December 30, 2016
Tina Fey nailed it when she said, “Like many women my age, Princess Leia occupies about sixty percent of my brain at any given time.”
It’s true, she does.
For me, Carrie Fisher’s iconic portrayal of Princess Leia Organa came along at just the right time when the 1970’s TV world had been dominated by Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman as two of the very small number of high-profile female role models. Less about superpowers and more about super-sass (and yes, that gold bikini) she was real and funny and clever and smart and became an absolute childhood heroine.
In fact, the same could have easily been said about Carrie Fisher. In her characteristic blunt style she said of her role, at least “I wasn’t some babe running through the galaxy with my tits bouncing round”………..
OK, Carrie Fisher was no galactic princess, but she had been born into Hollywood royalty, as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. With that DNA she couldn’t have become anything humdrum, and she didn’t, making her stage debut on Broadway in the 1973 adaptation of the musical Irene (which also starred her mother).
Her screen debut came in the 1975 movie Shampoo before she landed the space opera Princess role that would always define her and which became so beloved by Star Wars fans.
As well as Princess Leia, Fisher also had a whole host of other roles and cameos, most notably in When Harry Met Sally and Hannah and Her Sisters but she was happiest behind the scenes, becoming a highly sought-after script doctor for her unique ability to craft dialogue. This woman really could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and thank God she worked on movies such as The Wedding Singer, Sister Act, Hook and even Star Wars: Episodes 1 and 2. They would have been a lot poorer and duller without her punchy input and her advice to, “Make the women smarter and the love scenes better”.
Her own writing too was as observant as hell and sharp as a whip. Her autobiographical Postcards from the Edge became a well-received movie starring Meryl Streep and she also authored Delusions of Grandma, Surrender the Pink, Wishful Drinking and memoirs about the filming of Star Wars, The Princess Diarist, published only a few weeks ago.
With her talent though came a car-crash of a personal life at times. Married twice (once very briefly to Paul Simon) she also battled with addiction and was a bi-polar sufferer, becoming an advocate for mental health in her later life.
Of course, she came back to Princess Leia last year when she played her again in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and introduced the character to a whole new generation.
I think it’s a testament to how great a portrayal it continues to be that my Star Wars mad son once made me dress up as Princess Leia before he would do his homework. OK, I needed 100 hairpins and a pot of industrial glue to get the look but it was worth it to honour Princess L (and to get the French questions done).
POSTSCRIPT - And in the true spirit of outrageous Hollywood coincidences, having written this post, the wonderful Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and latterly Will and Grace and mother of Carrie Fisher, passed away within a day of her daughter. So mother and daughter are together and the writer in Carrie Fisher would have loved that plot twist as her finale.