ORLANDO, Fla. — At some point as she was hitching up her fishnet stockings and having her lips painted bee-sting bright to play the working class tart Myrtle in “The Great Gatsby,” Isla Fisher had an attack of conscience.
“I was pretty tacky and man crazy in ‘Wedding Crashers.’ And maybe in ‘Bachelorette,’ I kind of hit bottom. Now, I’m playing Myrtle, who is as cheap as they come.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Am I taking roles that will make my father proud?’ ”
She laughs. “I mean, a nymphomaniac in ‘Wedding Crashers,’ a gold-digging cheater in ‘Gatsby’ and in ‘Bachelorette,’ I was a coke whore. There seems to be a pattern, here.”
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Leading lady isn’t in the cards for every actress who takes her shot at the movies. The Australian found that out in 2008-9, when the newly famous funny woman was on everybody’s shortlist to star in this romantic comedy or that farce.
“I realized when I did ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ that this business of ‘carrying a movie’ was not something I wanted to do,” Fisher, now 37, says. “The pressures of being the lead, with a young family, were too much. I have two kids, and I love working on movies, these days, where the workload is shared.”
She’s married to “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen. And while she can joke, every time she misspeaks, “I may have gone out last night,” the hours and the priorities are different when you’re married and a parent.
So she seeks out supporting player roles — in “Bachelorette,” a “Bridesmaids” with the gloves off; in “Now You See Me,” a magicians’ heist picture opening at the end of the month; and in “Gatsby.” Myrtle is the woman Daisy’s husband Tom (Joel Edgerton) is cheating with, the very opposite of his well-bred Daisy Buchanan.
“I wanted that job. I auditioned at the Chateau Marmont for Baz Luhrmann, and I think he could tell how badly I wanted to play Myrtle. Love the book, it’s a classic. Love Baz, he’s a classic.
“I knew it would look like no other film we’ve seen. He’s such a visually talented director that you’re lucky he’ll even consider you for a part.
“And I couldn’t be more pleased that millions of people are turning out to see it.”
“Now You See Me” (May 31) casts Fisher as one of the Four Horsemen, magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco are the others) commissioned to pull off large-scale tricks that turn out to be heists.
“I love the idea of magical Robin Hoods getting up to mischief, robbing from the rich — banks — and giving to the audience,” she says. “I got to train with Dorothy Dietrich, the first lady magician to catch a bullet with her teeth.
“We were all humbled by how difficult magic is, and we came away from the film with a few tricks we can trot out at parties, too!”
The roles she’s playing these days are often dramatic, with funny touches. She hasn’t abandoned comedy, she says. “But film by film, I’ve found myself being more interested in parts that turn out to be dramatic.
“Henley (‘Now You See Me’), for instance, is this independent, strong woman with this anarchist streak about her. There’s this ambiguous morality to her. You don’t know if what they’re doing is good or bad, and you sense that she doesn’t, either.”
Even in dramas, Fisher says she still loves “tapping into my inner idiot. But Hollywood doesn’t offer that many funny roles for women and I have to go where the good work is rather than pick a genre and stick to it.”