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Carrie's really got the goods and the Force is with her. She'll emerge as a gifted comedienne.
– Paul Simon speaking in 1980
Carrie Fisher is the woman behind the actress who inspired millions of male fantasies with her portrayal of the legendary Star Wars heroine Princess Leia. Through her pull-no-punches writing she has provided us with an insight into how she has managed to survive the trench wars of Hollywood relatively intact and make us laugh in the process.
In 1955, Hollywood 'royalty' – namely former beauty queen and Oscar-nominated actress and singer Debbie Reynolds1 – got married to crooner Eddie Fisher. At the time Fisher was contracted to be the spokesperson for the Coca-Cola company to the tune of one million dollars, which seems a fair wedge now, but it was an absolute fortune in the 1950s. Carrie Frances Fisher was born on 21 October, 1956, with younger brother Todd making his appearance on 24 February, 1958.
A month afterwards, on 22 March, 1958, Fisher's best friend, Oscar-winner Michael Todd, was killed when his light aircraft Lucky Liz crashed near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fisher comforting Todd's widow Elizabeth Taylor led to an affair which created a furore when news of it became public. Ultimately Carrie's parents were divorced in May 1959, and Fisher married Elizabeth Taylor2. While growing up, Carrie and her brother Todd had little or no contact with their father. The children suffered from such lack of attention from their mother that they often slept fitfully on her bedroom floor in a childlike attempt at closeness, although they always returned to their own beds before she awoke.
You can't find true affection in Hollywood because everyone does the fake affection so well.
– Carrie Fisher
After attending Beverly Hills High School and the Sarah Lawrence College in New York, Carrie joined her mother in London, where Debbie was appearing in a play. Carrie remained in England and enrolled in drama school there. Carrie's first film acting role aged just 18 was playing Lorna Carp in Shampoo, a sex comedy starring Warren Beatty as a rampant hairdresser. Shampoo was one of the most successful movies of 1975, raking in almost $50 million in box-office takings. As Warren Beatty is the brother of Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds' best friend, Carrie almost certainly got her first acting break through family connections. There are many more aspiring actresses odd-jobbing as waitresses than vice-versa.
Carrie hit the world stage with a bang portraying Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy which began in 1977. She has since stated that she got the part because she slept with writer/director George Lucas. While it is true that the pair were together for a while, it was probably aimed to silence the snide remarks that landing the part was thanks to her family connections.
Being only 5'1" tall, she was at least a foot shorter than her leading man Harrison Ford, and this necessitated Carrie having to stand on a box so the viewing audience would be able to see whom Harrison Ford's character Han Solo was kissing. Carrie had a crush on Harrison Ford during their time filming: 'He could be a lot of fun, he's great when he's had a few drinks', and she has since admitted that they flirted with each other3.
While she was being filmed running from stormtroopers, Carrie had to have her boobs taped down, otherwise she would have bounced quite merrily down the corridors of the Death Star. Underwear wasn't allowed because (George Lucas said) your body would swell due to the weightlessness in space4 and you'd be squeezed to death by your own bra, so, it was all for the comfort of the actors. The role of Princess Leia won Carrie a 'Best Actress in Science Fiction' Saturn Award in 1978. Saturns are specific awards for the science-fiction genre.
The Metal Bikini
People who aren't Star Wars or even sci-fi fans know of the metallic veiled slave-girl costume worn following her enslavement by obese alien slug Jabba the Hutt for his harem in Return of the Jedi. Her (uncomfortable) transformation to sex goddess during the film is etched in the memories of the astonished viewers, even after swallowing the urge to vomit at the sight of her skin being licked by the gargantuan tongue of the repulsive Jabba. The Princess Leia harem costume was a legend long before Liz Hurley's safety pin dress and Kylie's gold hotpants became the most talked-about clothes in recent history.
