can be any number of reasons – I’m teasing about the ears – but there can be any number of reasons why you’re not right for a role, and often you see the movie and think ‘Oh yeah she did it way better than I would have,” Fisher explains.


Isla Fisher. Photograph: Angelo D’Agostino


After spending the past two decades as one of comedy’s most prominent leading women, the actor is excited for the future of the industry. In a post-Weinstein era, things are finally looking up. “I think it’s an exciting time to be a woman. I do think that as much as we’ve made changes and developments in terms of pay parity and diversity within roles, we obviously still have a very long way to go,” Fisher explains. “We’re always just hoping for a more inclusive future in the industry. It’s no revelation that people of colour are still gravely underrepresented in every aspect of the Hollywood landscape. However, I personally have noticed that I have been offered two movies over the summer with female directors, so it’s just a hope that we continue going on,” Fisher says.

The actor married British comedy mogul Sacha Baron Cohen in 2010 and the two have three children. Fisher and Baron Cohen have been together for 17 years, meaning Fisher has been by his side while he has played the notorious Ali G; a Pamela Anderson-obsessed Kazakhstani journalist and also a dictator. The couple also starred together in Grimsby and continue to manage to remain under the radar, despite their high-profile careers. When speaking of her relationship with one of the most recognisable figures in film and television, Fisher is keen to point out that working alongside her husband strengthened her connection with him. “When we worked together, we shared a trailer, we didn’t feel the need to separate our personal and professional lives. It was really fun working with Sacha. I’d definitely do it again. He’s so funny when he improvises, and he’s just a laugh. I think that in any relationship of many years you end up bouncing ideas off each other,” states the actor. “It’s always the dream really to work together and be in one place at the same time,” Fisher concludes.


Isla Fisher. Photograph: Angelo D’Agostino


As far as upcoming projects go, Fisher wants to keep her life an open book. After embodying a diverse number of characters who possess hedonistic, non-conformist traits with voracious sexualities and anarchic spirits, she wants to keep her feet firmly planted in the comedy genre. Fisher also doesn’t feel the need to play a traditional female role and would rather gear towards pivotal parts where mannerisms are at the forefront. When speaking about the role of comedy in people’s lives, she comes to a full circle with her initial statement about her childhood.

“Comedy in a way makes us better people. I think comedy changes how we think and how we act – it’s like laughter’s a lubricant. It joins us together, and it helps to point out things in life that we may subconsciously notice but never really consciously think to talk about,” Fisher says. “It’s an integral part of human interaction. Humour has been on the mind of thinkers for centuries, it’s been around since Plato and Aristotle contemplated the meaning of comedy. They were laying down the foundations of Western philosophy. Humour is our bedrock and it connects us all,” she adds.

So what is Isla Fisher’s purpose? “My purpose as an actor is to tell the truth of the character. I just need to be the best storyteller that I can possibly be.”

by Adina Ilie

From the Glass Archive – Glass Magazine, Decade,  Issue 38, Summer 2019

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Photographer: Angelo D’Agostino

Fashion Director: Allison Bornstein

Styling Assistant: Alex Moghtadaie

Hair: Kylee Heath

Makeup: Kate Synnott

Set Design: Little Apple Project

Casting Director: Tasha Tongpreecha

Talent: Isla Fisher



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One Response

  1. The Untold Truth Of Isla Fisher

    […] — I went to a different school almost every year of my life until high school,” she told Glass magazine in 2019. “When you’re the new girl, you have to develop skills to fit in fast because […]