If you thought Isla Fisher was a jaw-dropping riot as Rachel McAdams’ virginal and completely deranged sister in the hit comedy “Wedding Crashers,” then prepare to fall in love with her all over again in “Bachelorette,” playwright Leslye Headland’s crass, dark and hilarious feature-film writing-directing debut.
In the comedy (out today and currently available on VOD), Fisher plays Katie, a depressed retail slave with a penchant for coke, pills and booze. On the eve of her good friend’s wedding, Katie and her two best gal pals (played by Kirsten Dunst and Lizzy Caplan) manage to rip the bride’s dress, forcing the three to embark on a late-night quest to solve their dilemma.
In a movie full of great turns (Dunst is a deadpan delight and Caplan is a total uninhibited force on-screen), Fisher’s stands out as unequivocally the funniest of the bunch. The actress (and wife of Sacha Baron Cohen, with whom she shares two children) called in to Indiewire to discuss the challenges of playing a coke fiend, her love for “dum-dums” and that time Dunst mistook her husband for a server at the Oscars.
Back when “Bachelorette” played at Sundance, it was met with a pretty divisive response. Folks either go with it or are turned off by how vile the characters act. Were you surprised by the varying reactions?
Yeah, you always expect that, you know. And you want a movie to open a conversation, so it’s awesome when it does. But all my experience through interviewers has been that it’s straight men who love the movie the most, which is very surprising to me.
With that said, what did your husband think of the script? Did he read it prior to you taking the part?
He didn’t read the script, but he really laughs whenever he sees the movie.
Given that this marks Leslye’s film debut, what made you take that leap? The script’s killer, but there was no way of knowing how she’d fare as a first-time director.
Um, you know, just to be perfectly honest, it made sense logistically. I was in New York while Sacha shot “The Dictator.” This was shooting in New York. It was nights, so I wouldn’t be away from my kids. And it was 20 days or something, so as unexciting as it sounds, once you have a family, they’re your priorities. And it was also a written-by-a-woman, directed-by-a-woman project. And I can’t help it. I’m just wanting to do those kind of ventures, because I really want to encourage female student filmmakers with a voice to get out there. I think there’s always an audience that wants to see that. I think it’s very rare. And I think that’s what’s great about a movie like “Bridesmaids.” Even though this obviously was based on “The Seven Deadly Sins,” a play by Leslye Headland and it’s been around a very long time before “Bridesmaids” was even conceived, the fact that “Bridesmaids” was such a huge commercial success and was such a great movie, I think it’s definitely opened people’s minds to this movie, which we really appreciate.
Did Leslye have you, Kirsten and Lizzy hang out prior to shooting or was it just a meet, greet and shoot type of thing?
It was a meet, greet and shoot. I’d met Kirsten Dunst at a premiere, actually — or, no, at the Oscars. I was there with my husband. He was nominated for “Borat.” And I went to the bathroom and when I returned he was carrying a tray of drinks. It turned out that Kirsten had thought that my husband was a waiter. She had asked him to get the drinks, because I guess at that point no one knew what Borat looked like without the mustache. But anyway, it was a very funny story that really got us giggling.
Did you give her a hard time when you met her?
No, no. It was hilarious.
You make for a frighteningly believable coke fiend. Have you ever done the stuff?
No, I’ve never done cocaine, never even really seen it. What was worrying when I asked my friends who had done cocaine what cocaine was like, they were all very surprised to hear that I hadn’t done cocaine because I guess they presumed that my upbeat energetic bubbly personality was actually enhanced by cocaine. So once I clarified the situation we all had a bit of a giggle.
With the drunk acting, Kirsten taught us how to stand on the spot and spin, and then you end up feeling really dizzy, and that helps you to feel disoriented and drunk. And then with the coke acting, you just really speed up your voice and just imagine that you’re very hyperactive and that kind of seems to do the trick.
But, you know, from an acting point of view the movie was actually quite difficult, because we had to plot where we were at each point in the film, you know, physically. So sometimes we were drunk and coked, or then we were just drunk, or then stoned and coked and drunk, or then just drunk and stoned, or stoned and coked so not drunk. And it was a sort of strangely detailed map I had to draw in my head in order to remember where I was and everything.
Did Leslye give you any pointers? She’s very open about her past with the media.
Yeah, she did, but she was incredibly busy. When you shoot an independent movie you have a very limited amount of time and you don’t want to be that actor, when a poor director is trying to get through a movie, that you’re asking at every second to discuss performance. This isn’t the movie where you have a luxurious week rehearsal period where you can explore the relationships and discuss. It’s just get on the horse and gallop.
But you all still had a total blast I’m guessing?
You know, it was for me. I gotta say, it’s such a contrast from my everyday life as a mom. It was just a wild, fun bunch of night shoots.
Now, going back to your bubbly nature that led your friends to believe you were a coke addict. Who do you attribute your unwavering energy and drive to?
That’s such a compliment! I don’t know about drive… I wouldn’t say I’m consistently driven. I’d say I’m sporadically driven with great results when I’m so inclined. But I’m also somebody who really enjoys and needs down time. And I think I just have naturally, I don’t know, maybe it’s nervous energy. I just, I run around a lot. I don’t know, I really don’t know who to attribute it to. Maybe my mom? I think maybe if you knew my mom, maybe you’d think we were similar. Has it rubbed off on your kids?
We have yet to see, we have yet to see.
I’m sure that energy served you well at the famed Jacques Lecoq physical theater school where you trained in France. How much of an influence has your training had on your career?
I think it’s been huge. Just working on the stage has been super helpful. We spent a lot of work — without trying to sound pretentious — pretending to be animals, and just getting into different characters as animals. It helps you find people. You tend to work from the outside in if you go to Lecoq, rather than from the inside out. I’ve never been a method actress, I’ve never been that person that wants to imagine horrible things happening in your own life in order to exploit them for your emotional being in the movie. I’m just not good at doing that.
I’m sure a lot of people would be surprised to learn that you were a published author before hitting it big in “Wedding Crashers.” Do you plan to return to the written word any time soon?
I am. I mean, I have to say, I feel like I’ve been in Hollywood too long. A lot of my words have just mushed away over time, with play dates and Gymboree classes. I’d definitely love to write something. And I’m writing something at the moment with my mom, which I’m enjoying. I just love writing, I’ll always write. I wrote some of those lines in this movie, and in a lot of movies that I do, if the directors are open to it. I love to pitch stuff to say. Particularly jokes. So yeah, I feel like I’m still engaged in some capacity in that way.
Back to your day job: with this, “Wedding Crashers” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” you’ve proven thay you excel at playing lovable ditzy/daft types. How do you approach these characters without judging them yourself?
I don’t really judge them, because it’s not my job. I’m just there to tell a story and to bring humanity to someone else’s creation. And you know, I think if you ask yourself, if you want to go in being liked, then I think you’re going to do a disservice to the story because characters get ugly and messy and you want to explore that. But also I think ultimately, comedically, an overconfident dum-dum is just a very good character.