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Carrie Fisher Opens Up About 'Star Wars,' The Gold Bikini And Her On-Set Affair

Actress Carrie Fisher talks about staring in Star Wars, her affair - back then - with co-star Harrison Ford, her mother Debbi Reynolds, and her own struggles with being bi-polar.


Other segments from the episode on November 28, 2016

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 28, 2016: Interview with Carrie Fisher; Review of An American in Paris musical



This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.


CARRIE FISHER: (As Princess Leia Organa) I don't know who you are or where you came from. But from now on, you do as I tell you. OK?

HARRISON FORD: (As Han Solo) Look, your worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person - me.

FISHER: (As Princess Leia Organa) It's a wonder you're still alive. Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?

GROSS: That's Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the first "Star Wars" film. Fisher has just written a memoir about making that film. Included in the book is the diary she wrote while shooting the film when she was having a secret affair with Harrison Ford. The memoir is called "The Princess Diarist."

Carrie Fisher, welcome back to FRESH AIR. So how did you find your "Star Wars" diary? I mean, had you forgotten that you wrote it?

FISHER: I forgot that I wrote it. And I was making my bedroom bigger 'cause I've always had small bedrooms, so I felt I deserved a bigger one now. I don't know why. And so there was all these boxes of writing underneath the floorboards. And I found it among all this other stuff, and I remembered when I saw it.

GROSS: So what most surprised you that you'd forgotten you'd experienced, but you'd had written about in your journal?

FISHER: That I was so insecure.

GROSS: Oh, yeah, that surprised me, too. Reading excerpt - I'm going to have you read an excerpt a little bit later. But, yeah, it seems like you really needed other people to tell you who you were 'cause you didn't know.

FISHER: No, I know. At least I knew that. At least I was aware that I didn't know who I was. So that was something, but it was sad to me.

GROSS: As you've pointed out, in "Star Wars" you were the only girl in an all-boy fantasy. When did you start realizing that you were part of boys' sex fantasies?

FISHER: Not until way later. And I'm very glad of that. Like, about - I don't know, maybe eight years ago some guy said to me, I thought about you every day from when I was 12 to when I was 22. And I said every day? And he said, well, four times a day.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: And, you know, what do you say to that, thank you?

GROSS: What do you say to that?

FISHER: But then I started becoming aware of it in an uncomfortable way.

GROSS: So it was a very boys kind of set when you were making the film?

FISHER: Yeah. It's mostly - crews are still mostly men. I mean, I like that they have a continuity girl. So they don't call her continuity woman. It's a continuity girl, and they're women in makeup and hair and wardrobe, but not in camera, not in sound, you know, and not in special effects. It's all men.

GROSS: Did that add to your feeling of insecurity?

FISHER: I think I sort of felt isolated. You know, I didn't really have anyone. I didn't confide in men. Well, I didn't confide in anyone then.

GROSS: As opposed to oversharing like you do now? (Laughter).

FISHER: Yes, that's right. I've made up for it.

GROSS: So what's really made news from your book is your affair with Harrison Ford when you were making "Star Wars." He was in his mid-30s and married. You were 19. Did you tell him you were going to write about it before you actually published the book?

FISHER: Oh, yeah. I don't think...

GROSS: I'm relieved to hear that (laughter).

FISHER: You're relieved to hear it?

GROSS: I'm relieved, yeah.

FISHER: Oh, no, I wouldn't have ambushed him like that. But it's still - no matter if I told him or not, it would - it probably feels like an ambush. It feels like an ambush to me, and I'm the one that wrote it.

GROSS: Did you tell him or did you ask him for permission?

FISHER: No. I said, I found the journals that I kept during the first movie, and I'm probably going to publish them. And he just sort of raised his finger and said, lawyer.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: And then I said, no, I won't, you know, write anything that you don't want. I mean, I'll show it to you before and you can take anything out that you want taken out. I don't want to, you know, make you uncomfortable, which I, of course, have - unduly uncomfortable.

