Isla Fisher may not be a household name yet, but that doesn't mean she hasn't had some very memorable roles. Who can forget her performance as the bipolar nymphomaniac that Vince Vaughn's character winds up marrying in "Wedding Crashers," or her turn as Ryan Reynolds' free-spirited love interest in "Definitely, Maybe"? Now, the adorable redhead is making her leading lady debut in "Confessions of a Shopaholic," which opens in theaters on February 13. The charming actress called me from NYC to talk about her new movie, why fashion sometimes confuses her, and how it was her fiance Sascha Baron Cohen (the man behind such characters as Ali G., Borat, and Bruno) who convinced her that she should ditch dramas and start auditioning for comedies.
For those who haven't read the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" novels, what's the premise of the movie?
"I would say it is the story of a girl who loves shopping, and who's in debt, and who's desperate to work at a fashion magazine and, ironically, ends up working at a finance magazine, and basically ends up falling in love with her boss. It's a lot funnier than that though! That's why they didn't hire me to write the logline of the movie." [Laughs]
What drew you to the role of Rebecca Bloomwood?
"Well, obviously I was a fan of the books."
So you did read the entire "Shopaholic" series [written by Sophie Kinsella]?
"Oh, I did -- long before the movie was even spoken about. And I actually thought to myself, 'I really hope that if they make a movie about this that they capture the essence of Rebecca Bloomwood.' I never even thought for a second I would be lucky enough to get the role!"
As a fan of the books, how did you feel about the movie being set in New York instead of London?
"I wasn't happy about it, but I knew that it wouldn't really alter the essence of the character and I just had to accept the fact that the movie's always going to be a different beast to the book. You sort of have to get it out of your head that it's going to be the way you imagined it and just move forward in a new creative way."
Rebecca is a serious shopaholic. Do you relate to her in any way?
"I'm not a shopaholic. I shop rarely and poorly and every time I shop I seem to regret it! The other day I got talked into buying a fish cooker, which is so impractical. Obviously, I could [just] use a pan [to cook fish] or I could grill it, and instead I bought this thing ... [Laughs] But anyway, I do relate to Rebecca in the sense that I'd like to think I'm a fairly optimistic person, and Rebecca has a lot of energy. I'd like to think that I can be energetic at times."
I have a hard time believing you don't like to shop when you have such a fabulous little physique!
"I do like shopping at different stages. Before I became a mum, I was much more into it. The bottom line with shopping is that when I'm in a store ... first of all, there are so many people. Secondly, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of product that is there. And thirdly, I don't really know what I like. I'm perplexed by all the choices and after I get talked into something by an enthusiastic overzealous shop assistant, I take the thing home and I don't know then what to put it with in my closet, and I don't even know if I like it anymore in the cold light of day!"
Perhaps Patricia Field ("Confessions of a Shopaholic's" costume designer) could help you out?
"I learned a lot from Patricia Field. So many truths that I'd held dear in fashion, she dispelled within a minute. [Imitating Field's raspy voice] 'You don't match. I don't care about matching.' I thought you had to match your shoes with your belt, or your handbag with your shoes, or your scarf with your hat. She is sort of from the opposite school of dressing, where it's all about wearing whatever you want and putting as many colors and patterns together and I had never even considered that. I thought that was bad taste! I didn't realize that was good taste."
So have you implemented her approach to fashion into your own wardrobe?
"Well, I did actually -- for about four weeks. After the movie wrapped, I was wearing all of these fabulous colors and really putting an effort in and adding in accessories and thinking about what shoes to wear and going to my closet and taking a few minutes to really design my outfit and then I completely forgot about that and was back in my uniform of jeans and t-shirts."
What was your favorite piece from Rebecca's wardrobe?
"I think I would say the Lanvin purple dress that she wore on the television show with the white Yves St. Laurent coat. I thought that was very chic."
I don't want to spoil anything for filmgoers, but I couldn't take my eyes off of the large anchor necklace that Rebecca wears in the movie.
"I'm so glad you liked that. You know, there was a lot of fighting on set that day because the producers didn't want me to wear it. They said it was distracting, but I thought it was great fun and I wanted every outfit to clearly represent that [Becky] was a shopaholic. I didn't want the costumes to be the joke, but I felt like it was important that she looked like a shopaholic and that she had fun with what she wore."
Did you get to keep anything from Becky's closet?
Not even her signature green scarf?
"No. Actually, at the premiere after party they had the green scarves draped over mannequins all around the store and I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to steal one of those.' And then as we were leaving they'd already been stolen! I went to the party, so I didn't get one." [Laughs]
What did you like most about working on "Confessions of a Shopaholic"?
"The most fun thing about playing someone like Rebecca who is so creative with the truth is that you get to lie in every scene and get into loads of scrapes. And there was loads of physical comedy, which I enjoy doing."
You definitely have a knack for it. I read that you studied clowning and mime in Paris? I assume that must help a lot when it comes to doing physical comedy.
"I think so, definitely. Although the most important thing I learned at the [Jacque Lecoq International Theatre School] was not the comedy as the clown or the mime, but it was actually something the teacher said to us on day one: If you're enjoying performing, then people are enjoying watching you. Once I heard that it completely changed my attitude, and I realized that I had to find a way to play and enjoy acting."
Have you always been funny?
"My dad and my mum say that I was the family clown, but I had no idea that I was funny. In fact, I remember when I was going for all these dramatic roles and getting rejected and [my fiance] Sascha [Baron Cohen] said to me, 'You should do comedy. You're so funny.' And I couldn't believe it, but I thought coming from him -- the funniest guy in the world -- I should believe him, so that's when I started to go for comedic roles. When people ask me how I got this role, I just think it's because I'm willing. I'm willing to tap into my inner idiot!"
Now this was the first movie you had filmed since giving birth to your daughter Olive in October 2007, correct?
"It's the only movie I've done!"
How did you get back into shape so quickly?
"Jerry Bruckheimer hired me a personal trainer because I gained 60 pounds during my pregnancy. [The trainer] was very serious and I think he thought I had a bad attitude. He would come to my house and ask, 'Have you been good?' And I felt like Becky Bloomwood because I would say, 'Yes, I've been really good,' and then the moment he was gone I was stuffing cake down my mouth. It was ridiculous what I wasn't allowed to eat -- it was everything! But I really think, and I say this to all the men out there, if you want to lose weight get breast feeding!"
Well, you look fabulous in the movie -- and in all of the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" advertisements. Is it weird to look up and see yourself plastered on buildings and across billboards?
"It is really weird. I saw a poster of 'Benjamin Button' with Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt and then there's me. I thought, 'Which crazy person would give me my own movie, let alone put me on a poster?' I used to drive around town and see the 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' [movie posters] and think, 'That's such a cute Chihuahua.' Now I drive around and it's me instead of the Chihuahua!" [Laughs]
So are you ready for the possibility that this movie could make you a big star?
"I don't know. I'm hoping that my life might change professionally, but that it won't personally."
You and fellow redheaded actress Amy Adams are often mistaken for one another. I laughed when I read a quote of yours in Allure magazine where you said, "If 'Shopaholic' is a hit, it was Isla Fisher in the movie. And if it doesn't work out, it was Amy Adams."
"I say that, obviously, as a joke. [Laughs] It's just indicative of the fact that there are not enough redheads in Hollywood!"