The blaster-wielding Princess Leia was just 19 years old when she began shooting “Star Wars.” Fans often forget that when actress Carrie Fisher was fighting her way out of imperial prisons and ordering the dashing 33-year-old Harrison Ford to jump, “into the garbage chute, fly boy!” she was still in her teens.
Something about Fisher’s no-nonsense leader of an intergalactic rebellion made the woman behind Leia’s iconic bun appear older than she was.
Fisher has a blunt, telling-it-like-it-is public persona; she has always been fierce in speaking her truth, even calling out the feminist critics of “slave Leia” as asinine. “She’s a prisoner of a giant testicle, who has a lot of saliva going on,” Fisher once told The Times in an interview. “She does not want to wear that thing and it’s ultimately that chain, which you’re now indicating is some sort of accessory to S&M, that is used to kill the giant saliva testicle.”
This is a woman who, as the daughter of one of Hollywood’s mid-century tabloid couples — Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, who broke up his marriage for Elizabeth Taylor — has been a bit of an open book, writing about her prickly relationship with her mother in the book-to-movie “Postcards From the Edge,” being open about her mental-health issues and the solution she’s found — radical-sounding electroshock therapy.
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So imagine the public’s surprise when Fisher cracked open the literal long-lost diaries from her time filming on the 1976 set of “Star Wars” to reveal a secret affair between the young starlet and her married costar, Ford. How did a movie phenomenon this large and a writer this candid manage to keep a secret like this for so many years?
“The Princess Diarist,” Fisher’s eighth book, is an unflinching, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious look inside the mind of a 19-year-old actress in the throes of a Hollywood locationship.
Fisher offers up her unfiltered thoughts, poems and past missives, discovered while expanding her bedroom “stored romantically beneath the floorboards,” for the public’s consumption. Sandwiched between hilarious recollections from the early days making “Star Wars” magic with the reserved George Lucas are the retyped passages straight from the actress’ personal diaries. No one gets a pass, most of all Fisher, who spends countless pages torturing herself for falling in love with a space pirate.
“We could come to a full stop now if you think that would help,” reads one short paragraph from Fisher’s diary. A short paragraph straight from Fisher’s journal says. “Because like any other B-movie heroine, I can’t go on like this. Can you understand? I don’t want to hurt you any more than I want you to hurt me. It’s now a question of surviving each other’s company instead of enjoying it.”
Most of the book hinges around the fact that Fisher can’t decipher what’s going on inside the notoriously stoic Ford. She writes endearingly about one night at an English pub where the pair have come looking for a dark corner to practice scenes. Instead, Fisher spends the evening simply trying to make Ford laugh.
These passages read like a repressed high schooler with an astounding amount of self-awareness because, quite frankly, that is exactly what they are. It’s invasive, juicy, sad, nostalgic and gripping all at once. It’s as if you’ve knocked the lock off of your cooler older sister’s journal and discovered she’s been sleeping with the hottest boy in school this whole time.
The extreme earnestness of these private and very raw thoughts can be difficult to scan, but Fisher’s ability to self-analyze at such an early age balances the burning passion that exists only in the early days of one’s romantic life.
Thankfully, “The Princess Diarist” doesn’t get dirty. There are plenty of heated moments and flowery phrases that glaze over their nights together, but this isn’t that kind of book. It’s a tumbling look inside the mind of a young woman who is struggling to play it cool while dating a married man she prophetically knew would end up being the next big thing.
“Having grown up around show business, I knew that there were stars and there were stars,” Fisher wrote. “Harrison was one of that epic superstar variety, and I wasn’t. Was I bitter about this? Well … not so you’d notice.”
No doubt this book is a kind of wish fulfillment for copious “Star Wars” fanatics. Especially when it’s dotted with Fisher’s stories from sitting in the makeup chair, discovering Leia’s bun-look. But if you’re searching for a story about the secrets of Elstree Studios in 1976 then, ahem, this isn’t the book you’re looking for. What Fisher has penned is a bold and deeply personal story from the lens of one of the few women on the “Star Wars” set.
Fisher explains why she waited so long to reveal the three-month affair. “I’ve spent so many years not telling the story of Harrison and me having an affair on the first ‘Star Wars’ movie that it’s difficult to know exactly how to tell it now. I suppose I’m writing this because it’s 40 years later and whoever we were then — superficially at least — we no longer are now.”
Fisher will always be Leia. That’s her “very, very light cross to bear.” But her personal stories are entirely her own, and they are much more raw and real than anything Lucas could have dreamed up.
Meredith Woerner reviewed this book for the Los Angeles Times.