Carrie Fisher had one final Star Wars story to share before passing on December 27, 2016. It’s surreal that we’re still telling Star Wars stories 40 years later.
(There’s a subtle modern commentary considering how insular Marvel and other sci-fi movies like Christopher Nolan’s operate: media messages are massaged, scripts under house arrest etc. Star Wars helped fashion the blockbuster template and as that’s evolved in value, impact and especially in cost, the stakes are clearly too high to just share a handful of witty set-stories for mega box office returns. We’ve come a long way baby.)
2 key caveats:
- If you’re hungry for Star Wars “making of” tidbits then Princess Diarist is a thin meal; you will leave hungry.
- If you’re hungry for titling celebrity sex-gossip…surely famous people don’t use the missionary position like us commoners than…I’m afraid Fisher’s book will disappoint. She’’s way too smart to play that game.
The bulk of The Princess Diarist describes how an insecure 19 year old became entangled with her handsome married co-star on the set of this strange sci-fi movie, the vision of its grumpy director. As she wisely observes:
“If you look at the person someone chooses to have a relationship with, you’ll see what they think of themselves.”
Unsure of herself, uncertain in the direction she wants her life to take…torn between acting and writing, Star Wars seems as much a distraction as it is a job. It’s the classic teenage angst we’ve seen in John Hughes movies or worse experienced in real life. She doesn’t understand her place in this world.
Fisher drops out of Sarah Lawrence College to star in Star Wars and that’s barely mentioned. In hindsight, it’s easy to believe she made the right choice but at the time…to gamble on this epic space-opera is a weird choice; though it appears, based on the diary entries she published, it didn’t keep her up nights.
Star Wars was Fisher’s second movie; or to be as honest as her writing, her first real movie…she only had a scene or two in 1975’s Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty. Now a significant player in a studio feature brandishing a weird hairstyle and reciting cumbersome dialogue so far away from home…when nothing is certain it’s human nature to search for safety. Unsurprisingly, she gravitates towards Harrison Ford who through her 19 year old gaze appears steady, confident or with the pretense he’s “got it together”. An affair that burns as hot as her angst: the book is Star Wars meets The Wonder Years.
Where Diarist becomes engaging is following the diary entries about her on-set affair; after Star Wars is released and Fisher finds herself grappling with fame and the hordes of men/boys who profess their undying love to her. It must have been surreal to be that insecure and that loved.
As she writes:
“It was one movie. It wasn’t supposed to do what it did—nothing was supposed to do that. Nothing ever had. Movies were meant to stay on the screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of story, carrying you rollicking along to the end, then releasing you back into your unchanged life. But this movie misbehaved. It leaked out of the theater, poured off the screen, affected a lot of people so deeply that they required endless talismans and artifacts to stay connected to it.”
Indeed. Truth is there’s no proper way to deal with fame. Oddly, even though Fisher’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, had achieved a measure of fame (as much as one could be famous back in those days; if the blockbuster evolved following Star Wars’ release, it’s because fame also expanded in worth and weight), it seems she has little wisdom on being famous to pass onto her daughter. (When Fisher does mention her mother, it’s the typical mother-daughter relationship: a worried mother and a confused daughter trying to survive adolescence).
Those final pages of Fisher’s book reveal that rare window into iconic sci-fi typecasting…William Shatner will always be Captain James T Kirk, Adam West IS Batman. The 60s, 70s and even into the 80s was the golden age of typecasting (although I doubt the actors would consider it a golden age). Fisher was among the typecasting pioneers; she wasn’t just famous for being in a popular movie…she was famous because she was (and always will be) Princess Leia.
“I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.”
And as we’ve learned from typecasting…forever is a long time.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!