If you ever wanted to know why you really, really shouldn’t even try pot, no better testimony exists than the autobiography of the late actress Carrie Fisher (Star Wars): The Princess Diarist, 2016, Blue Rider Press, New York.
Normally, I don’t read actors’ autobiographies. Celluloid fame doesn’t normally provide enough bona fides to earn a place on my already crowded bookshelf in my tiny, little condo.
However, last week, I decided to take a glance at the livestream broadcast of the Stars Wars Convention in Melbourne, Fla. I’m a big fan of the Star Wars movie, although I’m not a fanatic. I admit to having bobbleheads of C3PO and R2D2, Darth Vader, Yoda, and Luke and Leia.
But that’s it. I bought them because they were funny – especially C3PO. His place is right near my computer monitor. He’s bobbling his head in agreement that so many factors – including himself – made Stars Wars such a phenomenon for a generation that never knew the glories of Saturday afternoon serials: the cowboy movies, the space adventures, the pirate ships, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Errol Flynn and so forth.
My parents thought Star Wars was ridiculous. But after over a decade of dreary “message” movies and washed-out stars, their eyes dimmed by alcohol and acid, Star Wars broke onto the screen like a sunburst. The scene at the end of the movie, where the Millennium Falcon blasts into view to clear the road for Luke Skywalker, its after-burners glowing white, is a summary of the entire movie, definitely a popcorn romp, completely camp, and entirely welcome by a generation weary of the Sixties. The movie, indeed, was a “new hope.” Our faith in movie heroes had been restored.
The anti-hero was dead; long live Luke Skywalker.
Forty years later, though, a sea change had overcome the cast, with the untimely death of one of the trio, Carrie Fisher. Harrison Ford made a first-time-ever appearance at the convention, something he’d disdained in the past, presumably to deliver a homily in memory of everyone’s beloved space princess.
Warwick Davis, who played the lead Ewok in Return of the Jedi hosted the panel on the first day. They’d gotten around, at last, to the tribute to Fisher, who died this past December, just after finishing up filming on Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, due out this coming December, filming a television series, and promoting The Princess Diarist.
Davis asked Harrison Ford if he missed Carrie Fisher. In her book, Fisher outed Ford as her lover during the 1976 filming of Star Wars in London. She claims the affair only lasted three months, but some believe the pair continued throughout at least the second film, The Empire Strikes Back.
Harrison, always a cautious man of few words, uttered very few words in reaction to Fisher’s sudden death. In response to Davis’ question, he, again, responded in a very few words.
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
Mark Hamill, the star of the three movies, had plenty of words to say on the subject. Probably many more than were good for his marriage. In the unexpurgated, original live-stream clip, he stated that he wanted to say something. That was okay. Presumably, that was the purpose of this panel, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars (officially, it’s next month) and paying tribute to the late actress.
“I want to say a few things,” he state – demanded, actually. “I know people say I should get over her death – get on with it. But I can’t and I don’t care. I loved her. I still love her.” He was totally serious, which is said to be unlike this actor. He’s said in other forums that he’s changed.
Uh-oh. A dead silence fell over the audience and the panel. Davis froze in his place, still clutching his note cards, his smile turning into a grimace. Hamill went on to recount his feelings for Fisher; how he would have and did do anything to please her, even to allowing her to force him into her Princess Leia snowsuit from The Empire Strikes Back, which they were filming at the time, and a clown’s head mask, and parade him around the Star Wars set.
He admitted that it was foolish of him but that he would have done anything to please her and would still do it. Hamill also referred to her recently-published Star Wars autobiography.
“You should see what she wrote about me in her book,” he complained bitterly.
Now I was curious, but not entirely convinced that it was worth overburdening my credit card to find out. But then, I went back to hear the Day One Livestream again. I wanted to play it for a musician friend. At the very end, John Williams himself showed up, complete with orchestra, to play “Princess Leia’s Theme” as a tribute to Fisher and also the Main Theme in honor of the film’s upcoming 40th Anniversary.