GROSS: So he read it before it was published. And did he ask for any changes?

FISHER: I sent it to him. I called him. I said, where are you, you know? And I sent it to him. And I never heard back so I can't imagine that he wasn't - that he was comfortable with everything that was in it. But it's not like it's negative about him. It's just a personal story that's been a secret for a long time.

GROSS: Well, you do describe him as being kind of quiet and maybe kind of cold.

FISHER: Well, he's not the warmest person. He's not accessible, let's say that. He doesn't talk a lot, and I'm very extroverted. And so that - it sort of was going nowhere. It was sort of one half of a conversation was happening. You know, he's not a big talker. That's all. He just - he's very quiet and chews the side of his mouth a lot.

GROSS: In your journal that you kept during "Star Wars" you write a lot about your relationship with Harrison Ford. And I want to ask you to read an excerpt of that journal. This is where you're describing how Harrison Ford was like a fantasy for you, but the fantasy did not always work out. And it was - you kind of projected a lot onto him, so if you could read an excerpt for us.


(Reading) We have no feeling for one another. We lie buried together during the night and haunt each other by day, acting out something that we don't feel and seeing through something that doesn't deserve any focus. I have never done anything quite like this. I sit patiently awaiting the consequences. I talk, walk, eat, sleep, patiently awaiting the consequences. How can a thing that doesn't seem to be happening come to an end? George says that if you look at the person that someone chooses to have a relationship with, you'll see what they think of themselves. So Harrison is what I think of myself. It's hardly a relationship, but nevertheless he is a choice. I examined all the options and chose the most likely to leave no emotional investments. Never love for me, only obsession. Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.

GROSS: So thank you for reading that. That's Carrie Fisher reading from the journal that she kept during the making of the first "Star Wars" film. And that - excerpts of that journal are included in her new memoir "The Princess Diarist." So, you know, in that excerpt it seems like this relationship in a way was right for you because you had such low self-esteem...


GROSS: ...And didn't think you deserved somebody who actually was invested in you. And...

FISHER: But I didn't pick him. I mean, I didn't have a crush on him. You know, he sort of - I didn't even have the nerve to have a crush on him there. I thought he was out of my range, if I even thought about it. He was so much older than I was, and he was married.

GROSS: So you describe yourself as having a pattern of being obsessed with inaccessible men. First...

FISHER: I know, but I'm 19 at that time.

GROSS: Right.

FISHER: I have no pattern. I'd had one boyfriend. When I read that, I felt so sorry for myself at that age.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: I mean, how can I have a pattern if I'd had one boyfriend? But that's, I guess, how it felt to me. You know, it was as intense as a pattern instead of a choice. I don't know.

GROSS: Your relationship with Han Solo, Harrison Ford in the movie, is such the kind of, you know, typical will they or won't they? They hate each other, but that's 'cause they really like each other (laughter) and you know. And so you're having that kind of onscreen relationship and in real life you're having an affair. So how did the affair affect the chemistry on screen?

FISHER: I think it made us more comfortable with one another. I think it made me more able to wisecrack to him. Even if I was insecure, we were having an affair, so there was something to base some security on. I don't know. Well, we were - there was chemistry there, and you can see it. So I don't know which came first - the chemistry in the film or the chemistry in the world.

GROSS: And, I mean, your characters end up having a child together.

FISHER: Oh, a really good child. Don't you think?

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: We had Hitler (laughter). That's sort of perfect. I think that's perfect. Harrison and I have Hitler as a child.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: And who does he look like? Neither one of us. He's 6 foot 5 (laughter).

GROSS: So what was it like for you and Harrison Ford to work together again on the most recent "Star Wars" film, "The Force Awakens?" And did he already know you were writing the book? Did you already know you were writing the book?

FISHER: No, no. I didn't - I wasn't writing any book. I hadn't found the diaries yet. I found the diaries when we started promoting, when the movie was coming out. And that's when I told him, and I'm sure he would have stopped me if he could've. But I...

