Isla Fisher Interviewed – THE LOOKOUT

     March 28, 2007

While you probably don’t know Isla Fisher’s name, you most likely know her face – she played the crazy girl who goes after Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers. Since then she has done a few movies and has a few more lined up, but this is the first one to arrive.

Isla recently did a roundtable interview here in Los Angeles to promote The Lookout. The film is about a popular high school athlete (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who gets into a brutal car wreck. Afterwards he’s left with brain damage and he’s struggling to have a normal life. As he tries to maintain, he takes a job as a janitor at a bank where he ultimately finds himself in a difficult situation. In the film Isla plays a girl who went to school with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of Chirs.

The interview has all the normal stuff – what it was like to work with her co-stars, how Scott Franks’ dialogue is great, what she’s working on next, etc.. If you are a fan of Isla you’ll dig it.

And if you’d like to listen to the interview click here – it’s an MP3.

And if you haven’t seen the trailer yet for The Lookout click here to watch it. The film comes out on Friday.

some spoilers are discussed in this interview – you are warned

So how did you rate this role? Is this an unusual one compared to the parts that you played?

Definitely. I kind of read the script and this is a role I instantly had to audition for. This is a role I knew where I would be up against huge obstacles to get being a comedic actress, or at least being that way in the marketplace, and knowing there were X number of very celebrated, serious and better comic actresses, going in. So, it was one of those situations where I read the script and thought, “This is the take. I don’t want to play the cliché femme fatale. I don’t want to come in and be the woman with the sexual appetite, who wants to take down this man. I want to come in and make her this big beating heart, and innocent — a woman who has no identity, who knows the man she’s with, who doesn’t have an agenda.” Because every character in the script has an agenda. I thought how interesting if Luvlee doesn’t have one — if she’s a victim of her own kindness. So, that was my starting point. And, I did a little bit of work and went in there and thought, “They’ll either like it or hate it,” and I was lucky that Scott totally loved it.

Did you build your own back story because I was never clear if she was Gary’s girlfriend or how she got involved in this whole thing?

Yeah, I built my own back story. I think she was Gary’s girlfriend, but I think he was more a paternal figure to her — someone who took care of her. I think, again, she’s someone who would see being a girlfriend as . . . She’s the type of woman who would want to just please him and just belong. She’s someone who never belonged. But, I do think her feelings for Chris Pratt became genuine. I mean, that’s how I wanted to play it. That was the most challenging for me.

Were you surprised that she left him because she seemed to be so taken by him?

Well, there were other options. At one stage, there was one scene where she warned him, but I was very against that ‘cause, while she warned him, she knows. I wanted to leave it more enigmatic. What does Luvlee know? She leaves him because she’s scared. The thing that was taken out of the film was that I had a massive bruise on my face because I had been beaten by Gary, which is why I essentially leave, but that was taken out.

After you did ‘The Wedding Crashers,’ was there something where you felt like you wanted to take on a specific big role like this?

No, I don’t have a plan like that because I think that’s a very scary way to live your life, in any area. And so, I just read the material. I’m attracted to good dialogue, and Scott’s dialogue is just incredible. You read great dialogue and you think, “Oh, please let me say this,” instead of half the time when you’re reading, you think, “How would I even deliver that line? Who would say that line?”

You’re dealing with a blind guy and a brain damaged guy. Did you study these kind of people?

No, because I didn’t want her to have any experience. That was her charm. I wanted her to see this blind guy for the first time, reach out and touch him, and have no clue how to . . . You know, the best thing about acting with people with impediments — people with brain damage, or who are blind — is that you, in a weird way, are so much less exposed. Jeff’s not looking at you, he’s looking around, and Joe is looking through you. In a weird way, there’s less intimacy, which I found easier. I can’t explain why. Just as a performer, I felt it was easier to tap into my emotions, and much more relaxing than the full intimacy of another acting playing [directly to you]. I really loved it.

So how did you and Joe work in rehearsals?

That’s what was great about Scott. I’m not a big fan of over-working something till you know exactly who’s going to do what, at what time. We worked in a way that we discussed our back stories and how our characters felt about . . . just the history of everything. Then we kind of read things in a really gentle way and felt around them, but there was not the pressure of final product. I didn’t make any decisions in rehearsal that I knew I’d have to stick to on the day, and I left it so that my imagination was still alert, alive and excited by filming, instead of sometimes thinking, “We rehearsed for hours and I probably did it a thousand ways, and now I think that’s a wrap.” It just takes away the hunger, for me. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Regarding the scene where Jeff Daniels’ character tells you he was blinded by looking at the sun too long, what did you think your character’s reaction says about her?