I’d put the link on my favorites. Only, some 20 to 30 minutes had been edited out, including, unfortunately, the concert. Mark Hamill’s entire rant about Carrie Fisher had been expurgated. A new livestream video appeared, featuring basically only Hamill leading the tribute, along with some videos of some of Star Wars’ lesser-known stars. Also edited out was the clumsy ending, with Ford essentially chasing the audience out, telling them to “get out of here” and go home. Host Warwick Davis had to jump in quickly and remind the audience of all the features at the convention.
In the new video, a freshly scrubbed, trimmed, re-wardrobed (and probably well-chastened) Hamill showed up to explain how only part of him loved her, as all the rest of the cast did. He made a point of re-recounting how she made a fool of him and how she, as a child of Hollywood, was clearly out of his league as well as his price range.
He told of how he had gone to Debbie Reynolds house for parties many times and how he parked his middle class Mazda down the street so it wouldn’t stand out in a parking filled with expensive sports cars and limousines.
“I couldn’t have handled her,” he admitted. True, that. The audience laughed appreciatively and Hamill’s reputation was restored. Poor guy.
Fisher had eyes for someone else: co-star Harrison Ford. The filming took place at the Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, England.
Fisher first met Ford on the Star Wars Cantina set. She immediately felt attracted to him, realized, as everyone else did, that he was going to be a major star, and that he was out of her league.
Although she worked with him on scenes, she otherwise avoided the tall, imposing, ever-scowling Ford.
“He made me feel very nervous,” she wrote. “I was tongue-tied [around him]…clumsy.” She feared annoying him.
Fisher prefaces her autobiography comparing the times between the two sets of movies: 1976-1983 and 2013. She writes about what it was like to be Princess Leia and how the character ultimately took over her life, while enriching her, only to lose most of her fortune to an unscrupulous manager.
The story of her career as Princess Leia begins appropriately enough on page 21. While Ford is the main focus of her book, she does talk about she laughing called “The Buns of Navarrone,” wearing enough lip gloss to “wax a car” and grimacing whenever she fired her prop space blaster.
Fisher had dropped out of high school after appearing in the chorus of her mother’s Broadway play, “Irene,” to attend drama school in England. There, she lived with her boyfriend and so was not “inexperienced” exactly. But she had not slept around, as was apparently commonly assumed.
Nor did she drink yet, at that time, having her father, Eddie Fisher’s example of alcoholism, drug abuse and womanizing. She vowed she would never be like her father.
Like most young women (and men), Fisher wanted to be popular. On one of the Friday nights after filming began, she writes, the cast and crew held a surprise 32nd birthday party for director George Lucas.
The party was held in a room adjacent to the studio cafeteria. Fisher was the only female present. She refused persistent requests by the British crew to have a drink, sticking to her favorite soda, Coca-Cola. But eventually they wore her down and, wanting to be popular, she had a couple of glasses of wine.
For a girl her size, age, and inexperience in the area of drinking, two glasses was all took. (“It tasted like rust,” she wrote.”). My own impression at that age right up to this day was that all alcoholic beverages taste like glossed-over gasoline.
“I think part of their motive,” she writes, “was that I was essentially the only girl at this party, and it would be more entertaining to have the only girl at a party completely…drunk than not. If it was the last thing they did, they were going to get me to drink some of that hard liquor everyone was guzzling. It became one of the main focuses of the night – let’s get Leia legless – and if I played along, it would be the most idiotic choice I could make, considering that this shindig would no doubt include everyone I knew on the film, including my bosses, the producers, and the birthday boy himself, the director.”
The “sparks” as the electricians in England are called, got Fisher sufficiently hammered to coax her into going with them. As they reached the door, suddenly, like something out of a heroic Errol Flynn movie, an American voice called, “Hey! Where are you taking her?!”
It was Harrison Ford.
He removed the damsel-in-distress from the clutches of the mob. The “tug-of-war” confrontation turned violent. A white horse wasn’t suddenly whistled onto the scene, but Ford hailed his studio car. Limping slightly from a kick to his ankle, he got Fisher into the cab and once in himself commanded the cabbie to “’Go! GO!!’”