GROSS: But it sounds like you gave him that opportunity.

FISHER: Well, I gave him the opportunity to take out anything he didn't like.

GROSS: Right, but not to stop it, yeah.

FISHER: Yeah. But I don't think it's that revealing, or it's certainly not offensive. It's not unkind about him. It's flattering. I mean, the way people are reacting to it is funny to me, too. I'd do him at 73.


GROSS: So let me reintroduce you. If you're just joining us, my guest is Carrie Fisher. She has a new memoir called "The Princess Diarist." That includes excerpts of the diary she kept during the making of the first "Star Wars" film. We're going to take a short break, then we'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Carrie Fisher. Her new memoir, "The Princess Diarist," is about making the first "Star Wars" film, and it includes excerpts of her recently discovered journal that she kept while making the movie.

FISHER: It's not excerpts, it's the whole diary.

GROSS: Oh, that's the whole diary?

FISHER: It's not cut at all.


FISHER: I know. But it's not like dear diary, today I went to the set and Harrison ignored me...

GROSS: Right (laughter).

FISHER: It's just trying to reconcile myself to the emotions that I have at the time.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah.

FISHER: And I didn't have anyone to confide in.

GROSS: Right.

FISHER: I mean, I was sort of isolated over there. I had no friends, and I couldn't talk about it because he was married.

GROSS: So it sounds like, you know, reading the book, that you had a kind of love-hate relationship with your identity as Princess Leia. It made you a star. It's an iconic role. But there's things you haven't liked about being Princess Leia in the eyes of the world. What's the downside?

FISHER: No, I actually don't think there is that much of a downside. The downside is the hair. (Laughter) The downside is the hair and some of the outfits. But I like Princess Leia. I like how she handles things. I like how she treats people. I - she tells the truth. She, you know, gets what she wants done. I don't have a real problem with Princess Leia. I've sort of melded with her over time.

GROSS: You write in the book that you had endless issues with your appearance, how you looked in "Star Wars..."

FISHER: Yes, absolutely...

GROSS: And you say, what I saw in the mirror is not apparently what many teenage boys saw. So what did you see when you looked in the mirror?

FISHER: A giant, fat face like a sanddab with features.


GROSS: And the hair.

FISHER: The horrible hair, I just looked like - I don't know, like this really fat-faced, cute in-a-not-a-good way, girl.

GROSS: Whose idea was it to have the buns on either side of your head?

FISHER: Well, they kept putting hair on, and they kept saying to me, do you like this one? There were some worse ones, if you can imagine. But it was George and the producers. I mean, you know, they - Pat McDermott, the hairdresser, kept putting hairstyles on me. And we kept parading them in front of them. And I don't know, they - somehow they chose that one. And to put more hair on either side of a round face is going to make it even wider. So that was my problem with that.

GROSS: While we're speaking about appearance, in "Return Of The Jedi," when you are held captive by Jabba the Hutt, who is this, like, giant, slimy, slug-like creature and crime boss, and you're wearing this like incredibly revealing metal bikini, you are rail thin (laughter).

FISHER: I know.

GROSS: Did you have to stop eating for several weeks in order to become that thin?

FISHER: No, no. I was thin then. I don't know why. I - there was a period of time, it was brief - but I did exercise my legs. But in those days, you know, you didn't have exercise like you do now. You didn't have diets and, you know - I think there was Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons.

GROSS: (Laughter) OK.

FISHER: So I got some leg weights and, you know - I didn't need to, though, I was 24 years old.

GROSS: OK, so the thing that, you know - so you're wearing this very, like, skimpy, metal bikini. You're sitting in the lap of this giant criminal slug who is toying with you. He's kind of, like, petting you and licking his lips. And (laughter)...

FISHER: I don't think he had lips.

GROSS: Well, whatever it is...

FISHER: He had a big tongue.

GROSS: ...That surrounds his mouth. Yeah.

FISHER: Yeah, yeah.

