When a movie stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, one can expect a lot of outrageous comedy. What one does not expect is a fully fleshed-out female role, a character as crazy and funny and endearing as the leading men. It's one of the reasons Isla Fisher's turn as spoiled, kooky, overbearing Gloria Cleary is such a pleasant surprise. Gloria is every bachelor's worst nightmare: After a casual fling with Jeremy (played by Vaughn), Gloria sinks her claws in and won't let go, even if it means literally taking Jeremy hostage. But as played by the stunning redhead, last seen as Naomi Watts' spokesmodel replacement in I Heart Huckabees, Gloria is no fool. She's just as cunning as the boys, and that combination of brains and beauty makes her irresistible to watch.
Fisher went up against some famous faces to land the breakout role, and took great pains to find a balance between the real and the humorous. "I had to make sure she was crazy enough that you were frightened for Vince but maintain a level of sweetness so you find her endearing enough and ultimately believe their love story," Fisher says in her native Australian accent, which is utterly masked in the film. "It was hard because I wanted her to be properly crazy—like, scary—so I watched Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. But I didn't want it to be too big; I wanted her to be believable. It was a lot of fun to play somebody that has no social etiquette and no regard for anything."
An international performer, Fisher was born in Saudi Arabia but moved around the Middle East, due to her father's employment with the United Nations, before the family settled in Australia. There she published two best-selling novels, Seduced By Fame and Bewitched, while starring in the popular Australian daytime series Home and Away. She trained at the Jacque Le Coq clown school in Paris, which she credits with teaching her commedia dell'arte and mask work that have helped her feel more comfortable in the world of comedy. Though she started her career mostly doing drama, including the U.K. miniseries Oliver Twist and Hearts and Bones, her first major American role was playing Mary Jane in the big-screen adaptation of Scooby-Doo. "I think dramatic acting involves a lot more work, so I'm happy now to be lighter, if you will," she says with a laugh. "I'm very comfortable now in the genre of comedy."
That's not to say filming Wedding Crashers was easy. For starters, Fisher found herself working double-time to keep up with her verbally nimble—and very tall—co-star. "Vince ad libs a lot and goes off the page, so I had to translate in my head into American," Fisher says. She adds that the notable height difference was also a challenge. "At the beginning, there really was no chemistry because my eyeline is his belly button. He's like a circus freak, he's so tall, and I'm very, very short. But he was very supportive when I came up with fresh ideas for the character and played them in the scene. He would say, 'That's great. You're really funny.' And it gave me the confidence, because he's such a veteran of this genre of comedy, to then experiment more."
Up next for the actor is the drama London, with Jessica Biel and Chris Evans. "I play a character the opposite of Gloria," she says. "She's very straight and wants things to go very well." Fisher currently lives in England with her fiancé, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (better known as Ali G.) but is likely to be called back to the States once her performance in Wedding Crashers is seen. It's an idea she still finds alien. "I used to think, 'One day I'll live in Hollywood with seven bedrooms and a swimming pool…being a maid,'" she quips. "I definitely didn't know I'd end up here, and definitely didn't go into acting with fame and fortune in mind. Most actors are unemployed. So I just enjoyed performing and liked to show off when I was a kid." Fisher admits she was a showoff as a child, largely to compensate for her awkwardness. Pulling back her hair, she says, "My ears were this size when I was 3, so I had to grow into them. It's tough; you have to think of things to do." BSW