Princess Leia's garb in most of the Star Wars films was mumsy to say the least, and her hairstyle with coiled buns covering her ears looked for all the world like a pair of hirsute headphones. This iconic image5 was parodied in the popular Friends TV sit-com, when 'Ross' and 'Rachel' first got together. Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) confesses to Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) that he'd always had a crush on Princess Leia, so as a special treat, Rachel hires a costume. Unfortunately just when we think the gorgeous Jennifer Aniston is going to delight us dressed as a semi-clad sex goddess, she appears in a headmistress-style wig and wearing a floor-length wrap-around white gown, which doesn't exactly have the desired effect on Ross. However, she then throws off the gown to reveal a gold bikini.
A selection of Carrie's other film credits includes:
- Starring as the 'Mystery Woman' in The Blues Brothers.
- The Man with One Red Shoe where her co-star was Tom Hanks.
- In Woody Allen's masterpiece Hannah and her Sisters, Carrie played April.
- If anyone remembers anything about When Harry Met Sally other than Meg Ryan's fake-orgasm-in-the-restaurant scene, it's probably Carrie's role as Marie.
- In The 'burbs with co-star Tom Hanks (again), Carrie played the part of his wife Carol.
- She was the therapist in the first Austin Powers movie, International Man of Mystery.
- Scream 3: a Wes Craven classic horror.
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a Kevin Smith film, in which Carrie plays a nun.
- Wonderland had Carrie starring as Sally Hansen opposite Val Kilmer.
- In Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Carrie portrays another nun, only this time the one in charge, Mother Superior!
Carrie also appears on the small screen: she was the star in Ringo Starr's music video for the cover of 'You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful and You're Mine)' which also featured on the 1978 TV special to promote Ringo's album Bad Boy. In Jack & Bobby in 2004, Carrie played the part of First Lady Madison Skutcher. She has also been a guest star on 'Superman' spin-off Smallville and the mega-smash Frasier. In the very popular animated series Family Guy, Carrie's is the voice of 'Angela'.
Family, Relationships and Writing Therapy
Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds is quoted as saying that childbirth is the hardest thing she ever did, so it's understandable that Carrie has lived her life feeling guilty for ever being born. Team that with having world-famous parents, add in being deserted by Daddy for an even more famous and beautiful woman (at the time the most desirable in the world) before you even reach school age, and you're a shoe-in for the psychiatrist's couch before you're old enough to drink (legally). Carrie has been an AA regular most of her adult life.
Carrie's mother has made use of her celebrity friends in helping her keep tabs (or try to) on her wayward daughter. This includes sending Ava Gardner, who just happened to be in England, round to Carrie's London hotel room because she wasn't answering her telephone, and roping Cary Grant into being Carrie's drugs counsellor on the basis that he'd once experimented with drugs6.
Even though she has been estranged from her father for many years, his warts-and-all biography, published in 1999, caused her to comment: 'I'm going to have my DNA fumigated'. Carrie told American TV host Diane Sawyer about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) during an interview in 2000, making her one of the few famous people to speak openly about living with mental illness. Her treatment has included electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) which has affected her memory. This explains her reaction when an interviewer stated: 'Your first marriage ended in divorce...' and Carrie exclaimed incredulously: 'Did it?'
Tying and Untying the Knot
My father was a short Jewish man. My husband was a short Jewish man. Go figure.
Carrie has been married once, to singer/songwriter Paul Simon, whom she married in 1983 and separated from in 1984. Carrie then began a relationship with her Blues Brothers co-star Dan Aykroyd, although she admits it was doomed because she still had deep feelings for Paul Simon.
George Lucas and the Battle of the Exes
During Carrie's relationship with Aykroyd, he played the small part of Earl Weber in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom starring Carrie's former Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford as archaeologist Dr Henry Jones Jnr. The familiarity stretches further because the story was written by none other than George Lucas, who also had a bit part7 as a Missionary. Also on set (although unfortunately not on film) was singing legend Barbra Streisand, the then plus one of Lucas. Barbra was blissfully unaware of exactly how Carrie got the part of Princess Leia, but she didn't remain ignorant for long. The confrontation between the pair prompted Harrison Ford, a man of few words at the best of times, to comment afterwards: 'It wasn't pretty'.