GROSS: And it's - and you're wearing this, like, wearing - I mean, he has you chained. So there's this, like, big, like, metal chain around your neck. So it's a very, like, PG-13 kind of campy, S&M, B&D image.


GROSS: And Jabba the Hutt is, like, licking his lips, he's stroking you. So there's something, like, so, like, sexual about it, but this is a movie for kids. So was there lots of joking on the set about, like, the deeper S&M imagery of this scene?

FISHER: No. What my joke was - when we first rehearsed it, they're brought in front of Jabba, they talk to Jabba, Jabba talks to Harrison and Mark, and then they're led off. I never - they never say, hey, how are you? So as they were being led off, I said in the rehearsal, don't worry about me. I'll be fine, seriously.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: Which I thought they should have kept in there.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: 'Cause it was like, where am I in all this? Sure, they're going to be digested for 2,000 years, but I have to stay with the slug with the big tongue.

GROSS: And nearly naked.

FISHER: Nearly naked, which is not a, you know, style choice for me.

GROSS: But why was it so softcore S&M, B&D?

FISHER: I couldn't tell you that. It wasn't my choice. When he showed me the outfit, I didn't - I thought he was kidding, and it made me very nervous. And, you know, they wouldn't let me - I had to sit very straight 'cause I couldn't have lines in the side of - on my sides, you know, like a little crease. No creases were allowed. So I had to sit very, very rigid straight.

GROSS: So did - do you think there's something Fay Wray, King Kong about that scene?

FISHER: Yeah, but I - you know, what's redeem - what redeems it is that I get to kill him.

GROSS: Yeah. So...

FISHER: Which was so enjoyable.

GROSS: Did you see that as, like, female empowerment?

FISHER: Oh, absolutely. I sawed his neck off with that chain that I killed him with. I really relish that 'cause I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight, and I couldn't wait to kill him.

GROSS: So "Star Wars" was shot in England where you had been going to school. You were in drama school there.


GROSS: And some of the actors in the film are British. Some of them are American. Your accent is kind of - semi-English accent in it.

FISHER: I know. It's so awful. But I'd been going to school there. Well, look, it's not the school though. It was the dialogue. I thought I recognized your foul stench when I arrived on board. Say that like I just said it. It sounds weird. So it was very arch dialogue, so that's my excuse. And I'm living with it right now.

GROSS: (Laughter) So were you trying for an English accent or just...

FISHER: No. No, it was just accidental pretension.

GROSS: (Laughter) OK. Well, you're probably also picking up a lot of it just living there. I mean, you have an ear.

FISHER: Well, I did about a year and a half of Shakespeare and Ibsen and all that, and that dialogue - my dialogue was the most arch of anybody's. Governor Tarkin, I thought I recognized your foul stench when I arrived on board. Who talks like that?

GROSS: But it wasn't iambic pentameter.

FISHER: No, but I did do it like I just said it, like a human without a British accent, and George said you're - this is very serious. You know, you're not being funny about this, that, you know, this - everything is on the line here. So you - you're very serious. So that's where the British - when I'm serious, I'm British.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: I guess.

GROSS: My guest is Carrie Fisher. Her new memoir is called "The Princess Diarist." After we take a short break, we'll talk about her relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who nearly died recently. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Carrie Fisher. She's written a new memoir, called "The Princess Diarist," about her experiences making the first "Star Wars" film. It includes the journal she kept at the time.

In the acknowledgements to this new book - included in the acknowledgements are (reading) for my mother for being too stubborn and thoughtful to die. Your mother is Debbie Reynolds. Did she come close to dying recently?


GROSS: What happened?

FISHER: Yeah, no, the whole year was - she had two strokes.

GROSS: Debbie Reynolds. Did she come close to dying recently?


GROSS: What happened?

FISHER: The whole year was - she had - she had two strokes. And she - as a result of having an abscess on her spine and having to have spine - and she got pneumonia. I mean, it was just everything that could go wrong went wrong, and it was just the year from hell. And I thought - there were days we thought she was going to die. Yeah, she stopped breathing.