Apparently, they weren’t very far on the road to London when he started making love to her in the back of the car, under the eyes of the very-knowing chauffeur.
On the way to London, to Ford’s dismay, another car hailed them with a honk. It was Mark Hamill and crew member Peter Kohn, with actress Koo Stark, whose character, a girlfriend of one of Luke Skywalker’s older Tatooine pals, was dropped from the movie. They wanted to have dinner.
“’Fix your hair,’” Ford told Fisher. “And just act normal.” Fisher was beginning to sober up and managed her way through dinner. Once dinner was over and they were again on their way to Carrie’s rental apartment, Ford immediately took up where they left off.
At dinner, Ford, in her mind was already “on his lickety-split way to being pretty much everything to me. He would all too soon become the center of my off-center, kilter-free world. Which, I agree, is absolutely pathetic in the extreme, but keep in mind that this whole thing was not my weirdly inexperienced idea. It was Harrison’s.”
Nevertheless, she didn’t protest and when they reached her flat, she invited him up and he accepted. Harrison was every inch the hero in her young eyes.
“He was…God, he was just handsome,” the now-60 year-old Fisher would recollect. “No. No, more than that. He looked like he could lead the charge into battle, take the hill, win the duel, be leader of the gluten-free world, all without breaking a sweat. A hero’s face – a few strands of hair fell over his noble, slightly furrowed brow – watching the horizon for danger in the form of incoming indigenous armies, reflective, concerned eyes so deep in thought you could get lost down there and it would take days to fight your way out.”
However, Fisher would soon learn there was a strange, dark side to Ford, which only attracted her to him even more.
“I could charm the birds out of everyone’s tress but his,” she wrote. He was married with two children, so that pair had to be discreet, getting together only on the weekends, at night. Nor could she talk to anyone about the affair. That was when she began keeping her “Star Wars” diaries.
While Ford was possibly the most handsome man she’d ever met, she found holding a conversation with him nearly impossible. The long silences and short, grunting answers worried her endlessly.
Once she offered to imitate him so he could see what he was like from someone else’s perspective.
“I moved out of sight around the corner from Harrison and after a moment, reappeared, strolling as he strolled, sauntering my way into whatever fresh hell I found myself in. I’d become him, disenchanted Lord Ford, master of all he surveyed, if he got around to it.
“After almost forty years later, I still think of it [finally making him laugh] as one of the greater moments of my life. My ‘love’ life.”
Fisher held Brontesque visions of Ford leaving his wife and children for her. Ultimately, Ford’s marriage – and the one after that – would disintegrate. Maybe they couldn’t get through the wall Ford had built around himself, either. At any rate, Fisher was desperate to do anything to please him and make him at least like her.
Ford was horrified when Fisher related to him that her first and only real boyfriend had been Simon, her college roommate.
“’What do you mean, your only boyfriend?’” he asked her with a frown. “What about all those guys you talked about?” And he rattled off the names of the guys she knew.
“I don’t sleep with all the men I know and I don’t sleep with them just because I bring them up in conversation!” she replied.
In the book, Fisher claims that he did propose to her and vowed to leave his wife, even giving her an engagement ring. Divorce his wife, he did. But he and Fisher never married.
Now we come to the point about pot.
“How can I paint for you the picture of this brief three-month break in the bad weather of no-feeling [when they had commenced their affair in earnest]?” Fisher wrote. “Sadly, I cannot. And this is not because of the memory loss that typically comes with age – though that is a distinct factor. It is the memory loss that comes with marijuana use. Though in this case, it not the long-term use [she supposed, at any rate] that has deprived me of the recollections from those months from long ago. It is the three-month ingestion of what seemed to me to be the brutal strength of Harrison’s preferred strain of pot. This is what takes any and all vivid recollections and crushes them beneath its, inhaled heel.