Well, that was interesting. That was a comedic choice that I made, that I thought, “They’ll never put that in.” That scene, to me, was like a good joke that I did on that day, to amuse myself. I did other versions of that. But, the thing in the movie, I think worked really well. I mean, you know she’s not the brightest spark in the shed — is that the term? The sharpest tool in the shed? But, that’s really confirmed in that little moment, and I think it’s very endearing. But, I suppose it’s what you took away from it. Did you hate it?

Oh, no, I didn’t hate it. Up until that point, I didn’t think she was that clueless because she is kind of part of the mastermind plan.

Well, that’s something interesting about this character. Everybody feels very differently about her. And, I can see when I’m talking about her with certain journalists, that people feel that it’s not what they saw, and I think that’s what’s great about the movie.

Do you think she actually knows what’s going on?

No, I think she finds out when she sees the guns. I think she could possibly know somewhere inside her, but she’s just one of those classic characters who is in denial and goes about their lives without thinking . . .

In your opinion, do you think she goes back to him in the end?

No, no, no. I hope not.

But, she does feel guilt?

Yes. She definitely feels guilt.

Did you have to do a certain scene with Joe where you were auditioning? You did audition for the part?

Yes. We did the scene where she tells him about seeing him at the hockey game, and I had one of those defined moments where his shoe lace just came undone during the audition, which is such a blessing because, if you get the opportunity to do something real within the structure of a fake scene, it just connects you to the reality of the truth of the scene. So, his shoe lace came undone and I was able to be really maternal and loving with him, and do it up very gently. I think that was what really helped my angle on the character.

Are you still writing, and how did those teenage novels happen?

I’m not writing Trashy Chick Lit anymore. [Laughs] I did write with Amy Poehler this treatment called ‘Groupies,’ which is a great female driven comedy that we set up at Paramount. And, since then, I developed another project called ‘Cookie Clean’ that we set up at Universal — not with Amy, but a couple of male writers. So, I’m still being creative and moving more into production, and making sure I have a little bit more power and control over my career.

But the books did okay, didn’t they?

Yeah, they did really well, at that time, for me.

And, this was in Australia?

Yeah. Writing is great, but you guys all know it’s also a bit anti-social. Not anti-social, but you’re alone in a room. It’s isolating. I’ve discovered that with age. I was very young when I wrote, and I wrote with my mother, so it was more collaborative, and I had a lot of help. I really love creating characters and I love following a structure. It’s exciting, writing. Acting, you’re told where to stand, what to say and you’re always being cut out of the exciting bit, where you could go anywhere and do anything with any character. Ultimately, I’m too gregarious.

How old were you?

I started when I was 18 with my first book. But, before that, I was always in special writing classes after school, and I had always written. My mom wrote, and I had always wanted to be a writer. But, then I just realized that I liked to play dress up too.

Does being close with Sacha Baron Cohen and his improv style help you when you’re writing with Amy Poehler?

No. It’s totally different things.

It is all improv, though.

Yeah. But, with all writing, you think on the spot, really, and then you go back and make sure it all fits together. Amy and I wrote a lot of the structure and a lot of the gags, but we hired another writer, Erica Rivinoja — this really talented female writer who came in and wrote the actual script — so there wasn’t as many jokes written as there was just making sure that we girls got to be funny for once, and we didn’t stand there while some boy made a joke.

Did any of that Thanksgiving scene in this movie get tossed around and added on the spot? Or, was that all written in the script?

No, a lot of that was improvised. But, Scott Frank’s dialogue reads like it really is happening. It’s not the same clunky stuff you normally read.

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Who was that old guy in the house?

Who Bones steers away? Supposedly, it was his farmhouse. It’s unclear. You know what? You have to ask Scott Frank that. It’s either a home invasion, or it’s somebody’s distant relative who they kind of know. Whatever happens, you know that guy does not know what’s going on. That actor was so great.

What was it like, working with Matthew?

Matthew’s hilarious.

This is a different role for him?

Yeah, and he did a great job, didn’t he? He’s so charismatic. Matthew is similar to me, in the fact that we’re not method actors. Joe stayed in character, and had to. He had to isolate himself, in a way, in order to play such a challenging character, not that he did so at dinners in the evening. He’s the loveliest guy. I would at least stay vocally in character through the day, just to keep my American accent up. But, Matthew’s hilarious because one moment he would be Gary, this mean, hard, charismatic, dark guy, and then you’d cut and he’d be this charming English, happy guy. He was two very different people, every day.