But - and I said to the nurse once, I said, you know, have you ever seen someone come back from this place? 'Cause she could - she had two words left that she could say. And the woman said, sometimes. And she came back. She's fully back.

GROSS: She's fully back?

FISHER: Fully back.

GROSS: That's great.

FISHER: I mean, she can't walk as easily. And she's a little more fragile, but she - she's there.

GROSS: How old is she now?

FISHER: Eighty-four.

GROSS: So you also thank Donald Light for saving your mother's life and protecting her from demons and whores. (Laughter) What does that mean?

FISHER: I can't tell you. It's (unintelligible). No, just there are certain people around my mother that - no, my mother - Donald stayed with my mother the whole time. And, you know, it was hard. And my mother hates nurses. Oh, my God.

I've never seen my mother with bad manners until I saw her with the nurses. But they were telling her what to do, and no one tells my mother what to do. And so I had - I had to say at one point to my mother, when she was yelling at her nurse, Mom, not cool.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: You are my role model. Do you want me to behave like this? Now stop. But it was a year from hell for her. I mean, it was horrible for me to watch her go through all that. But, you know, she's just an amazingly strong woman. And that - it was very hard to write the book - I couldn't write. I couldn't write while this was going on, and that was what I was doing. So I had to rewrite a ton of this book because I couldn't focus.

GROSS: You had a very contentious relationship with her when you were a teenager, and I think that probably continued into your 20s, in that, you know, you worked in her Broadway show. You were - you were in the chorus of that. You sang in her Broadway act, you know - in her cabaret act for a while. So you worked together. In some ways, you were very close. In some ways, you were, like, very far apart. You were anxious to move away from home.

How did your relationship change as she became an older woman, like when you became - like, now, like, you're middle-aged. She's - or older - she's in her 80s. What's - is the relationship still contentious? Has it changed?

FISHER: Not at all. I could appreciate - she's an immensely powerful woman. And I just admire my mother very much. She also annoys me sometimes when she's, you know, mad at the nurses. But, you know, she's an extraordinary woman, extraordinary.

There are very few women from her generation who worked like that, who just kept a career going all her life and raised children and had horrible relationships and lost all her money and got it back again. I mean, she's had an amazing life, and she's someone to admire.

GROSS: Did you appreciate her strength and her accomplishments more as you got older?

FISHER: Oh, God, yeah. No, when I was a kid, I just thought she was someone who was telling me what to do. And I didn't want to do it.

GROSS: How did you feel about her celebrity when you were young? Was it helpful? Was it intrusive?

FISHER: Well, I had to share her, and I didn't like that. When we went out, people sort of walked over me to get her. And, no, I didn't like it. I didn't like it. And I - you know, people thought that - I overheard someone saying, well, she thinks she's so great because she's Debbie Reynolds' daughter. And I didn't like it.

It made me different from other people, and I wanted to be the same. I wanted to be, you know, just no different than anybody else.

GROSS: Your mother's most iconic film is "Singing In The Rain," you know, one of the great musicals of all time. What are your thoughts about the movie? And if you like it now, did you always, or did it take you a while to appreciate that film, too?

FISHER: No, no, I always liked it. It's brilliant. I mean, to do the transition from sound - from silent to sound is a brilliant, brilliant time to focus on. And what was interesting to me is that there's three people acting in the movie then. It's two men and a female. And it's the same with "Star Wars." And both movies were sort of, you know, iconic at the - well, they did the AFI 10 top films, and one was "Singing In The Rain" and one was "Star Wars."

GROSS: That's so great you were on the list together. (Laughter).

FISHER: I know.

GROSS: You write that you felt doomed to have bad relationships with men because that's what - that's what you'd seen. You know, Eddie Fisher, your father, walked out on your mother when you were 2 to be with Elizabeth Taylor. Your mother's second husband spent all of her money - I mean, left her with nothing.

