Carrie Fisher Draws From Her Personal Journals In 'The Princess Diarist'

Nov 22, 2016
Originally published on November 23, 2016 9:13 am
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Carrie Fisher has written a lot of books about life in show business. But up until now, she hasn't written about a role that has both bolstered and tormented her since "Star Wars" came out nearly 40 years ago - Princess Leia. Using her own diaries from that time, Carrie Fisher's new book "The Princess Diarist" is about working on that set and, yes, her affair with co-star Harrison Ford. It's also about a teenager who's just trying to figure things out.

I talked to Carrie Fisher earlier today and started by asking how she got into show business.

CARRIE FISHER: Well I don't think I got into it. I was never out. I mean, my parents were in it. So...

MCEVERS: Right.

FISHER: I didn't have to go in. I was put in my mother's nightclub act when I was 13.

MCEVERS: Your mother of course being Debbie Reynolds, for the few people who don't know. When you say you were put into her act, how did that work?

FISHER: I was plucked out of school - no, I don't know. She was doing a nightclub act. And she told me - I don't know. I guess I had a good singing voice.

MCEVERS: It was her idea. Or was it your idea? Or do you remember?

FISHER: My idea, yeah - oh, please, can I be in your nightclub act? No, it wasn't my idea.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: No, 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.

MCEVERS: But you did then end up, still a teenager...

FISHER: Doing nightclub work (laughter).

MCEVERS: Nightclub work - and then doing films. I mean, you ended up in "Shampoo," written and directed by Warren Beatty. And then comes 1976. You get the part for "Star Wars." And in this book, you write about the day you got the part. You say, I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.

FISHER: No.

MCEVERS: No one knew how big this film was going to be.

FISHER: No. There was no precedent.

MCEVERS: And so at the time, again, were you just like, oh, why not?

FISHER: No. I really wanted to do this one because I wanted to see if he could do what was in the script. And I thought, I can't imagine this. And I want to have lunch with all these monsters.

MCEVERS: So it just seemed fun.

FISHER: Absolutely.

MCEVERS: But you didn't - I mean, were you still a little nervous about the show business? But you didn't think of it as show business. You thought, oh, this will be fun. This will be a lark.

FISHER: I didn't think of it as show - as other. It wasn't other. It was just, oh, I guess I'm just going to do more of the same now. It wasn't something I wanted to do 'cause I'd watched the limit of it. I'd seen my mother's career kind of diminish.

MCEVERS: Right.

FISHER: And I knew that it was a heartbreaking - you know, that show business is a heartbreaking career.

MCEVERS: What do you mean?

FISHER: The rejection - you know, the criticism, especially now with the internet. You know, it used to be that you're your own worst enemy - no longer. The internet is. And they say really, really vicious things about you based in some sort of truth. So it's painful. And eventually it's going to dump you. Eventually it's going to say, you look old. You look fat. It's over. And there's no escaping it. And you pick to go in it. So that's what you get to do. And you can't complain about it, or people will say to you, you wanted to be in show business. And I get to say, did I?

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Right. Of course the big revelation in this book is that you had an affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of that first Star Wars film.

FISHER: Yes.

MCEVERS: He was married at the time. He had two kids. He was 15 years older than you. Why tell this story now?

FISHER: Thank you for asking me that. When was I going to - I should've waited until he died.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: He wouldn't die.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: I kept calling and saying, when are you going to die because I want to tell the story.

MCEVERS: Is that true?

FISHER: No.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: For Christ's sake, no.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: No, I found the journals. And I thought the journals were really amazing, so I decided to publish those. And it's a lot bigger than I ever thought it would be.

MCEVERS: You really didn't think people were going to make a big deal out of this?

FISHER: Not this big, no.

MCEVERS: Really.

FISHER: Really.

MCEVERS: Well, I mean, then - yeah, I guess, why? Why write about it?

FISHER: Well, I thought that they were good enough. And I was going to write something about "Star Wars," which I'd never written about.

MCEVERS: Your father, Eddie Fisher, infamously left your mother when you were very young...

FISHER: Yeah.

MCEVERS: ...For Elizabeth Taylor. But you write about this in the book. I mean, you say you knew it was wrong to be the other woman...

FISHER: Yes.

MCEVERS: ...In this affair. But you did it anyway. And do you think that people in showbiz are just doomed to this? Like, just - infidelity's just part of the deal?

FISHER: No. I think most of life is - you know, there's not just - infidelity isn't exclusive to show business (laughter).

MCEVERS: Sure.

FISHER: No, you know, the only thing I think that's different is that you're sent away with people that you don't know. You play a love scene with someone that you don't know. It was sort of like location in show business is sort of the land of permission. And people get in trouble on location. That doesn't justify anything of what I did. But it's par for that course anyway.

MCEVERS: I mean, you've written a lot about how the showbiz life has affected you. The book "Postcards From The Edge," which was of course made into a great film with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine, your one-woman show "Wishful Drinking" - and you're still writing about it. You know, I mean you're still writing about how this life affected you.

FISHER: Well, I just love things that I confessed about later. So I still have stuff to write about.

MCEVERS: Stuff to write - I mean that was what I was going to ask. Is there anything we don't know? I mean...

FISHER: Yes.

MCEVERS: Yes? Oh, good.

FISHER: There is stuff you don't know.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: No. And if there is, I'm never going to tell it.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Oh, come on.

FISHER: No, no, this is enough.

MCEVERS: This is it - all right.

FISHER: This is it.

MCEVERS: I mean but really, do you see yourself as a kind of, like, warning sign for younger actors...

FISHER: (Laughter).

MCEVERS: ...Who want to get into this life?

FISHER: Not really because, you know, I mean, unless you're bipolar, have a drug problem - I mean, you know, it's not like I got those things 'cause I went into show business. I had those things. So I think I would've taken that into any business I had. And the results would've been maybe not as glamorous but the same.

MCEVERS: I wonder if you could just - do you have the book with you?

FISHER: Nope.

MCEVERS: Oh, OK. Let me just...

FISHER: Thank God.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

FISHER: If I carried it around with me, I would really be a bigger idiot. Yes, I have it with me at all times. And I read from it periodically on every corner.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Whenever I get the chance. Well, I just - I mean there's this part where you say, I've spent the lion's share of my life being as much myself as Princess Leia, answering questions about her, defending her, fed up with being mistaken for her, overshadowed by her, struggling with my resentment for making her my own, finding myself keeping company with her, loving her, wishing she'd finally just go away and leave me to be myself alone.

FISHER: I forgot about that.

MCEVERS: Yeah. It's towards the end. It's this really kind of moving thing about your very complicated relationship with...

FISHER: Princess Leia.

MCEVERS: ...Princess Leia.

FISHER: She's my roommate.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Are you going to keep playing her?

FISHER: Yeah. There's another movie coming out where I play her again. It will not go away.

MCEVERS: You could stop it at any time.

FISHER: Could I? Could you? Would you? It's an adventure, among many other things. But it would be sort of cowardice in a way to stop it. And it would be brave in another way to stop it, too.

MCEVERS: Carrie Fisher, thank you so much.

FISHER: Thank you.

MCEVERS: Carrie Fisher's new memoir is called "The Princess Diarist." It's out today.

POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The movie “Shampoo” was not directed by Warren Beatty, as was said during this conversation. It was directed by Hal Ashby. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.