I’ve never met a Carrie Fisher I didn’t like. I truly liked all her movies and she had some really great roles. And now, as I think back over the years at her iconic career, I realize, she was so much more than just a princess, even though that is the role we unfeignedly associate with this brilliant actress. But she was so much more than just that princess we met almost 40 years ago.
She was a sharp-witted, talented writer and author. Some of her titles include Postcards from the Edge, Wishful Drinking and the Princess Diarist. She was also known in Hollywood as a script fixer and worked on movies such as The Wedding Singer and Sister Act.
And, yes, she was a princess too. As the child of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher hailed from Hollywood royalty and was destined by birth to be a Hollywood scion. As an actress, she was destined to be a pop cultural icon. A legend.
I was a very impressionable pre-teen/teenager when I first met Carrie Fisher. She was the beautiful Princess Leia Organa. I don’t mean she acted the role. To my 12-year-old mind, she was, in fact, Princess Leia in Star Wars (1977) and in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
She was in another break-out film in 1980 as well. Remember her hilarious “Mystery Woman” in The Blues Brothers? She played another gun-toting, uzi-firing (extremely self-aware) role opposite John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, and she managed to stand out in spite of the larger-than-life characters of Belushi and Ackroyd. This film was also a huge hit. I thought she was incredibly brave to take on a role so completely opposite to that which had already made her famous.
By the time the final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was just old enough to be quite dreamy-eyed over Harrison Ford. So, like other girls my age, I watched Fisher with just a hint of envy. She was the tough, tomboy Princess that made Han Solo fall in love with her. Sigh….
Then in 1989, my first year out of collage, I met a brand-new, non-Princess-Leia, non-gun-wielding Carrie Fisher. I immediately loved her as Marie, Sally Albright’s best friend in When Harry Met Sally. She was surprisingly witty, very refreshing and terribly relatable to women everywhere. Starring Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby along with Fisher, the film delivered some very funny scenes and very funny lines. I like to think we saw a lot of Fisher’s true self in her portrayal of Marie. The film, like the original Star Wars trilogy and even The Blues Brothers was a timeless box office hit.
And Fisher shined in her supporting role as April in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), a film critics called perfect and starring “Woody Allen’s best-ever cast” including Allen, Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest among others. In the movie, April (Fisher) ends up competing for men and acting roles with Holly, Wiest’s character, who, during an internal monologue to herself, refers to April as “pushy.” To say the movie was yet another box office sensation is redundant, but the comment Wiest’s character makes about Fisher’s character was rather ironic. It’s exactly how George Lucas felt about Fisher.
According to his biographer Brian Jay Jones in George Lucas: A Life, Lucas thought Fisher was “too pushy to be a princess,” but also recognized the fabulous on-screen chemistry between Fisher and Ford. Maybe she was a “Pushy Princess,” but, it’s what I really liked about her character and how she portrayed Princess Leia. And really, can you picture Leia as a prissy push-over? Come on!
Of course, a woman would have called Fisher something other than the P-word. Perhaps confident. Maybe even assertive. It was a man who called her “pushy,” and I think that’s rather telling about the Hollywood Universe in general. It’s no secret that Fisher had to comprehend and contend with Hollywood sexism at a very tender age.
Fisher, however, eventually had a final say about this particular issue and so much more when she roasted George Lucas at the AFI Life Achievement Award in February 2009. And as it turned out, she got to play the pushy princess one more time.
She was absolutely brilliant. She literally stole the show, referencing so many things Star Wars — and so many things that were clearly wrong in Hollywood when she played the young Princess — things we never knew about back when the movies were hitting theaters. She praised Lucas for his well-deserved genius while doing a little more than slapping him on the wrist (also well-deserved) about things like her Star Wars wardrobe (we all remember the golden Victoria Secret’s-type breast-plate she had to wear, right?).
Her roast of Lucas showed off the pushy princess in her, showcased her biting wit, but also revealed she could laugh at herself and the situations that probably contributed to her alcoholism. You can also see that she truly recognized and credited Lucas for his legendary vision. And in spite of it all, Lucas looked quite moved during the 4-minute ear-blistering, hilariously funny speech made by his friend (and, yes, they were friends).
Carrie Fisher, every version of her we ever got to meet and enjoy, a princess of Hollywood and a princess on the big screen, has died at the incredibly young age of 60. She was in a class all by herself, and, she will be missed by generations of fans around the world, especially as Star Wars A New Hope celebrates it’s 40th anniversary in May 2017.
Here’s Carrie at her very best roasting George Lucas.