Even though you don’t have a goal, in terms of your career, when you look back at the earlier stages of your career, was Hollywood a goal for you?

No. I know that a lot of Australians come out to the States with those ambitions, but weirdly enough, I only came out on the back of ‘Scooby Doo’ — for the premiere of ‘Scooby Doo.’ And then, I ended up getting representation and ended up getting a job, almost straight away. So, I was fortunate, in that I didn’t have to come out to L.A. and join a queue of however many people, and try to get work. I came in on the back of what was deemed as a big studio movie that had had extraordinary success.

Are you happy living here?

I don’t really live here. I live 50% of the time in London and Europe.

But, you grew up in Perth, which is the most isolated city in Australia. Was it different growing up there, than growing up in Melbourne or Sydney or Canberra?

I don’t know. I didn’t grow up in those other places. But, I definitely think that Perth was a very isolated place to live. But, I had a great upbringing. I rode horses and had a very outdoorsy life, that I don’t know if I would have had the same opportunity to have in Sydney or Melbourne.

You were born in Oman?


How long did you live there?

I lived there for 9 months, just till I was 9 months old.

Can you talk about the plot of the film you wrote with Amy Poehler?

It’s essentially two girls who . . . It’s a little like ‘Dumb and Dumber’ with two women. We’re these really deluded, over-confident, dumb dumbs who fall in love with the band, and we believe that they share the same love for us. [Laughs] And, we run their fan club. It’s called ‘Groupies,’ and we are the world’s worst groupies, but we think that we are king of the mountain.

Why are you the worst groupies?

We’re the worst groupies because we never get into the VIP section, even though we’ve been going for 15 years. The band have restraining orders out on us and we have no idea. We think that they love us. It’s a classic, very broad comedy idea.

What’s your own relationship with groupies? Do you have really rabid fans out there that you’ve had odd experiences with?

No. During ‘Wedding Crashers,’ I had a lot of women come up to me and say, “Your character in that movie is exactly the same as me. It’s so good to see it.” And, I was like, “Okay!” That was the only thing that was interesting to me — how many women really related to Gloria. When I was reading Gloria, she was so absurdly mad, it was amazingly funny. That’s where all the comedy came from. So, to meet people who proudly owned those characteristics was definitely amusing.

When will your own wedding take place?

I don’t know yet.

No plans?

Not yet.

Well, congratulations.

Thank you!

Are there any plans for you and Sacha to work together?

I don’t see why not. There’s no plans, but I think all couples really end up collaborating on things anyway. We help each other out. I happen to love reading scripts, so I do a lot of script reading. [Laughs] But, yeah, I don’t see why not.

Are you ever concerned with how much he puts himself out there? Are you ever concerned, when he’s filming on location?

I guess it’s like anyone who has a relationship with someone who does things that create situations. I try not to think about it.

Joseph said that when you came on the set in Winnipeg, it had a whole different feel to it.

There were no women.

What did you bring to it?

There were a lot of men, and it was just me. I’m lucky I grew up with brothers, so I’m very comfortable in that role. And, I definitely got very good at pool. My pool got better.

Is it a different experience for you than going onto a set that has more women?

I think it always depends on the men. Nobody in this movie had that frat boy humor that isolated women. There was no misogynism. That can happen in movies where the boy’s club happens, and it’s very isolating. I’ve definitely experienced that. But, that wasn’t the case. Every man in this movie, starting with the captain of the ship, Scott Frank, is extraordinarily intelligent and sensitive and respectful of all human beings. So, I never really felt any different from anyone else.

Do you think you were accepted as one of the guys, or do you think they held you in more esteem because you were the only female on the set?

I don’t know. No, ‘cause Tinsel [Korey] worked with me a lot — the girl who plays Maura in the movie. So, she was with me and we all spent a lot of time [together]. I’ve got to say, I don’t really know how they saw me. It definitely didn’t stand out to me. It’s only now, that you mention it, that it does dawn on me that I was the only girl.

Were you a better pool player than some of the guys?

Hell, yeah. I’m from Perth. [Laughs] Misspent youth.

What’s your next project?

I have a movie called ‘Hot Rod.’ And then, after that, I have a movie called ‘Definitely, Maybe’ with Rachel Weisz and Abigail Breslin.

How was it working with Andy Samberg [on ‘Hot Rod’]?

I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’m very excited to see it. I think I’m going to get to see the movie either this week or next week, so I’m very excited.

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