Isla Fisher
The actress on playing a fiery southern jezebel lizard and why she loves comedy.

5 March 2011

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Isla Fisher has made a name for herself after her days in Home and Away as a go-to crazy comedy actress in films such as Wedding Crashers and Confessions of a Shopaholic. Fresh from her performance in Burke and Hare, Fisher is back to talk about her role as Beans, a fiery southern jezebel lizard, in new animation Rango, and why she loves comedy so much.

Isla, it’s always interesting to find out where an actor has gone for the voice of the character; since the voice is a critical part of Rango, as far as you’re concerned, did you watch old westerns to see how the ladies of that period spoke, or did you just pluck it out of the air?

No, Gore [Verbinski] already had the idea for the voice. He wanted her to sound like Holly Hunter and a little bit like Clint Eastwood so I actually watched Raising Arizona a bunch of times and just kept practising until the pitch was nice and low. I obviously also watched a bunch of Westerns but I didn’t really know the genre. Growing up in Australia, you know, it wasn’t a big deal. So for me it was really exciting to see all those old movies.

You made this film in a very different way to other animations, acting out the scenes with the other actors. Was there an advantage to this approach, where you could share the scene with other actors and bounce things off each other rather than being isolated in a booth?

Oh absolutely. I mean you can’t replace comedy’s timing. The timing that you get from another performer acting in front of you; the chemistry; the humanity that you have in your own voice when you are looking at a real person versus a microphone. It’s irreplaceable, that kind of energy, I think. It is hugely beneficial I believe for all performances to be doing them; to be reacting opposite a person.

How tough is it, even when you are working together, to come back weeks or even months later to hit off at that level you were at, voice-wise, the previous time you were recording? Do you just switch into it immediately?

We didn’t do that in this movie at all. We were so lucky we even shot it chronologically in 21 days. So it wasn’t even like you had to remember how you were feeling in the scene before. We were experiencing it.

Being a mum, does that influence the kind of films you want to do now?

Yea, definitely. Now that I’m a mum I don’t want to be away from the kids so I only work if I love the script or the director.

Are you critical of yourself on screen? What about when it’s animation?

To see yourself as a lizard is a very surreal experience and it was so nice because I was able to enjoy my performance. Normally when you watch yourself on camera, I think at least, when you are magnified to that degree you just question why all the features in your face have been clustered together or – there’s so many things…it’s hard!

You channelled Holly Hunter for Beans in Rango, who was your inspiration for Jenny Burke and Hare?

She was completely fictional because there wasn’t much to go on from that period. I think Jenny was completely invented actually in Burke And Hare. My father has a thick Scottish accent so I just did my Dad’s accent.

You’re also working on a script, I believe?

Yea. After Wedding Crashers I was just surprised at the lack of comedic material for actresses so I had to start working and getting stuff out there for myself. Groupies I think is pretty close to being ready and I’ve got another movie called Life Coach. Hopefully one of them will go soon. It’s more frustrating to be in development than it is just to be cast in something obviously because a lot of it is out of your control.

What draws you to comedy in particular? You have been very successful in comedy roles, why do you prefer these to dramatic roles?

I just like tapping into my inner idiot. I think it’s fun. I’ve never aspired to have an Oscar. I love dramatic movies – I appreciate them – I love dramatic actors and actresses, but I really love comedy. I studied at clown school in Paris. I wanted to be a clown. I always said I’d be doing Comedia Dell’Arte or mime, I never thought I’d be in movies. I love being in movies. I feel so blessed and grateful every second. But I’m just a comedy fan.

What is your favourite scene from Rango?

I love the scene when Rango walks into the saloon for the first time and starts telling all these wonderful tall-tales. It’s so well written, it’s so funny. It’s perfect beginning, middle and end. It’s perfect.

Read the Pure Movies review of Rango here.