Entertainment :: Theatre

Princess Leia Takes Charge

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Thursday Jul 2, 2009
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It’s not surprising to learn that Carrie Fisher calls her Hollywood home "Kennecuntport." It’s just another example of her caustic sense of humor, something that she has shown in her talk show appearances over the years, in her feature roles in films, such as her acerbic take on herself in the recent remake of "The Women;" and, most notably, in her series of best-selling, semi-autobiographical novels.


Trumping the Tabloids

Two years ago she attempted something completely different -- a solo show she describes as "an embarrassing intimate account of my all too eventful life." Called Wishful Drinking, Fisher premiered it in the belly of the beast -- in Hollywood’s Geffen Theatre, where it was received with glowing notices and audience response. So much so that the actress has recently embarked on a national tour that brings her back to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre July 9 -23 after her sold out run at the theater last summer.

From the buzz, if there’s one show to see this fall, this is it, especially since it is in all likelihood headed to New York next year.

Mixing dish with personal revelations, insights about Hollywood, and a few Stephen Sondheim songs, the show pretty much picks up where the tabloids left off. Indeed, it was her feeling that she needed to take back her celebrity from the rags that led her to write it.

"It came to the point where I realized it’s my version or somebody else’s version," she explained on the phone from "Kennecuntport" where she had gone for some r&r between engagements of the show. (She shares the compound, which was built for Bette Davis in the 1930s, with her teenage daughter Billie and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who lives in an adjacent bungalow.)

"At a certain point I had certain things written about me in the rags, such as ’Carrie Fisher goes to Rehab’ or ’Carrie Fisher goes to Mental Hospital.’ So I could hear that version that was out there that they wrote or do my own version. So it became a control thing."

For Fisher gaining control has been a lifetime goal, and it may have its roots in the fact she’s lived in the celebrity fishbowl her entire life. Her parents were 1950s dream couple: actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. But not long after her birth in 1956, her parents were engaged in a headline-grabbing scandal that involved actress Elizabeth Taylor stealing Fisher away from Reynolds. She was two-years old when her parents divorced. Much of this is covered, hilariously, in the show in a section called "Hollywood 101" where she traces the personal relationships of her mother, father and Taylor from the time of the scandal to the present in a very complicated flowchart.

From an early age, she was expected to go into the family business, which was show business. She appeared with her mother in Vegas as a young teen, then had a small role in Reynolds’ 1973 revival of the musical "Irene." Her 1975 Hollywood debut -- as a nymphet who has sex with Warren Beatty in "Shampoo" -- turned heads, but it was the role of Princess Leia two years later in "Star Wars" that made her one of the most recognizable film actresses of the 1970s, though Fisher was said to have hated her double-bunned hairdo. (She has called them "hairy doughnuts" and was said to have lied about liking them to distract the filmmakers from the fact that she hadn’t lost a required ten pounds before shooting.)

No one knew that "Star Wars" would become an entertainment juggernaut, least of all Fisher. But once it did, she was immediately pegged as Leia, even to this day. Did she have any regrets about taking the role?

"No. I could never say that. I think that regret is like self-pity. I never regretted doing ’Star Wars.’ It’s been positive for me in more ways than negative, certainly. If I complained about it, how much respect would you have for me?’

Perhaps a mitigating factor in all of this is that she kept diaries while making the film and, according to Entertainment Weekly, she’ll mine them for another one of her semi-autobiographical novels, which include "Postcards from The Edge" and "Remember the Pink." No doubt the book will cover such incidents as a near-naked Harrison Ford hiding in a closet to surprise her and her supposed openly smoking grass on the set. 


Though only 20 when she made the film, she was already a serious drug user. Eight years later she was rushed to a hospital where she was treated for an overdose of cocaine and painkillers. She entered rehab, and wrote a novel about the experiences -- "Postcards from the Edge," which she adapted into a very successful film starring Meryl Streep as her fictional stand-in and Shirley MacLaine as a thinly-veiled Debbie Reynolds.



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