FISHER: Left her with nothing, and she had to pay his debts. So future earnings went to him. Everything she made went to his debts, to Harry Karl, who was also having sex with hookers the entire length of their relationship, which she found out later on and so did we. So it was a very interesting childhood.

GROSS: Yeah. Wow. That must have been upsetting.

FISHER: Well, yes, I hated him. And then we stayed living with him. But it was the manicurists. It turned out that he had a barber. And the barber was the pimp, and the manicurists were the hookers. So he was having a lot of hookers at the house.

GROSS: At the house?

FISHER: At the house, yeah.

GROSS: Oh, OK. Did they eventually get divorced? Like, what happened?

FISHER: Oh, yes.

GROSS: How long did that take?

FISHER: Yeah. But it took a really long time. She didn't leave him. We went to New York. I went with her to New York to do "Irene" - to do the play. And she left my brother like a marker with Harry, so he didn't know that they were getting divorced. It was very complicated and very - not something you want to do again.

GROSS: Right. Did you have much of a relationship with your father since he left when you were 2?

FISHER: I did later on, but I didn't have a father-daughter relationship with him. I had a mother-son relationship with him. I took care of him once he got ill.

GROSS: Do you mean drug ill or health ill?

FISHER: Well, I think he was not in good shape due to the fact that he took drugs all his life and shot speed and so forth.

GROSS: You mention this in your book, yeah.

FISHER: But he - well, he smoked pot all the time when he was older, so we called him Puff Daddy.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: And I got him a stripper once for his birthday, so that's the kind of relationship we had. It was very unusual, but he wasn't supposed to be a father. He was not a father. He was a lover, so he needed parenting. And I supplied that parenting when he got older...

GROSS: Did you...

FISHER: ...And that's the relationship I had.

GROSS: Did you resent that he walked out on you as a parent and then you ended up parenting him?

FISHER: No, I didn't. I wanted a relationship with him, and that was the one that was available so I took it.

GROSS: Right. If you're just joining us, my guest is Carrie Fisher. Her new memoir "The Princess Diarist" includes the diary she kept when she was making the first "Star Wars" film. We're going to take a short break and be right back. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Carrie Fisher. She has a new memoir about the making of the first "Star Wars" film, and it's called "The Princess Diarist" and includes the excerpt of the diary she kept while she was making the movie.

So you've, I think, written about this that you - you've written about and we talked a little bit about in a previous interview that you have bipolar disorder.


GROSS: And, you know, I've read that you had ECT - electroconvulsive therapy which used to be called shock treatment. And it used to be like really bad. I mean, it would just, like, erase people's memories.

FISHER: It still is. I mean, it's still considered bad, but there's no convulsion anymore. It's actually very effective, but it has such stigma. It's unbelievable.

GROSS: I know I've read much better things about it, and I've spoken to people who say that it's gotten much more focused - and, you know, like precise and what it does and how it does it. So did you find it helpful?

FISHER: I did. Absolutely. You know, it was the - a big thing to have done so I would have had to have been in a lot of trouble to consider it. So I considered it. I did it, and it was very effective.

GROSS: Was that in a permanent way or a...

FISHER: Yeah. I haven't had it in a long time, but I was very depressed at a certain point. I don't usually - I'm more manic than depressed, but this time I got depressed. And medication wasn't working, so I utilized that. But it was hard to decide to do it because of all the stigma that was attached to it.

GROSS: You've been very open about your life and - or, you know, comparatively open about your life.

FISHER: Spread eagle.

GROSS: (Laughter) And certainly, you know, you're very revealing in your new memoir. Have there been consequences in your life for, you know, what some people might think of as oversharing?

FISHER: Oh, I think I do overshare, and I sometime marvel that I do it. But it's sort of - in a way, it's my way of trying to understand myself. I don't know. I get it out of my head. It creates community when you talk about private things and you can find other people that have the same things. Otherwise, I don't know - I felt very lonely with some of the issues that I had or history that I had. And when I shared about it, I found that others had it, too.

