Even before her iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, Carrie Fisher was well known as the child of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, and in her inspirational new show, Wishful Drinking, she tells the story of her life with wit and wisdom. She walks the audience through the films, the drugs, the scandals, the psychological issues, and she gives some insight on how she made it through to eventually win the prestigious title of “Bipolar Woman of the Year.” HBO recently announced that it was going to adapt the show for a documentary based on upcoming performances at New Jersey’s South Orange Performing Arts Center on June 25 and 26, tickets are still available through SOPAC’s website http://www.sopacnow.org/
I had a chance to see your show, Wishful Drinking, in NY and I thought it was fantastic. I loved your blog post about not getting a Tony nomination because maybe you hadn’t played the part of Carrie Fisher well enough, were you really surprised?
Thank you, well you know what I always heard was that they took out the category that my thing would be in so, you know, what are they gonna do? Nominate me for playing the part of Carrie Fisher?
It’s a shame because the one person show is really very innovative in itself you know and there are a lot of great shows that are like that.
Yeah, well, no I guess so? I mean they know what they are doing. I never in my life have counted on awards for anything, I’ve gotten the “bipolar woman of the year” award that’ll have to be enough.
Well that’s a special award, I understand. You discuss something in your show that I found really very profound, when you’re talking about the mental trauma that you dealt with as a child you say that you can’t blame your past because your brother had the same past and turned out fine. It’s an interesting case of nature vs. nurture. On the flip side, as such a creative person, do you feel like the trauma you dealt with and those kinds of issues, do they feed into your creativity at all? Do you buy into that?
Ahhh, the trauma… It’s one way of handling it. I mean to get distance on it you know, it’s the thing that I say: ‘if my life wasn’t funny it would just be true’. I’d rather see these things that happen to me as true and I can’t when they first happen but that’s the best way to combat it. That’s what I’ve done by owning it, it’s the thing I have problems, problems don’t have me.
You’ve done a lot of writing and you’ve also worked as a script doctor, how often do you write? What’s your process like? How important to you is your writing? How essential is it to who you are?
It is, sometimes I get into it and I lose track of time, that’s the best kind of work to do. I don’t have a set pattern, more is the pity, but I sorta try to do it. Especially lately because I owe a book and I am adapting this other thing so I try to exercise and then set aside a couple of hours for writing within that time a day but I’ve never had a really organized schedule which is a shame but it still manages to get done somehow.
I wanted to ask about Star Wars. Obviously it’s one of the most important films of all time but, you know, in context when you’re coming at it in the early 70’s, I mean Lucas must have looked crazy. What was it like in the beginning on the set? Did you get a sense that this could be a disaster or did you get a sense that it could really be this great film?
Not this great film, it just seemed like it would be kinda cool you know, like there wouldn’t be other movies like it. Not that it would do what it did but just that it seemed, you know, certainly inventive and that there hadn’t been a science fiction movie, well period, for quite some time, but that didn’t mean it was going to make a lot of money. I thought it was a fantastic script so whatever that means, I thought I would like it but I didn’t think I’d have that many people that would agree with me.
Were the actors friendly on set? No one was really huge at that point, were you guys tight early on?
Tight? Not tight. You know, Harrison was fifteen years older than I was and we were all shooting on different planets at a certain point. We hung out, you know, but everyone was at different points in their lives, I was a teenager. But we did definitely hang out and when it came out and sort of ambushed us like that, suddenly we had quite a lot in common.
Did your mom (actress Debbie Reynolds) give you advice?She started out really as a teenager in Singing In the Rain, she must’ve had something to say?
My mother has never stopped giving me advice. I can’t really remember what her advice was? On how to look when the death star blew up my planet? But my mother’s always had a lot of advice.
You talk a little bit in the show about your marriage to Paul Simon and it almost sounds like, in some senses, you were a muse to him at times.
Well, he wrote songs about me, I don’t know if that means that I’m a muse. I don’t think of Paul as someone having a muse but he did write quite a few songs about me you know. I don’t know if he needs a muse he’s very brilliant.
And do you guys still talk at all or not really?
Not really. We did for awhile and then you know, everybody moves on and it certainly doesn’t make new mates comfortable and all, you know.
You have this pretty amazing group of films you’ve done in your career. How much has Hollywood changed over the years? Is it for the better or worse?
Well, I mean, the thing that I notice it’s sort of, because of all these reality shows and stuff, you know everyone has access to celebrity and that’s not always a good thing you know? I mean it’s just, you’re not famous. It’s the thing of being famous for being well known. It used to be more people were famous because they were actually skilled at something and the same is not necessarily still true, but by the same token I suppose you know some people that would never have had a chance otherwise, get a chance so I don’t know, it’s hard to know what to think.
You’ve worked with some amazing directors: Lucas, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, Hal Ashby…having dealt with so many directors, what do you think makes for a good director coming from the perspective of acting?
Well, I mean passion. I mean really having a strong sense of the story and what they want and the ability to communicate that to you. You know, [also making] the atmosphere on the set comfortable enough for you to deliver what they want or comfortable enough to be able to allow you to experiment with some ideas that you have.
You’ve done so many things in your life and been through so much, what drives you now? As a person, what are the things you want most in your life right now?
Oh, travel, I like writing still, my daughter, you know I have a real, I have a curiosity about everything, so if I’m not watching documentaries about stuff I don’t know, I’m wandering around looking for stuff I don’t know and I like experimenting with things, going to different places, trying different things, whatever.
I teach high school and I teach film, screenwriting, and acting. What advice would you give to young creative people in terms of them wanting a career in a creative industry whether it’s writing or acting?
Well it’s a big difference between whether it’s writing or acting. The important thing is to learn as much as you can and to write even when you don’t feel inspired, you know, to do it anyway. Do everything anyway whether you feel confident or not it’s worth going for.
Finally, is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?
I exercise now! I actually used to exercise for 12 years and then I went on the road and stopped for 2 so now I’ve gotten really fat. So now I’ve been exercising constantly.
Oh, it’s a pain in the ass let me tell you I know.
It’s a pain in everything including the ass.