“Actually, I, um, read for Baz at the Chateau Marmont,” says Fisher, her voice suddenly hushed. She nods at an adjacent corner. “I took my meeting on the sofas over there. I was so nervous. I was thinking, ‘Don’t speak. Don’t say anything because you’ll ruin it!’ ”
Luhrmann has never forgotten the audition. That might be because, as he describes it, Fisher was “fearlessly leaping round the room, jumping up on the couch, miming a cigarette, while we riffed on the possibilities of Myrtle.” She was, he remembers, “fantastic.”
“I was looking for an actress who, in Fitzgerald’s words, had something like a real vitality, as if the nerves of her body were smoldering,” Luhrmann says. “More than that, she had to carry a great deal of humanity and sympathy — after all, in the story, it is the working-class people, of whom Myrtle is one, who are the ones who are smashed up, while the rich retreat back into their money.”
For her part, Fisher says she relished the opportunity to play a character with such “impressive hauteur.” “She’s sort of the opposite of Gatsby,” Fisher says. “She’s so symbolic in the story.”
Fisher’s most dangerous stunt in Gatsby wasn’t dancing the Charleston without spilling her champagne. The actress found herself harnessed in a contraption resembling a human catapult for a key scene (no spoiling the details). “It’s sort of like a ride where you’re mechanically thrown into the air and then lowered down quite quickly,” Fisher explains. “That’s the irony: I’m terrified of everything and yet I get these jobs!”
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at Isla Fisher’s courageousness. After all, she is married to Sacha Baron Cohen, the chameleonic British actor who appeared on the Oscar red carpet as the titular character from The Dictator and poured an urn of ashes over an unsuspecting Ryan Seacrest. Prior to that, Baron Cohen set the Kazakhstan tourist board back by at least 20 years following his portrayal of a Kazakh village idiot in Borat. Just don’t ask Fisher how she tamed the man who once went so far as to promote Borat by posing in a mankini thong. (Apologies for that mental image.)
“I’ve never spoken about my husband in interviews,” Fisher says. “I know how I feel when I’m trying to please a journalist or somebody and I say something that feels personal. I just know when I go home I feel like I’ve let myself down because I feel vulnerable. I just don’t let myself get in that position.”
Is Fisher aware, then, that there are people impersonating her on Twitter?
“What do you mean? No!” she shrieks, half amused, half horrified. “Oh gosh, and they’ve got followers? I hope they’re making me funny and entertaining. I would never tweet.”
Fisher adds that she’s embarrassed to talk about the downside of fame, which includes “acute paranoia” that someone may divulge private information publicly, because she’s lucky to be in a privileged position. Nonetheless, she and Baron Cohen take their privacy seriously. When they married in 2010 in Paris (“our favorite city,” she allows), they did so in secret with just a few guests. The couple divides its time between Los Angeles and London, where, as Fisher notes, British law prohibits paparazzi from publishing photos of their two young girls.