The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Like the whole world, I was totally shocked to hear of Carrie Fisher’s heart-attack, then death over Christmas, followed by her mother Debbie Reynolds just one day later. I’d bought this volume the week it came out, and had just started to read it when I heard of her heart-attack.
She was so much more than just Star Wars, but it is as Princess Leia that she will be immortalised. This volume concentrates on the lead-up and filming of the first Star Wars film – which was then just called Star Wars, not Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
In the introduction, she tells us how this book was inspired by her finding some diaries she’d kept while filming Star Wars in London, causing her to think about the relationship between Princess Leia and her.
And as much as I may have joked about Star Wars over the years, I liked that I was in those films. Particularly as the only girl in an all-boy fantasy. They were fun to make. It was an anecdote of unimaginable standing.
I liked being Princess Leia. Or Princess Leia’s being me. Over time I thought that we’d melded into one. I don’t think you could think of Leia without my lurking in that thought somewhere. And I’m not talking about masturbation. So Princess Leia are us.
The first section describes how she got the part, after having been seen in a small role in Shampoo with Warren Beatty. Her first audition was a dual one – George Lucas and Brian de Palma were auditioning together for Star Wars and Carrie respectively. Carrie didn’t get called back for her namesake film, but the other one. She read for the part of Leia with an new actor. She was very nervous, he was Harrison Ford.
In the next chapter, she tells us the story of the ‘Buns of Navarone’ as she christened Leia’s iconic hairstyle. It was a hairstyle almost of desperation dreamed up by her hairdresser, who’d been charged with finding a coiffure suitable for a gun-toting, space-going,19-yr-old princess in a white robe. The birth of so many schoolboy and schoolgirl fantasies… (of course to be followed by zillions more when she wore that metal bikini in Return of the Jedi.)
We move on to the big story of this book – her secret affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars in London. They’d been at a party on set, and shared a cab back into town – he kissed her, not realising her inexperience…
It didn’t occur to me until decades later that perhaps what disturbed Harrison was the implication that he was subsequently burdened with something very like responsibility, in that he had somehow been given a gift he hadn’t wanted or expected.
Still it lead to a full-blown secret affair for the duration, the relationship with Carrie calls ‘Carrison’. At the end of the film, they’d part amicably. Carrie never tells us whether their romance was rekindled in the sequels – in deference to Ford’s second wife, Melissa Mathison whom she thanks at the end of the acknowledgements. All she says is that the kissing scenes were easy as they’d had the practice.
The next section of the book reproduces some of the pages from her diaries. These are angst-ridden, soul-searching, love-struck ramblings and poems, one of which is on the back cover (right). Very self-indulgent, and some would argue that they don’t really earn their space in this book. However, they do give an insight into her still-just-a-teenager-thrust-into-a-different-world mind, although as the daughter of celebrities, she was well aware of what happens I think.
The final section brings us closer to the present, and Carrie tells us about the on-going gravy train, which she describes as akin to lap dancing, of appearing at Star Wars conventions. She doesn’t like the business of selling herself to the fans – an autograph (with film-quote) and a selfie for a significant amount of cash. She doesn’t actually say how much, but I read in Marcus Berkmann’s Star Trek book (see here) that they charge $75 for William Shatner’s signings). She takes us through the typical signing scenario, with a hint of sarcasm.
You can rely on Carrie to tell it like it is – she’s so truthful it hurts. She recognises that it’s an economic necessity for a fading star that she’d be mad to disdain though, and she does apologise to the fans in her way…
I need you to know that I’m not cynical about the fans. (If you thought I was, you would quite properly not like me, which would defeat the purpose of this book and of so much else that I do.) I’m moved by them.
There’s something incredibly sweet and mystifying about people waiting in lines for so long. And with very few exceptions, the people you meet while lap dancing are a fine and darling lot. The Star Wars films touched them in some incredibly profound or significant way. They remember everything…
The world will miss the wit and wisdom of this fabulous woman; a Hollywood survivor and superb anecdotist who came through personal pain to bewitch and beguile everyone she came into contact with. This ‘sort of’ memoir may be short and uneven, but it is pure Carrie and it’s such a shame that there’ll be no more. (7.5/10)
Source: Own copy.
Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist (Bantam, Nov 2016), hardback, 272 pages.
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