ON THE COVER: ISLA FISHER

But we need men to sup­port us, says ac­tress ISLA FISHER. She tells Elaine Lip­worth how she jug­gles fame and fam­ily with hus­band Sacha Baron Co­hen…and why love is when he emp­ties the dish­washer

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Editor’sletter - IN­TER­VIEW ELAINE LIP­WORTH PHO­TO­GRAPHS LUKE DURAL

The mul­ti­task­ing ac­tress on the un­likely mean­ing of true love.

Isla Fisher is a wo­man of many tal­ents. Apart from her stel­lar film ca­reer, she is the au­thor of a best­selling chil­dren’s book se­ries fea­tur­ing an­ar­chic babysit­ter Marge. But some of Isla’s gifts are of a more prac­ti­cal na­ture: the 42-year-old Aus­tralian ac­tress is an or­gan­i­sa­tional whiz, mak­ing sure every­thing is ship­shape at the fam­ily home in Los Angeles, where she lives with her hus­band Sacha Baron Co­hen and their three young chil­dren.

‘I love colour- cod­ing a fam­ily sched­ule chart – I put every­body’s name in a dif­fer­ent colour,’ en­thuses the star of Wed­ding Crash­ers, The Great Gatsby, Now You See Me and the new com­edy Tag. ‘This week I’ve or­gan­ised my pantry and sorted out my wardrobe,’ she says, when we chat over cof­fee in LA, telling me glee­fully that she has also ‘gut­ted the garage and cleaned the clos­ets’.

‘I love act­ing,’ she says, but film roles ‘have to fit into the lo­gis­tics of my life be­cause I can’t pull the chil­dren out of school on a whim’. When Isla does work, ‘it has to be mean­ing­ful cre­atively, play­ing a type of char­ac­ter I haven’t por­trayed be­fore’.

She was tem­po­rar­ily lured away from the fam­ily co­coon to film her lat­est com­edy Tag, a mad­cap romp based on a true story about a group of men who were child­hood friends and still play tag (or ‘it’) ev­ery year dur­ing the month of May. The mid­dle-aged pals dress up in bizarre cos­tumes and chase each other around the globe in a cut­throat ver­sion of the play­ground game – with hi­lar­i­ous and haz­ardous con­se­quences. ‘What’s great about the film is that this child­ish game was in­spired by a real group of friends,’ says Isla. ‘We mine spe­cific plot lines from their ex­pe­ri­ences, for ex­am­ple, tag­ging some­one even at their own fa­ther’s funeral.’ Mad Men’s Jon Hamm stars along­side Jeremy Ren­ner ( The Avengers). ‘Jon is great at com­edy in my opin­ion be­cause he takes it se­ri­ously,’ says Isla of the ac­tor, with whom she co-starred in Keep­ing Up With The Jone­ses. Isla’s char­ac­ter Anna, mar­ried to Hoagie With her hus­band of eight years, Sacha Baron Co­hen (Ed Helms), has mul­ti­ple per­son­al­ity dis­or­der. She is des­per­ate to join in the high jinks ‘but be­cause it’s the boys’ game I’m not al­lowed to play. When I do get in­volved, I get car­ried away and peo­ple get hurt.’

The theme of Tag ‘is friend­ship and the things we did to­gether when we were young that con­nected us, whether it was video games, Bar­bie dolls or play­ing tag’. Isla’s own favourite chil­dren’s game is pass the par­cel. ‘I put a small gift in each layer and al­ways en­sure the mu­sic stops on ev­ery kid once,’ she says. ‘None of the chil­dren at the party ever seem to twig when the birth­day girl or boy wins the fi­nal big present!’

Like the pro­tag­o­nists of Tag, Isla has a group of Isla and her co-stars, in­clud­ing Jon Hamm, sec­ond from left, in the new com­edy film friends from her child­hood in Aus­tralia and other newer ones liv­ing in the US, in­clud­ing the ac­tress Naomi Watts. ‘One friend is an en­ter­tain­ment lawyer in London, one is in Mel­bourne, an­other is in Perth. I’m al­ways drawn to Aussies – the koala mafia. I love noth­ing more than cheer­ing up my friends by tak­ing the p*** out of my­self !’

