October 21, 1956– Carrie Fisher:
“I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result”
I have loved her since her performance in Warren Beatty’s Shampoo (1975) where she held her own working with Beatty, Julie Christy, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant and Jack Warden. Of her screen debut Fisher writes:
“Bad memories stay with you when you get older. One movie which came about by accident was Shampoo. I became Lee Grant’s daughter, who sleeps with Warren Beatty- underage, everything. There was a bad word said in the script. I was supposed to say ‘Wanna fuck?’ in the movie, and my mother asked if I could say ‘Wanna screw?’ instead. My mother was against bad language. I remember that my mother once said: ‘That fucker’. Debbie Reynolds actually said the f-word to me.”
Fisher started off her fabulous one-person show Wishful Drinking with a delightful story about finding a dead guy in her bed. Then she would ask the audience if they have any questions. Among some of the queries she was asked: “How did you know he was dead?” Fisher’s answer:
“Have you ever seen a dead body? They’re blue and yellow… which are the international colors of death… and they’re really bad conversationalists.”
Very few subjects are off limits with Fisher. She has written about the scandal of her superstar parents, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, when her father ran off with Elizabeth Taylor; her brief marriage to musician Paul Simon; the fact that the father of her daughter left her for another man; and that morning when she woke up next to the dead body of R. Gregory Stevens, a gay Republican lobbyist platonic friend who had overdosed in her bed. Fisher would be hard to beat in an anecdote competition.
Fisher is, of course, most famous for my generation in her role as celestial royalty a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, in the original Star Wars (1977) and its first two sequels.
“I think of my body as a side effect of my mind.”
Fisher came into her own, both on and off-screen in those nutty 1970s, but her career has never really stalled. Leaving famous Princess Leia behind, she published her first novel, Postcards From The Edge (1987), a bestselling semi-autobiographical tale of a show biz mother and her daughter with a drug habit. She later did the screenplay for the film version starring Meryl Streep standing in for Fisher and a delicious Shirley MacLaine as a thinly disguised Reynolds, perfectly directed by Mike Nichols.
“I don’t have a problem with drugs so much as I have a problem with sobriety.”
It makes me happy that she spun the scandal of her famous parents’ divorce into the television film These Old Broads (2001), writing and serving as executive producer. It starred Reynolds with old nemesis Elizabeth Taylor, along with Joan Collins, and Shirley MacLaine. In this romp, Taylor’s character explains to Reynolds’ character that she was in an alcohol haze when she married Reynolds’ husband.
It is an open secret in Hollywood that Fisher is a go-to “script doctor”. Fisher has been brought on to fix the dialogue on a bunch of high-profile screenplays through the decades. You won’t find her name in the credits, but she spruced-up the scripts for Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), The Wedding Singer (1998), Mr. And Mrs. Smith (2005) and all those Star Wars prequels. She has also brokered relationships between actors and the studios behind the scenes, helping Whoopi Goldberg and Disney Studios get along during the making of Sister Act.
Some people have grumbled that she was able to get work on Steven Spielberg films and other high level projects. I think it is dreadful that Fisher doesn’t get credit for her work behind the scenes, especially since, as she says, that work became a disadvantage eventually, essentially pushing her out of the industry. Yet, her fingerprints are on so many iconic films, so in a way, she’ll always be around.
“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”
Among her film roles in all sorts of genres are supporting turns in The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah And Her Sisters (1986) and When Harry Met Sally (1989), working for A-list directors John Landis, Woody Allen and Rob Reiner.
“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don’t.”
My own favorite is Fisher’s work opposite Laurence Olivier and Joanne Woodward in a made-for-television version of gay playwright William Inge’s great drama Come Back, Little Sheba (1978). I also appreciate her singing, dancing Princess Leia in the demented television special, Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), which appropriately, I watched while on mushrooms.
“Drugs made me feel more normal.”
Fisher has faced down her demons and she has survived. She has the courage and humor to share it all in her very funny books: the drug habits, the mental breakdowns, her relationship with her famous mother and her disastrous marriage to gay entertainment mogul Bryan Lourd, father of daughter, Billie Lourd, who was so swell in Ryan Murphy‘s terrifically funny series Scream Queens on the Fox Network last year.
She writes that Lourd blamed her and her prescription drug abuse for making him gay:
“He told me later that I had turned him gay… by taking codeine. I said: ‘You know, I never read that warning on the label.’ I thought it said ‘heavy machinery,’ not homosexuality, it turns out I could have been driving those tractors all along!’”
A year ago, Fisher return as Princess Leia Organa in the film franchise as that made her famous. Fanboys and fangirls were simply dizzy with excitement to line up for J.J. Abram‘s reboot Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens, joining original costars Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. I am not a big fan of the most popular series in film history, having only seen the original when it first opened in 1977. They are back again in the second installment of the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: Episode VIII, to be released in December 2017. I like to think that in this new one, Princess Leia is now an intergalactic bag-lady.
“I do believe you’re only as sick as your secrets. If that’s true, I’m just really healthy.”
Fisher gives good Tweets, I follow her on Twitter and she is always a treat. She has taken on the body-shamers who criticized her look during the promotion for The Force Awakens, but they never seem to hurt her. She’s been in this industry for decades and dealt with worse than the trolls online. Of course, she’s been open about her problems as well:
“I haven’t ever changed who I am. I’ve just gotten more accepting of it. Being happy isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you have.”
But, this is one of my faves:
“If you don’t like me please suck my big bovine tiny dancer cock”.