Carrie Fisher once gave a cow tongue wrapped in a Tiffany box to a film producer who allegedly attacked her friend. My first thought was “poor cow”, and my second was “yep, that sounds like Fisher.”
It’s a tale that surfaced in October 2017, as #MeToo was going viral. Fisher was already gone, dying from sleep apnea and “other factors” in 2016 while promoting her memoir about life as teenage space royalty and the affair known as Carrison.
Having previously written about her addiction and Bipolar disorder, this memoir is based around the journals – which are really an opus to Harrison Ford – that Fisher kept while filming the original Star Wars (“the only girl in an all-boys fantasy“) and re-discovered while renovating her house in the Hollywood Hills.
She starts pre-Leia, ambivalent about following her mother, Singin’ in the Rain’s Debbie Reynolds, into showbusiness. Reflecting this, the shy and retiring Carrie:
- dropped out of school to be a chorus girl in one of her mother’s Broadway shows
- visited the set of Shampoo! when she knew there might be a role in it for her
- auditioned for and attended the Central School of Speech and Drama
- left drama school after landing her first big professional gig – Star Wars!
She admits she might have been kidding herself. For all the hardships actresses face, their daughters seem drawn to the limelight (including Fisher’s child Billie Lourd).
Carrie herself was born during Reynolds’ marriage to 50’s singer Eddie Fisher, who left his family for Liz Taylor – which, in Carrie’s words was “one of the great midcentury tabloid feeding frenzies.”
Although Fisher writes with her trademark wit, she was traumatized by her mother’s love life and her father’s abandonment, and undermined by self-loathing.
After successfully auditioning for George Lucas, she was ordered to lose ten pounds – and worried she’d be fired when she didn’t. She quips that although just 110 pounds, she “carried about half of them in my face”.
Insecurity makes girls easy prey. At a party the crew plan a “joke” abduction – before Harrison Ford intervenes. Soon they’re having “sleepovers” at her flat, with Fisher falling obsessively in love with the married Ford.
A selection of diary entries and poems from her journals take up the book’s mid-section. They’re not her best work, but are disturbing in their intensity. Fisher poured her heart out on paper because she couldn’t talk to Harrison – who to be fair, doesn’t have a rep for easygoing chattiness.
Fisher explains that she presented a false appearance, a “kind of ironic, amused, disenchanted creature.”
She must have just seemed like a hip, rising young actress from a famous family, living in a fancy London flat. With the Harrison affair, she was good at “hiding in plain sight, mocking the suggestion that there was anything going on” – a bluffing technique she says she’d use throughout her life.
Well-matched onscreen and hooking up off of it, Fisher still thought Ford was out of her league, destined for greater stardom. Was she bitter? “…not so you’d notice“.
Of course she could never have foreseen the phenomenon Star Wars would become, or her own enduring fame. It rankled to the end that, aged just 19, she had signed away all merchandising rights relating to her image for the “little space movie”.
In the final third of the book, Fisher laments “celebrity lap dances” AKA signing photos for money at fan conventions AKA “has-been roundups”. She discerns a lack of empathy among some of the fans. (Kelly Marie Tran, Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best might agree.)
But Carrie still had compassion for the “sweet and mystifying” fans who’d wait in line for hours, including the poor kid named Leia Carrie and the man who thanks Fisher for his childhood and walks off. She knows he didn’t mean his whole childhood, “just the good bits. The parts he escaped to”.
It must have felt like listening to the prayers of the galaxy.
Carrie Fisher is often remembered as a tough rebel leader with a strong sense of destiny and self-worth. Online tributes call her a feminist icon and a “bad ass” role model, skimming over her profound problems and confusing her with a fictional character. In this surprisingly raw book, Fisher’s wit and wisdom fail to disguise her lifelong pain, revealing a side to a woman who was deeply damaged, but charming to the last.