GROSS: Have there ever been consequences when someone overshared about you?

FISHER: No, that would be really hypocritical.

GROSS: So I have to ask you about your dog Gary who is now a kind of famous dog, and you use him as your profile picture on Twitter. And he's - what kind of dog is he?

FISHER: He is a French bulldog.


FISHER: And he's right here in the studio with me.

GROSS: Yeah. You get to take him everywhere. It's like - I don't know that they usually let dogs in the NPR studio. You're in the NPR bureau in New York. Is he officially a therapy dog?

FISHER: Yeah. I - you know, I didn't get him for that, but he's very soothing to have around. He's licking my hand right now. He's just very nice to have around.

GROSS: Oh, my God, I hear him licking your hand (laughter).

FISHER: Can you hear him?


FISHER: (Laughter).

GROSS: Let's listen.


FISHER: (Laughter).

GROSS: Oh, my God that is such a loud lick (laughter).

FISHER: Well, he has a very big tongue.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: Well, at least it's not that wet, but it's a very, very long tongue.

GROSS: (Laughter) So did you have him certified as a therapy dog, so you could, like, take him onto planes and things like that?

FISHER: Yes. Yes. So he sits with me on the plane. Frequently, he sits in the chair, and I sit on the ground.

GROSS: So how did you find him?

FISHER: I got him here in New York in the village at a very tragic pet store.

GROSS: And...

FISHER: So he looks like he was from like a puppy mill. He's not - everything is sort of wrong with him.

GROSS: (Laughter). So what attracted you to him?

FISHER: The tongue. No - I don't even know if the tongue was like that when I first got him. It just gradually got longer and longer and never went into his mouth.

GROSS: I can't believe I still hear him licking you.

FISHER: He's still licking me. I'll put my hand up. He's very - he follows me everywhere. He's the most well-behaved dog I've ever had, and I didn't train him. He can give you a high five. He sits. He sits like Winston Churchill.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: He really does. I can't even - you have to see - I'll post a picture of what you'll see.

GROSS: So when women dress like you at Comic-Con conventions, what do you most frequently see reflected back at you? Like, which costumes, which hair does?

FISHER: Oh, my favorite one to see is the metal bikini on men...

GROSS: (Laughter) Is that a thing?

FISHER: And that is what has been happening a lot.

GROSS: That's a thing?

FISHER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. A lot. And not thin men by the way.

GROSS: That's hilarious.

FISHER: Yes. So that makes me feel good about myself.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: Kind of a before and after thing. This is way after. Not only is Princess Leia fatter, she's a guy.

GROSS: (Laughter). All right. Carrie Fisher, thank you so much for talking with us.

FISHER: Well, thanks for talking to me.

GROSS: And regards to your dog (laughter). Regards to Gary.

FISHER: I'll lick him for you.

GROSS: Carrie Fisher's new memoir is called "The Princess Diarist." After we take a short break, Lloyd Schwartz will review the national touring production of the musical "An American In Paris" with music by George Gershwin. This is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. Our classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz lives in Boston and caught the beginning of the national tour of the new Broadway musical "An American In Paris." The show was inspired by the hit 1951 Hollywood movie starring Gene Kelly with music by George Gershwin. Here's Lloyd's review.


LLOYD SCHWARTZ, BYLINE: When George Gershwin died in 1937 at the age of 38, he'd written more than a dozen Broadway musicals with his brother, Ira, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize plus film scores, concert pieces and an opera that has become a national treasure. His music jazzy, brash or romantic captured something very deep in the American consciousness. Since his death, his music has been reused in new and different contexts. The most beloved of these projects was "An American In Paris," the 1951 movie with the rare distinction for a musical of winning a Best Picture Oscar. The stars were dancer-choreographer Gene Kelly and a radiant newcomer, a young French ballerina named Leslie Caron.

