There can’t be many women who’d turn down the chance to kiss Johnny Depp. But Isla Fisher, who plays his love interest in the new animated film Rango, happily admits she surrendered the opportunity.
“Yeah, I was supposed to kiss him, but on the day I had a little cold and I didn’t want to do that to him,” says the diminutive, flame-haired Fisher with a throaty laugh, adding: “He’s the second sexiest man in the world after my husband.”
Her spouse is home-grown talent Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat and Ali G fame. They apparently met at a party in Sydney nine years ago, married in secret in 2010 and have two girls, Olive, three, and a five-month-old daughter (the intensely private pair have not yet revealed her name).
But far from acting the green-eyed monster, she adds that Baron Cohen was fine about her flirting with one of the world’s most desirable men.
“They’re friends so it was OK,” says the 35-year-old actress, smiling.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, the man behind the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, Rango is an animation unlike any other, blending off-beat humour and bleak themes in a visually intoxicating style.
At the story’s centre is Rango (Depp), a lonely chameleon with an identity crisis and a penchant for acting, who finds himself catapulted, literally, from the safety of his terrarium into the desert town of Dirt.
Here he assumes the role of the archetypal Western hero and encounters all sorts of eccentric-looking characters, including a lizard called Beans (Fisher).
“She’s definitely a character who has a strong sense of her own identity,” says Fisher of her reptilian alter ego.
“I think that’s why Rango is attracted to her. She’s a tough-talking, feisty, smart lizard who doesn’t need to be rescued in the movie, which is what I like.”
She says she didn’t actually read the script before signing up to the project but met Verbinski at his office, where he showed her images from the film.
“It’s so different from a traditional animated movie. I knew straight away I was desperate to do it.”
And since becoming a mother she says it’s imperative she feels this way before agreeing to do a film: “I don’t really want to work on something unless I love it because I know it means time away from my girls.”
Unlike most animated movies, where actors record their voices individually, Verbinski got his cast to act out scenes over a 21-day shoot.
“I like to think that by doing it that way, our voices had more humanity because we were reacting to each other,” Fisher explains. “We were able to see each other’s faces and, as comedy is all about timing, the energy’s irreplaceable.”
Fisher became a household name as Shannon Reed in Home And Away, the long-running soap which also gave breaks to the late Heath Ledger, Melissa George and True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten.
“I still look fondly back on those days, of course,” says Fisher. “That’s where I learnt [my craft] and I still have friends from that era.”
She left Summer Bay in 1997 and headed to Paris to fulfil a long-held ambition to become a clown, studying at the renowned Jacques Lecoq School.
“I always thought I’d be doing commedia dell’arte and mime. I never thought I’d be in movies,” she admits.
But she feels “blessed and grateful” she’s been given the chance to make it in Hollywood after being cast as Mary Jane in 2002’s Scooby-Doo.
She earned herself an agent, which paved the way for her to put in a scene-stealing performance as a red-headed nymphette opposite Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson in the 2005 hit Wedding Crashers. This led to more comedies such as Definitely Maybe with Ryan Reynolds and Confessions Of A Shopaholic, where her lead performance was critically acclaimed.
“I’ve never aspired to have an Oscar. I love dramatic movies and I appreciate them but ultimately comedy’s more for me,” she says. “I like going to work when my only goal is to try and have the most amount of fun I can.”
Not content with waiting for the right scripts, Fisher has begun developing her own films.
“After Wedding Crashers, I was surprised by the lack of material for comedic actresses, so I started working to get stuff out there for myself,” she says.
There are two projects, Groupies and Life Coach, which she’s hoping to both produce and star in, but admits to frustration at how long the process takes.
“Hopefully one of them will begin shooting soon,” she sighs. “It’s more frustrating being in development than being cast in something, because a lot of it is out of your control.”