Best known for stealing scenes from her ensemble position in movies like Wedding Crashers and Hot Rod–or as the fiancée of Borat’s beloved Sasha Baron Cohen–Australian funny-woman Isla Fisher finally gets the spotlight to herself in this weekend’s book-to-movie adaptation of Confessions of a Shopaholic. In it, she brings to life the loveably hapless character of Rebecca Bloomwood, a compulsive shopper and over-spender who winds up writing a column advising people on getting out of debt. She joined co-star Krysten Ritter, Shopaholic screenwriters Tracy Jackson and Kayla Alpert, and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer at the press conference for a little free-for-all on the movie, her personal shopping habits, and her outlandishly physical style of comedy.
Confessions of a Shopaholic opens Friday, Feb. 13, 2009.
For Isla, what was the most fun fashion discovery you made while making this film?
ISLA FISHER: The most fun fashion discovery was just to use a lot of color in my wardrobe. I’m fairly conservative normally. I just feel that Patricia Field brought out the color in me. I now love to wear color.
People who hadn’t read the book might think this was going to be a Prada movie, a comedy about conspicuous consumption and hence it couldn’t come at a worse time. But it’s actually a rehab movie about controlling conspicuous consumption. Can you talk about how you see this movie with the zeitgeist? And also, your slapstick fan dance?
FISHER: Well, obviously this movie was conceived during a different economic period and the lessons that Rebecca Bloomwood learns in the movie we have all been learning recently, so it feels very topical. I’m really proud of the responsible way that we handle it at the end of the movie, that issue. In regards to the fan dance, it has always been a comic dream of mine to attempt to seduce a man doing a dance that’s actually repulsive. The opportunity of doing that arose doing this movie and I embraced it. I really enjoyed every minute.
FISHER: No no. I’m embarrassed to admit they’re all my own moves.
Krysten and Isla, which item of clothing or anything can you not pass by?
What about you, Isla?
FISHER: There’s nothing really material that I can’t pass by. Maybe underwear.
Victoria’s Secret underwear?
FISHER: Oh, just out of necessity, just in general underwear. It’s not such a good look, not having underwear.
Isla, have you ever had any experience like the moment where her credit card was declined? Or you received a credit card bill and you were like, ‘Oh my God.’
FISHER: Actually recently I did. Apparently someone had been buying petrol in Texas on my credit card and I wasn’t there. So I did have that experience, but not through any fault of my own.
Isla, can you talk about going from being one of a cast to this movie focusing on you and that sort of pressure?
FISHER: Obviously I’m very surprised, eternally grateful to Jerry Bruckheimer, and completely bewildered as to how I was lucky enough to be chosen to have my own movie. I definitely felt far more responsible for the tone of the movie as a lead than you do as a supporting cast member when you sort of come in and muck about. On top of that, playing a beloved character from a book that’s extraordinarily successful and knowing that she’s now going to be American and wanting to capture the essence of her as properly as I could added more pressure. But ultimately when you have an incredible producer like Jerry Bruckheimer behind you and a really amazing cast, it was just an amazing, rewarding creative experience for me.
Isla, you do a lot of great physical comedy in the movie. How did you develop this talent for physical comedy?
FISHER: Actually, I trained at a theater school called Jacques Lecoq in Paris where Simon McBurney who is a very famous French clown, who is English actually, but where a lot of the Theatre Complicite troupe train. We focus on comedia de late and bouffons and mime, so technically I learned the skill set. But just personally, I’ve always been someone who loves to tap into their inner idiot and I’ve always been the clown of my family. I’ve always just enjoyed mucking about. I’m just fortunate that I get paid to do that now.
Isla, in the beginning of the movie, you have a voiceover that says men are not as good as shopping. What is your own opinion on that? Do you agree?
FISHER: No. No. I shop rarely and poorly. I definitely appreciate men more than stores.
What is your take on workplace romance?
FISHER: I think it works out very well for Rebecca Bloomwood in the story because Luke Brandon actually uncovers her voice and helps her to fulfill her—she doesn’t realize how talented she is until she meets him. And for him, he learns to loosen up. That’s why their relationship I think is so nice; they learn so much from each other. Personally, I’m not so much a fan of romance in the workplace because you’re stuck seeing someone every day.
This is not your typical Jerry Bruckheimer film. I kept waiting for a car or something to explode.
What was the appeal of the subject matter for you and your production company?
For Kayla and Tracy, how difficult was it doing the adaptation from two books and combining it into one film?
Krysten, as the best friend character, Suze gets to steal a lot of moments, what was your favorite part of playing the character?
FISHER: I remember on day one, I looked over at Krysten’s page and she had written all these notes, alternative lines. I’m the only actor I’ve worked with that does that, and I saw straight away that she was a soul sister because she was already trying to improvise funny comedic stuff.
Isla, who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
FISHER: Part of this business is the pageantry of red carpet and you get dressed by incredible designers. I’d have to say I love Stella McCartney. I love Vivienne Westwood. I love Zac Posen. I tend to go for more classic—I love Prada. I feel very blessed to wear any of those dresses.
Isla if you shop rarely and poorly, how do you fill your closet?
FISHER: How do I fill my closet? I do shop when I need to. I’m fortunately in that I maintain my same size, except obviously when I was pregnant, so I just tend to wear stuff that I have around. When I shop I just get in and out. I have a mission and I fulfill it.
Is it a solo project?
FISHER: Usually yes.
Q: The 12-step program scenes were hilarious. Did you do any covert research on that?