The film has a much praised, but pretentious dream ballet. But what nearly steals the movie is a hilarious sequence in which pianist Oscar Levant, who is also a famously sarcastic raconteur and a real life friend of Gershwin's, not only plays the "Concerto In F" but also appears as the conductor, the orchestra players and even the audience. The film rescued from oblivion one of Gershwin's last and greatest songs. Kelly, who plays an American artist named Jerry Mulligan who decides to stay in Paris after the war, sings it to the French girl with a mysterious past, played by Caron. Their dance on the banks of the Seine is the film's emotional high point.


GENE KELLY: (Singing) But, oh, my dear, our love is here to stay. Together, we're going a long, long way. In time, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble. They're only made of clay. But our love is here to stay.

SCHWARTZ: Last year, "An American In Paris" was turned into a new Broadway show with essentially the same plot as the film and some of the same music. It won Tony Awards for its inspired scenic design and lighting, imaginative orchestrations and dazzling choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. There are several reasons I hope a lot of people see this show. The main one is, of course, Gershwin's enduring music which includes such standards as "The Man I Love," "S'Wonderful," "Who Cares" and "I Got Rhythm" alongside some less familiar tunes and such instrumental works as the "Concerto In F," "The Second Rhapsody" and the big orchestral piece that gives the show its title. Appealing performers really put them across.

Here's Robert Fairchild, a star of The New York City Ballet gamely singing "I've Got Beginner's Luck" on the show's original cast album, a song the Gershwins wrote for Fred Astaire.


ROBERT FAIRCHILD: (Singing) I've got beginner's luck. The first time that I'm in love, I'm in love with you. Gosh, I'm lucky. I've got beginner's luck. There never was such a smile or such eyes of blue. Gosh, I'm fortunate. This thing we've become is much more than a pastime for this time is the one where the first time is the last time. I've got beginner's luck, lucky through and through. For the first time that I'm in love, I'm in love with you.

SCHWARTZ: The show is almost nonstop dancing. Garen Scribner, who replaced Fairchild on Broadway, now plays Jerry Mulligan on the tour. His leap onto the stage during the climactic "American In Paris" ballet is heart-stopping. But all the production numbers are terrific beginning with "I Got Rhythm."


GAREN SCRIBNER: (As Jerry Mulligan) Look. Look at their faces. People need to laugh. Paris needs it.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Who said music has to cheer people up?

SCRIBNER: (As Jerry Mulligan) I say it. (Singing) All my trouble, I don't mind him. You won't find him 'round my door. I got starlight. I got sweet dreams. I got my gal. Who could ask for anything more? Who could ask for anything more?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character, singing) I got rhythm...

SCHWARTZ: An unfamiliar song like "Fidgety Feet" gets an irresistibly witty and charming run around. "I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise" which is also in the film is worthy of Ziegfeld with a rockettes-like kick line on a set that looks like Radio City Music Hall in all its glory. I wish I could say the whole show was more than the sum of its best parts. The weakest element of the movie is its thin and sentimental plot. And instead of refining it, playwright Craig Lucas has expanded it and made it even more heavy-handed. The revelation about the heroine's past takes only a few seconds in the movie.

In the show, it's a scene without music and a big dead spot. The songs here seem even more pasted together than they are in the movie. And even more damaging, there's no central love duet - nothing with the emotional resonance of "Our Love Is Here To Stay," which is surprisingly not in the show. George Balanchine made a memorable ballet called "Who Cares" that uses many of the same Gershwin tunes. It has no plot and no characters, but it's got more human feeling than anything in "An American In Paris." Still, what the show has is the dancing, the terrific production numbers and all that wonderful Gershwin music.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz teaches poetry in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and writes about classical music for New York Arts. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be longtime LGBT rights activist Cleve Jones. He worked with Harvey Milk in San Francisco, co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and conceived the AIDS Memorial Quilt. He's had AIDS for many years. Few of his old friends survived the epidemic. His new memoir is meant to document what his generation fought for, won and lost. I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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