“At the time, the reefer took whatever certainty I possessed while in Harrison’s company and traded it for paranoia so intense that it took my breath away. What I recall from the rubble of my brain cells is the discomfort I experienced between waking and sleeping, trying to think of something to say other than ‘Do you love me?’ or ‘Why are you with me at all?’ or “Do you know your lines for next week?’ or ‘Can I get you another beer?’ or ‘Where did you get that scar on your chin?
“By the way, I believe the answer to that question [those questions] had the words ‘acid’ and ‘girl with freckles’ in it, and ‘the toilet seat hit my head and cracked this cut into my chin.’” But I am more than probably wrong.”
“Though there has been some speculation regarding my drug use during Star Wars, I used nothing other than Harrison’s pot on the weekends during that first film. After that, marijuana was no longer possible for me – it had such a powerful, all-consuming effect on me that I have never used that drug again.”
Ford became Fisher’s whole world. In the book, she has published actually excerpts from her diary. Observations about the filming of the movie, but mostly observations about Ford, and at least one other co-star (“I wish it could have been Mark. It should have been Mark but…”).
“Sullen and scornful; a real Marlboro man
The type who pours out the beer and eats
A tall guy with a cultivated leer
One you can count to disapprove or
“Sold to the man for the price of disdain
All of this would be interesting
If it weren’t so mundane.”
In another entry, she writes of Ford’s famous silences.
“Silence speaks louder than words – it screams, “BORING!’ He’s boring and tries to make it look more like a decision than an accident. The silences make my composure decompose from the inside out.”
For all that, Fisher worried that Ford found her boring, that maybe he considered her a “hick”.
Ford had a degree in philosophy and would later go on to earn a master’s degree in public administration. She was a high school drop-out who’s only academic achievement was that she attended – but never graduated from – drama school. By the time she would have graduated, Star Wars had already made a permanent star of her.
Mark Hamill told a story at the Convention from when they were making Return of the Jedi. He and Fisher were filming the biker scene on the Endor moon. The take was very technical and the machines required a great deal of repositioning in between takes.
Hamill took the long breaks with professional stride. While they were up there on the “bikes” Fisher pulled out heavy books of philosophy. He made the mistake laughing at her – he noted that their relationship had cooled considerably since the early days of the first film.
He said he mockingly asked her why she was reading philosophy books on set when her trailer was filled with entertainment trade magazines.
“I want people to think I’m smart!!” she yelled back at him haughtily (and probably defensively).
But she wasn’t looking to impress just anyone; she was obviously, by the tone of her book, trying to impress Ford.
Perhaps it’s cruel to try to disenchant the millions of Star Wars fans about their favorite cocky space pilot – and beloved princess [well, she did write the book]. Eventually, Fisher would give in wholeheartedly to the drugs, of every sort including LSD or acid, and the booze until she was totally alienated from her mother for about a decade, reuniting only after a spell in rehab. Her one marriage, to Paul Simon, lasted only nine months. She then had a baby (her daughter Billie) with a man, whom she would discover afterwards, was gay. That’s Hollywood for you.
However, there’s nothing enchanting or heroic at all about using drugs, much less creating a holiday to celebrate a miserable drug that ruined one space princess’ memory [her brain memory, that is to say, not her legacy] and quite possibly made an automaton of the hero the princess worshipped. To say nothing of what it may have done to her other co-star, judging by his performance in the now-deleted live-stream video.
Far too many movies in the past 40 years have paid obeisance to drug use. Far too many of their stars have casually entered into that poisonous galaxy – and wound up in rehab time again as the price.
Celebrate the princess, her knight-in-shining-brick, and her space-twin brother. Don’t celebrate the poor behind-the-scenes performance and certainly don’t imitate, as though you were a fan going to a Fan-a-Thon in a cinnabun wig or a hairy dog costume. People may laugh to scorn at such people and evoke fake sympathy for what mental problems they have or what empty lives they lead.
Their lives have more substance than the people who imbibe drugs to the point that they think fish are talking to them.
Who’s the more foolish? The fool or the fool who does drugs with them?