FISHER: I did, actually. I went to Spenders Anonymous groups. Underearners’ and Overspenders’ groups. It was fascinating. There are all different styles and types of shopping. There’s trophy shopping, image shopping, collecting, and bulimic shopping. As funny as it sounds, it’s pretty sad, too. I definitely learned a lot. It affects men just as often as women. It’s a fascinating experience.
You wore some really special outfits in the movie. Did you work with Patricia Field on choosing some of them? How much of a say did you have in your wardrobe?
FISHER: I did. Patricia was extremely collaborative. I only had one request, which is that I wanted Becky to wear really high heels so she could totter. I think there’s nothing funnier than a comedic character tottering and the impracticality of wearing something that clearly doesn’t fit her and isn’t comfortable, but she’s a shopaholic so she has to have it. Patricia really is so creative and she clearly knows what she’s talking about, she’s extremely experienced: she did the costumes for Sex and the City and Devil Wears Prada. I kind of let go and let her guide me and I really enjoyed the process. At the beginning, I couldn’t believe we were spending 40 minutes discussing a belt. I was so frustrated. But half way through I felt like I began to understand that there really is a sort of a science to it. There is this incredible world, and people try really hard. It’s not just this, ‘That looks cute, I’ll wear that.’
Did you get to keep it?
FISHER: No. I didn’t get to keep it. Maybe you should ask Jerry about that. (laughs)
How was it shooting in New York? It seems like you spent a lot of time in my old neighborhood, the
Mr. Bruckheimer, big fan of The Rock. As we discussed earlier, no big explosions. Which of your production talents do you feel carried over the best for this movie?
Jerry, we are always excited about your upcoming projects. I was hoping for a quick update for Prince of Persia and Sorcerer’s Apprentice. For Prince, have you seen footage or a rough cut yet? How’s it looking?
Did he do steroids?
What was the inspiration to do a modern day New York Sorcerer’s Apprentice?
So for Prince, have you cracked the code of making a video game into a good movie?
Isla, can you discuss being caught in the mayhem of the sample sale scenes? How choreographed was that or did they just say ‘Go for it’?
FISHER: No. We had to choreograph that. With all physical comedy you have to know where you’re going to put cameras and ensure that no one is trampled to death. So we took it fairly seriously. There were a lot of heels on a very shiny surface. But we had a lot of fun with it. We actually went a lot further, we shot, but we liked what we kept in the movie, which is ending on her straddling the girl, rather than her pulling down a rack and being removed by a security guard.
Was Hugh [Dancy] a good dancer?
FISHER: I think Hugh’s a wonderful dancer. What I really loved about Hugh is that he came to the movie and took it seriously as if he was in a dramatic movie, which is so important. As a result, he played the greatest straight man and it gave me playing Becky Bloomwood somewhere to go to be more outrageous. The comedy was grounded in reality because of him. He brought so much integrity and heart to the film. Yeah, he was a fabulous dancer actually. He remembered the traditional moves far better than me and guided me through that scene.
Krysten, you are starring in a comedy? How to Make Love to a Woman?
Isla, obviously you are talented with physical comedy and you’re very reminiscent of Lucille Ball. Do you plan on sticking to this type of film going forward, or do you see yourself branching out to drama?
FISHER: I have to say I love comedy, I love the freedom comedy brings. But I’m open to working with any filmmakers. It’s all about the story and the character for me, rather than the genre.
Isla, is there anything in your closet that you look at now and you think, What was I thinking when I got that?
FISHER: Oh gosh, absolutely. I try to remove those items and give them to friends, but yeah, several times I’ve been suckered into a fashion that wasn’t very flattering on a small frame.
FISHER: I’m terrible with peer pressure. Once shop assistants convince me I look good even though I can tell I don’t, I will in fact make the purchase and live to regret it.
Jerry, what is it about Isla that you saw?
Had you read the book? Were you a fan of it? Also, how do you balance the challenge of motherhood and your career?
FISHER: Motherhood is my favorite topic in my personal life, but I don’t discuss it professionally because I want my daughter to have privacy and a normal life. But yes, I was a huge fan of the books. I had read them all long before I heard about the project. When I heard about the project and that Jerry Bruckheimer was producing, obviously that I was a huge fan of, I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that I would even get a meeting, let alone get the role. I literally still cannot believe I got the role. It’s very exciting for me.
Isla, you talked a little bit about your clown training. You seem to have a funny reaction for everything that happens in the movie. Can you tell us about your process? Do you practice in the mirror? Do you think of a different way to approach each scene?
FISHER: No, I just try to keep really loose and stay in the moment and not have any hope for what I’m going to do. I’m not a method actress. I prepare at home. I just try not to be self-conscious. A lot of people ask how come I got the role or how come I got into comedy. I just think it’s because I’m willing, and I think a lot of actors and actresses are not willing to pull faces.
Do you believe a scarf can bring you luck?
Who are you wearing today?
FISHER: Zac Posen.
What about the Finnish? Did you feel a responsibility to learn it for this role?
FISHER: No, but I really enjoyed speaking it at the end of the movie. It was a lot of fun.
You’ve written a couple of books for teen audiences. Have you read Twilight?
FISHER: No, I haven’t read the Twilight series, but I’m very excited. I haven’t actually seen the movie yet, but I hear it’s great.
Do you have a favorite cartoon character?
FISHER: Probably Astro-Boy.
FISHER: He’s just so cute.
Do you have a next project?
FISHER: I’m working on a Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp project at the moment called Rango. It’s an animated project. I’m really enjoying.
Would you ever want to work with your husband?