Sacha Baron-Cohen is far worse in real life than his alter egos, says Isla Fisher
Sacha Baron Cohen is as zany and unpredictable in real life as he is on screen, says his long-suffering wife, actress Isla Fisher.
“I cannot tell you how embarrassing he is in social situations,” says Isla Fisher.
“To him, there’s no difference between the awkward gaffes he deliberately makes as a comic, and the terrible faux pas he innocently commits as my husband.
“One problem is that he doesn’t always recognize stars when they are not in character.
“He once told Diane Keaton at a dinner party that she should have won an Oscar for her performance in The Kids Are All Right because he thought she was Annette Benning.
“Another time he asked Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett: <<So what do you do for a living?>>.”
But perhaps his worst gaffe was at a screening of a Jack Black movie, when a buxom woman made a very long speech, followed by a very short address by Jack.
Isla Fisher explains: “After the film, Sacha said to Jack: <<Why did you make such a short speech? You should have shut up the woman with the big bosoms and said more yourself>>.”
Jack Black said through gritted teeth: “That was my mother.”
“Although even that didn’t silence Sacha. He told Jack: <<Well, at least your mother has a fabulous bosom>>.
“And he turned to me and said: <<You’ve always wanted larger breasts, haven’t you, Isla?>>.
“I wanted the floor to swallow me up. I would like to think Sacha is putting in rehearsal time for all those hilarious gaffes his characters make in movies.
“But I’m by no means certain that’s why he does it. I don’t think he can help himself!”
But Sacha Baron Cohen’s lack of tact can sometimes have its uses, admits his wife.
“I was working all hours in the studio in California on the film The Rise Of The Guardians. I was feeling down and lonely, but I had to find a way to lighten up to bring a comedic touch for my portrayal of the Tooth Fairy in the movie.
“All of a sudden I thought of the times Sacha has put his foot in it, with me standing right beside him. Cringe-making moments, yes – but as I relived them, I began to laugh, and that was all I needed to get myself in the mood for the film.”
Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, who met at a party in Sydney in 2002, married in 2010 and are parents to daughters Olive, 5, and Elula, 2.
They make a contrasting couple – and not only because he stands 13 inches above his 5ft 2in tall wife.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s brand of entertainment is dangerously cutting edge, whereas hers tends to be a little more middle of the road.
Raised in Australia by Scottish parents, Isla Fisher started her career playing Shannon Reed in Home & Away before going on to appear in Hollywood movies Scooby-Doo, Wedding Crashers, and Confessions Of A Shopaholic.
Now Isla Fisher is starring in the $135 million Rise Of The Guardians, in which the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny join forces with Father Christmas to see off the malevolent Bogeyman.
It’s a sweet contrast to the jaw-dropping and controversial comedies of her husband, who put on medallions and a shell suit to play the unspeakable Ali G.
“Sacha and I have entirely separate careers and while the movies he makes are not suitable for family viewing, I’ve hardly specialized in that genre of movie either!
“Not even The Rise Of The Guardians will be suitable for my girls, especially not my little two-year-old. ‘With a PG certificate, of course there are plenty of youngsters who will enjoy it but the character of the Bogeyman – brilliantly voiced by Jude Law – is just a little too scary for my munchkins, especially in the parts where he turns dreams into nightmares.
“When Olive and Elula are a little older they can see Rise Of The Guardians, but not yet.”
But Isla Fisher isn’t in the process of building up a huge canon of work on which her daughters can feast in later years.
She deliberately turns down parts in order to be a mother, explaining: “I just don’t want to miss anything in the lives of my children while they are still young. It’s why I don’t audition for leading roles at all, and why I say no to some of the supporting roles that I do get offered.
“I’m happy with the idea of being a mum first and an actress second – I’m perfectly content for people to think of me as a stay-at-home mum, rather than an actress, if that is their perception.
“That may change in future years but, for the moment, the place in which I want to spend most of my time is my home with my family.”
With Sacha Baron Cohen only making one movie every three years, it’s a place in which both parents are normally in residence. It’s also, admits Isla Fisher, a home which is more than a little out of the ordinary.
“Sacha does fully embrace the people he plays and you don’t know the half of it when it comes to him getting into character for a movie,” she laughs.
“I’ve lived with Borat’s handlebar moustache, Bruno’s Justin Bieber flick and The Dictator’s accusing finger.
“At the moment, I’m having it easy! Sacha is writing so he isn’t in character. But watch this space.”
Isla Fisher’s determination to separate the fantasy of her husband’s career from the practicalities of parenthood is clear. She is proud, she says, that life at their seven-bedroom English manor-style mansion in Los Angeles is as down to earth as possible – and honest.
“I’ve yet to tell my children a lie – even a white one. Mind you, discussions about the existence or otherwise of Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny have yet to take place.”
Having converted to Judaism before marrying Sacha Baron Cohen, Isla Fisher says: “At Christmas, the children get their gifts from my parents, so it’s all a little foggy on the Santa front!
“As for the Tooth Fairy, I’m sure those conversations about her existence, or otherwise, will occur but as neither of my daughters has lost a tooth yet, she hasn’t really been on the agenda. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it!
“Although I sort of know that I am going to play along with it because that is what happens when you put a tooth under the pillow. You get some money for it, don’t you?!
“But it won’t be anything excessive. I don’t think one should incentivize the losing of teeth.
“I find the idea of a child getting an iPad, or a £20 note, for losing a tooth, utterly abhorrent.
“Fifty pence, or a pound at most, is what my children can expect from the Tooth Fairy.”