A keen cook, Isla is cur­rently ex­per­i­ment­ing with Asian fu­sion recipes: ‘I make a pretty de­li­cious sea bass with gar­lic, olive oil, a tiny bit of soy sauce and herbs.’ Sacha, she says, ‘makes the great­est tomato pasta sauce you will ever taste’. She talks about the value of reg­u­lar fam­ily din­ners. ‘Even though my par­ents di­vorced, we al­ways ate as a fam­ily to­gether, whether I was at my dad’s or my mum’s house. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant for fam­i­lies to have that time to con­nect. It’s a spe­cial time.’

Born in the Gulf state of Oman, Isla and her broth­ers Daniel and Ed­ward were raised mostly in Perth, also spend­ing time in Eng­land with her mother El­speth Reid, who now runs an eco­tourism busi­ness on the Greek is­land of Sy­ros (where Isla’s broth­ers also live), and her fa­ther, Brian Fisher, who worked for the United Na­tions and then the World Bank. Per­haps be­cause of her peri­patetic child­hood and the no­madic na­ture of act­ing, Isla trea­sures the sta­bil­ity of home life: ‘If you want to stay at home with your fam­ily and you can af­ford it, that’s fine.’ She doesn’t take her own priv­i­leged po­si­tion lightly. ‘Some peo­ple don’t have the lux­ury to do that.’ She pauses. ‘The heart of fem­i­nism is be­ing able to choose what’s best for you.’

She goes on to share her views on the Me Too move­ment. ‘I think it is a won­der­ful time for women right now. We need men to sup­port the move­ment.’ Like al­most ev­ery wo­man in Hol­ly­wood, Isla has ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ism: ‘I think it’s per­va­sive.’ While still in her teens, ‘I did an au­di­tion for an ad­vert and had to wear a bikini; there were 15 men in the room, which was just ab­surd. And there have been in­ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tions asked dur­ing au­di­tions.’ The ac­tress re­calls the sem­i­nal fem­i­nist book she read as a teenager: Naomi Wolf ’s The Beauty Myth. ‘My first thought was how much work it takes to be a wo­man: the exfoliating, the bleach­ing, the pluck­ing, the starv­ing, the shop­ping. The en­tire thing is so un­fair be­cause men have to do ab­so­lutely noth­ing,’ says Isla. ‘I re­mem­ber that book was my first proper wake-up call about the role women play and feel com­pelled to play.’ As to how male at­ti­tudes can change in Hol­ly­wood and be­yond, ‘It’s all about both par­ents set­ting a good ex­am­ple,’ says Isla. ‘Boys watch their fathers; kids look at what you do, not what you say.’

We go on to dis­cuss the pros and cons of so­cial me­dia in re­la­tion to bring­ing up healthy chil­dren. ‘You can use it to pro­mote pos­i­tive mes­sages and you can be in­clu­sive but, on the other hand, vo­cab­u­lar­ies are shrink­ing and peo­ple have fewer words to ar­tic­u­late their thoughts clearly, so there’s more room for mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It feels as though our at­ten­tion spans are short­en­ing, and emoti­cons can only re­flect a lim­ited range of emo­tions.’

Isla is in­vested in try­ing to get young peo­ple read­ing lit­er­a­ture. When chil­dren are en­grossed in the lives of imag­i­nary char­ac­ters, she says, ‘not only does it teach us how to go into the char­ac­ter of a per­son from a dif­fer­ent race or time pe­riod, but it teaches tol­er­ance’. Isla wrote two young adult nov­els in her teens and has pro­duced three books in her Marge chil­dren’s se­ries. The lat­est, which is out in Septem­ber, finds Marge ‘up to the same shenani­gans with Jemima and Jake But­ton’, the chil­dren she takes care of. The sto­ries have taken off with young read­ers, says Isla, be­cause ‘kids love it when grown-ups mis­be­have. Chil­dren are given a mil­lion rules and Marge sub­verts

Pho­to­graph: LUKE DURAL/CON­TOUR BY GETTY IM­AGES

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