Beverly Hills, Calif. Director Mike Nichols once said of Carrie Fisher: “She has too much personality for one person and not enough for two persons.”
That pretty much describes Fisher, daughter of Hollywood stars Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. She starred in three “Star Wars” movies, has written several best-selling novels — and has been in and out of hospitals for substance abuse and other problems.
She calls her new memoir “Wishful Drinking,” which is also the title of her autobiographical road show that has occupied her for the past year or so. As if the title doesn’t say enough about her struggles, the cover shows a woman in Princess Leia braids with her face in her arms and her right hand holding a cocktail glass.
“We put the book together quickly, because the publisher (Simon & Schuster) was eager to get it out before Christmas,” Fisher explains. “The book is half the show. I was doing the book and the show at the same time.”
In Beverly Hills
Fisher, 52, lives in Beverly Hills’ high-rent district on Coldwater Canyon. The visitor presses a button, announces himself, and the big wooden door opens. You drive through a hundred yards of trees aglow with thousands of lights, reminiscent of the Hollywood Boulevard Christmas parade.
Turn a corner and you see more lighted trees on a slope that leads to the house. A rambling place filled with memorabilia, it was built by Robert Armstrong, star of the original “King Kong.”
Fisher appears in a small room with a blazing fireplace. She has a dark soft drink, and later asks, “Do you mind if I smoke?”
Family and ‘Star Wars’
For most of the year, she’s been on the road with “Wishful Drinking,” and she told of singing with her father on stage in San Jose. Eddie Fisher, now in a wheelchair and living in San Francisco, is a pariah to her mother’s side of the family. The reason: In 1959, he left Reynolds and their two young children, Carrie and Todd, to console and later marry Elizabeth Taylor after the death of her husband Mike Todd.
Speaking by telephone, Reynolds commented: “I haven’t spoken to him for 40 years, more or less. There’s no basis for our talking. He failed his children, and he failed me.”
Fisher became a star when George Lucas chose her to play Princess Leia in 1977’s “Star Wars.” She was thrilled to be the only prominent actress in the cast, “but my hair was terrible.” It was parted on the top of her head, braided and rolled over her ears like large doughnuts.
“I was totally cooperative because I was afraid they would fire me,” she recalled. “Whenever George asked me to do something, it was, ‘Whatever you say, master.”’
“Star Wars” was followed by “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” but by the time Fisher reached 27, the movies had stopped coming and she turned to writing. Her novels include “Surrender the Pink” and “Postcards From the Edge,” which concerned her relationship with her mother. She wrote the screenplay for the 1990 “Postcards” film, which was directed by Nichols and starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
Fisher was briefly married to singer-songwriter Paul Simon, and has a 16-year-old daughter, Billie, from her relationship with talent agent Bryan Lourd.
Despite her success, Fisher took to alcohol and drugs. For 20 years she was in and out of hospitals to treat her addiction, bipolar disorder and other problems.
“Yes, I’ve been to a lot of places,” she said. “They’re not bad. You can find a group who can be very funny. You have to be; it’s the end of the line. You can’t get lower than that, unless you’re on life support.”