The book, which made news for revealing the details of the then 19-year-old Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford through diaries she kept while on the set of Star Wars in 1976, is unique in that it is the first time she had ever written a book specifically about the film that launched her to worldwide superstardom.
Fisher actually lived a rather large life in show business outside of the character of Princess Leia, and though her books might deal with that experience directly or indirectly from time to time, most of her work had very little to do with the orphan from Alderaan.
That life is what this list is all about:
#1. She was born into show business
When asked by NPR’s Kelly McEvers how she got into the biz, Fisher revealed that she really didn’t have much choice:
“Well I don’t think I got into it. I was never out. I mean, my parents were in it. So… I didn’t have to go in. I was put in my mother’s nightclub act when I was 13…”
She’s 15 here, but you get the gist:
And, while many of us would be right to guess that playing in a Vegas nightclub as a teenager might be exciting, Fisher wasn’t quite as into it:
“I did not want to be in show business. I had stage fright. And, I would get very upset if I hit a wrong note and just sort of beat myself up.
It was not a fun sort of nightclub. I don’t know if people imagine nightclub as a fun way of spending time, doing nightclub work. It wasn’t fun.”
#2. She was also born into the celebrity news cycle
Fisher’s parents were both pretty big deals by the time she was born:
Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, is perhaps best known for playing Kathy Selden in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain.
And, when her parents divorced two years after she was born, her stepmother was none other than Elizabeth Taylor.
And all of this happened well before she ever got the part of Princess Leia.
#3. She turned that life into a novel and so much more
Life after Leia was rough but fertile.
Fisher’s fictionalized account her struggles with sobriety and her relationship with mother Debbie Reynolds became a best-selling novel:
The novel became a hit film with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine filling in the thinly-veiled roles of Fisher and Reynolds respectively.
Fisher also wrote the screenplay for the film.
And, that wasn’t some vanity title they gave her for being Princess Leia, and the author of the novel.
Jane Fonda was right when she said, “Boy can she write!”
#4. She was one of the best script doctors in Hollywood
Throughout the 1990s, Fisher, who was described as, “one of the most sought after doctors in town” in a 1992 Entertainment Weekly article about how she helped shepherd Sister Act to and through production, actually saved a good deal of scripts and productions from the scrap-heap.
She went without credit for almost all of the work, so it’s hard to say how many films she helped save.
But, if you’re a fan of The Wedding Singer, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, Last Action Hero, or Outbreak, you can thank Fisher for punching that dialogue up, spotting potential plot-holes, and often mediating production squabbles to make sure those projects didn’t get cancelled.
“I haven’t done it for a few years. I did it for many years, and then younger people came to do it and I started to do new things. It was a long, very lucrative episode of my life…
Now in order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix the script. So they can get all the notes from all the different writers, keep the notes and not hire you. That’s free work and that’s what I always call life-wasting events.”
#5. A cool story about a lamp
Fisher did a ton of writing for the short-lived and prohibitively expensive The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles:
And, she recounts in her memoir/soloplay Wishful Drinking that her best memory of George Lucas was working on that show:
“He bought me a lamp for doing it. And Sean Lennon broke it.”
Anecdotes like that are ones only that Carrie Fisher could tell.
#6. She almost married Dan Aykroyd
The two were briefly engaged in between her on-again/off-again stints with singer/songwriter Paul Simon, and the story of how that happened is incredible:
“I almost choked on some kind of vegetable that I shouldn’t have been eating: Brussels sprouts!…
So he had to give me the Heimlich maneuver. He saved my life, and then he asked me to marry him.
And, I thought…’Wow, what if that happens again? I should probably marry him.'”
She got back together with Paul Simon, and the marriage never happened.
#7. Paul Simon and Carrie Fisher wrote about each other quite a bit
Fisher and Simon were together for a total of 12 years, with a short attempt at marriage smack in the middle of that time.
Both of them are known for spinning the stories of their lives into gold, so it should be no surprise that they mined one another for material.
Simon wrote several songs about Fisher, including the title track off of Hearts and Bones, which was actually written before their marriage, but foreshadows how they are doomed but still forever entwined:
“One and one-half wandering Jews
Returned to their natural coasts
To resume old acquaintances
And step out occasionally
And speculate who had been damaged the most
Easy time will determine if these consolations
Will be their reward
The arc of a love affair
Waiting to be restored
You take two bodies and you twirl them into one
Their hearts and their bones
And they won’t come undone”
Fisher even makes light of what must be the roughest verse he ever wrote about her in a section of Wishful Drinking:
“When we got back, Paul wrote an album called The Rhythm Of The Saints – and on this album is the last song he ever wrote about me – and it’s called She Moves On (an ironic title).
Anyway, one of the lyrics of the song goes like this:
‘She is like a top
She cannot stop.’
So yeah, he knew me. But the lyric I really wanted to tell you about was this:
‘And I’m afraid that I’ll be taken
Abandoned and forsaken
In her cold coffee eyes …’
Yep, I’m a bitch. Poor Paul. He had to put up with a lot.”
It is widely assumed that Fisher’s novel Surrender the Pink is about her time with Simon:
And, the section in Wishful Drinking that deals with their time together is easily as direct and unflinching as anything Simon ever wrote about her:
“I was good for material, but when it came to day-to-day living, I was more than he could take.
We once had a fight (on our honeymoon) where I said: ‘Not only do I not like you, I don’t like you personally!’
We tried to keep the argument going after that, but we were laughing too hard.
Once, when I was flying to Los Angeles, we’d been fighting all morning, so Paul drove me to the airport to get rid of me faster. As I was about to get on the plane, I said: ‘You’ll feel bad if I crash.’
And he shrugged and said: ‘Maybe not.'”
That’s oddly prophetic in light of recent events, but it should also give you a great sense of Fisher’s incredible, but often uncredited, wit.
Her irreplaceable and implacable voice sold millions of books and saved who-knows-how-many films.
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