Why Carrie Fisher thought 'Star Wars' would be the end of her career

Will Lerner
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

Before becoming an intergalactic icon, Carrie Fisher was a promising up-and-comer famous for being the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. And even though she landed a lead role in a major studio film, Carrie wondered whether appearing in the strange new sci-fi adventure Star Wars would do irreparable damage to her acting career.

Her younger brother, Todd Fisher, was by her side during the making of George Lucas’s film and at the world premiere. He joined Yahoo Entertainment in Los Angeles to share what it was like to accompany Carrie on the cusp of superstardom.

‘She was squeezing my hand, panicked.’

“I was with [Carrie] in England when the movie was being made,” says Fisher, whose new memoir, My Girls, offers a peek at what it was like to grow up in Hollywood with Carrie and his mother, Debbie Reynolds. “It was cool. There was these big sets, and it had a certain amount of impressiveness to the sets. But you know you couldn’t obviously see any of the effects, so you don’t know what’s coming. And you know, people [thought Lucas was] all nuts. He’s got this giant 7-foot carpet running around called a Wookiee.

“So we’re sitting in the parking lot waiting to go into the screening,” Fisher continued. “Now, this is the first time anybody’s seen anything. This is days before it comes out to the theaters. She’s smoking, chain-smoking, drinking —  Coca-Cola in one hand, cigarette in the other hand. She just doesn’t want to go, and I’m like, ‘You know we’ve got to go in.’ I’m sitting there watching the lights go down, you know — literally, doors are closing. ‘We’ve got to go now.’ So I finally get her to put her cigarette out. By this point, there’s nowhere to sit except the front row. So we sit in the front row and it starts, and we watch those titles go by and then the battlecruiser flies over and I looked over, and I had her hand, she was squeezing my hand, panicked. I said, ‘This is no B movie.’”

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars (1977). Fisher’s brother, Todd, told Yahoo Entertainment that she “freaked out” when she saw they included a scene in which she uses a British accent. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Toward the end of her life, Carrie embraced her affected British accent in her scene with the “foul” Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), but in 1977 she was horrified that it was being used in the final cut of the film.

“She was freaked out when that was used because out of nowhere, the whole movie she has no British accent, and all of a sudden she has a British accent,” Fisher told Yahoo Entertainment. “But you know what? I think she was the only one that noticed. I don’t think anybody cared! She was trained at the London Dramatic Academy. And of course they made you do Elizabethan English and such, so you did have a tendency, if you’re being dramatic, to break loose with the British accent.”

‘As the brother of Princess Leia, I would love it if they would carry on with Carrie.’

When Carrie Fisher died unexpectedly in 2016, the producers of Star Wars had to rework the script for the upcoming Episode IX, due out in 2019, because the actress was to have a major role. Because Leia’s story will not conclude as originally envisioned and because fans wanted the iconic hero to get a deserving sendoff, some launched a petition to have the role recast with Meryl Streep. Others suggested they employ similar technology used in Rogue One and have her character return via CGI. Todd told the New York Daily News in 2017 that his late sister would appear in the upcoming Episode IX via unused footage. However, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy refuted that notion in a conversation with Yahoo at Star Wars Celebration a few weeks later, saying, “I have no idea why he said that.” Lucasfilm soon after released a statement saying the studio had “no plans to digitally re-create Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa” in future movies.

Todd knows that the decision is out of his hands, but still hopes The Last Jedi won’t be the last movie Carrie appears in.

Carrie Fisher, left, with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and her brother, Todd Fisher, at the premiere party for Reynolds’s play Irene in New York on March 13, 1973 — four years before Star Wars would arrive in theaters. (Photo: Tim Boxer/Getty Images)

“Obviously, Lucasfilm and Disney, they own Carrie’s likeness,” he acknowledged. “George owned it [before selling Lucasfilm]. In fact, Carrie famously used to joke that every time she looks in the mirror, she has to send George a couple of bucks. Now Disney’s got it. And what they do with it is up to them.

“I can tell you from my perspective, as the brother of Princess Leia, I would love it if they would carry on with Carrie,” Fisher said with a smile. “I mean, how do you separate Princess Leia, at this point, from all of that? I mean, it is a foundation of the story. She is a pivotal character that the world has come to love. Technically, obviously, we live in a time where that could be done easily, where she could be brought in and out. I would love it.”

When asked whether it was difficult to watch his sister in the movies, Todd acknowledged that one moment in The Last Jedi was emotionally heavy.

“I loved The Last Jedi, and the only thing that was difficult was the scene with Carrie in a coma — that was startling,” Fisher shared. “I’m sitting in the theater and Carrie had just been in a coma in real life and doesn’t make it. And, you know, as the brother you’re like, ‘What am I watching here?’”

‘She was chosen to lead your resistance.’

While the Star Wars franchise might no longer feature Princess Leia, she’s alive and well as a symbol for the Trump-era “resistance” movement. The Women’s March in January 2017 was just one of several political events for which Carrie Fisher’s Leia was a prominent symbol on pickets.

“Carrie was outspoken,” Todd pointed out. “She was a powerful woman who didn’t take anything off of anybody, and I shudder to think if you want to go up against Carrie. She also lived her life in an inspirational way. This is a woman that suffered from bipolar disorder, drug addiction. And yet through all of that, was able to accomplish so many things.”

Princess Leia was featured on many signs at the Women’s March in 2017:

“It’s all how you look at it,” he continued. “And she looked at life from the bright side in that regard and survived really well. And when the movement was taking place in Washington and they had Carrie’s picture — you know, the Princess Leia picture. I mean, I knew she’d be happy with that. It wasn’t about the politics. It was just about the idea that she was chosen to lead your resistance … whatever that meant to you.”

My Girls is available in stores and online.

Watch: The writers of  Last Action Hero reveal how Carrie Fisher contributed to their movie:

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