Carrie Fisher is best known for her role in Star Wars as the iconic Princess Leia. What fewer people realize is that in addition to being an accomplished actress, Fisher was also a prolific author and playwright. After her death on December 27, her newly released memoir The Princess Diarist became her eighth and final book.
Fisher opens with highlights from 1976, the year she began filming A New Hope. It was the year Apple was founded, Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire, and U2 was formed. Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in the presidential election, and Son of Sam killed his first victim.
It was also the year in which Fisher’s life changed forever. Having grown up in Hollywood, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, the last thing she thought she wanted to do was go into show business, but she auditioned for Shampoo on a lark, thinking at 17 that it would be exciting to be wanted by Warren Beatty “in any capacity at all.”
She got the role and went back to living at home, hoping that perhaps she would be able to soon move out now that she was “hip.”
Two years later, having dropped out of high school and bored with college, Fisher auditioned for Star Wars while home on Christmas break. George Lucas and Brian De Palma held joint auditions for Carrie and Star Wars. Fisher auditioned for both—originally hoping for a part in Carrie because she thought “Carrie in Carrie would be a casting coup.”
After stumbling through inane questions like “How was it working with Warren Beatty?” and revealing that she would drop out of college if given either role, Fisher was convinced she had bombed the audition. Much to her amazement—and the delight of all of us who grew up loving Star Wars—she was, of course, cast.
At the start of filming, Fisher recalls trying to remain under the radar so nobody would notice she had not lost the 10 pounds that were part of her contract. Her now-famous hairdo may have been used in part to keep her face from looking too big.
Fisher then dives into what she dubs “Carrison”—her three-month affair with Harrison Ford. She had spent so long not talking about the affair that it was hard to know where to begin, and this may explain why her thoughts on it are reticent and disjointed.
The affair began in the back of a taxi on the night Ford rescued her from some crewmembers who had set about to get her drunk as a prank. They had intense and frequent sex on the weekends while studiously ignoring each other during the week.
Although Fisher admits she entered into the movie with the idea of having an affair with a crewmember or cast mate, she was surprised it was Ford, given that he was married at the time, for which she felt intensely guilty.
Fisher’s writing style is conversational, but rambling to the point of labyrinthine. She begins passages on one thought, finds another in the middle, and ends up on a third. While her recollections are humorous, I had to reread passages to keep track.
A vast portion of the middle of the book contains transcriptions of the diaries Fisher kept during her time filming Star Wars. These reveal a deeply insecure young woman, conflicted about her relationship with a married man. In one entry, she laments her penchant for inaccessible men, noting previous experiments with gay men and men whom she knew would treat her poorly.
In another, she thinks Ford is boring, but believes he tries to make it look deliberate, as if he is “the strong, silent type.” Eventually, she admits that she is falling for him hard and muses that things might have gone better for her if she had fallen for Mark Hamill instead.
These entries seemed like the melodramatic, over-the-top lamentations of a teenager, but then I realized that is exactly what they were. Fisher was not yet 20 during filming. She may have been finally telling the story as a 60-year-old, but the feelings and thoughts were that of her 19-year-old self.
The book improves as Fisher figures out what she wants to say and actually says it. Fans of her previous work, such as Postcards from the Edge or Wishful Drinking will likely enjoy The Princess Diarist. Her earlier memoirs reveal her struggles with poor self-image and becoming permanently tied to the role of Princess Leia at such a young age.
Some readers may be put off by her snarky descriptions of fan interactions, while others may cringe good-naturedly, recognizing a bit of themselves at fan conventions or autograph signings.
The Princess Diarist is a quick and somewhat enjoyable read with several moments made posthumously poignant. ★ ★ ★
Kris Milstead is a nerd insomniac. When she is not surfing the Internet or watching Doctor Who, she can probably be found reading and working on her next book review. You can follow her on Twitter at medelle71 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.