The story has been subject to Chinese whispering, so much so that there is now an eye-popping version which is just begging to become an urban legend. This tale involves both Carrie and Barbra and how they played a practical joke on Harrison Ford: while he was chained to a rock during filming of Temple of Doom, Barbra, wearing a leather dominatrix outfit, appeared and pretended to whip him while cursing him for making terrible films. Then 'Princess Leia' (Carrie dressed up) threw herself on him to protect him.
Love and Leaving Hurts
Paul [Simon] is the most disciplined person I've ever seen. I don't know anyone who has gone about conquering what he has and succeeded.
– Carrie Fisher
Although there was a short engagement with Aykroyd, they never made it to the altar and Carrie finally left him to reconcile with Paul Simon, a relationship which lasted, post-divorce, for many more years. She was his muse and inspiration for songs like 'Graceland' and 'Hearts and Bones'. Carrie states that she met Paul through an introduction by his ex-girlfriend Shelley Duvall in the late 1970s. However, in the 1974 pre-production of Shampoo (Carrie's first film), Paul Simon was initially pencilled in to write the soundtrack. Though he turned up to begin work, the project fell through and he went on to have a number one hit the following year with '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover'. It's not hard to imagine that their paths crossed but the timing was wrong.
By the late 70s Carrie and Paul were living together, but forced separations, due to Carrie's filming and Paul's touring, were 'rough' according to both. One wonders what their child would have turned out like, inheriting such talented genes. Sadly it wasn't meant to be as Carrie suffered a miscarriage in 1983. Touchingly, both now speak highly of the other and painful events fade with time, to be replaced with fond memories of once-shared love.
Writing From the Edge
Carrie's 1987 novel Postcards From The Edge was heavily based on her own life. The amusing yet harrowing character of 'Suzanne Vale' was realistically portrayed as she battled addictions and struggled with life interacting with the elite players of Hollywood. For the 1990 film Postcards From The Edge Carrie was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay. Also in 1990, Carrie was presented with a special President's Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
Pink for a Girl
Surrender The Pink, first published in 1990, has since been reissued in three languages. It is also available as a talking book read by the author. Delusions Of Grandma was written while Carrie was expecting her daughter. The main character is a screenwriter who writes a letter to her unborn child, attempting to explain the relationship which led to its conception.
Daughter Billie, born 17 July, 1992, was fathered by Bryan Lourd, a Hollywood casting agent. Lourd's desertion of Carrie and their daughter provided the inspiration for The Best Awful, Carrie's sequel to Postcards From The Edge. 'Suzanne Vale' is the divorcee still reeling from being dumped for a gay partner. She struggles to cope with life as a single parent and becomes ever more dependent upon prescription drugs.
Surviving Old Friends
The hilarious script for These Old Broads (2001) was co-written by Carrie and Elaine Pope. Dialogue included an unflattering jibe about a mutual friend whose frame was compared to that of Jabba the Hutt. The comedy film starred Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds, and fellow screen legends Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Dame Elizabeth Taylor.
Carrie has been candid in talking publicly about her battles with various addictions, and turned her life experience into compulsive reading for those who appreciate candour laced with acerbic wit. She has written Wishful Drinking which she performs herself, and the play A Spy in the House of Me, which has seen production to critical acclaim. In 2008 Carrie was Emmy-nominated for 'Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series' for her portrayal of 'Rosemary Howard' in 30 Rock.
A self-confessed still-reforming alcoholic, Carrie now drinks only cola, a habit she insists she is trying to kick. Joking aside, there are others who have noticed just how successful her rehabilitation has been. After President-Elect Barack Obama won the race to become the 44th President of the United States, it was announced that the Obama Pajama Inaugural Charity Ball would be held on 18 January, 2009, and it will be hosted by Carrie Fisher.
Regrets, I've Had A Few...
During Carrie's one-woman live show Wishful Drinking, she laments how she 'sold her likeness' to George Lucas; if only she hadn't she could live off the royalties of Princess Leia figures, cake-topping images and lifesize blow-up sex dolls.
Carrie has also revealed an affair she'd had with a US Senator. When questioned about the relationship, Senator Dodd told the Kansas City Star reporter: 'It was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away'.
Carrie's father Eddie Fisher died on 22 September, 2010, aged 82 years, following hip surgery.