Han Solo's character may be marred by the Greedo controversy, but in the 1977 "Star Wars" film it's Princess Leia -- not Solo -- who shoots first. The very first scene with the political revolutionary, Leia is taken hostage by the Empire, but not before firing off a few rounds from her blaster first.
Princess Leia is a cultural icon and she-ro to many. But don't you dare get Carrie Fisher, her real-life counterpart, started on her well-known bikini ensemble from "Return of the Jedi," because Fisher is not having it.
Do you think Princess Leia altered female roles in action movies and science fiction? Was she a game-changer?
Well, it made the female more active, it let her boss around men. She had contempt for and worked with men and I liked that. There was something human about her. It showed that she could do whatever she needed to do, and if she could do that, then everybody could do it. People identified with her. She's like a superhero, you know what I mean? She was real. I mean, you find out she has the Force, at that time it was used in her timeline on the movie.
Do people tell you that Leia changed their lives? What do people say to you about her?
That's what they say all the time. Initially it was very weird to me, because they're saying you and it's Leia but to them it's you and Leia. Over the years, they both get mixed up. I remember the first time it was weird to me was when someone wanted to thank me because they'd become a lawyer because of me. The main thing they said is that they identified with me. I felt like that was somebody that could be heroic without being a superhero and be relatable.
Those are some pretty big buns to fill. Do you think that the new women introduced in the new "Star Wars" movie will live up to the legacy of Leia?
They don't have to. That's not the point of that. It's a new generation doing what they have to do or what they feel they have to do. They need to do. What's good is that they're confident, and capable, and that they don't stop. They don't not do things just because they're afraid to do them. They're relatable, again. This [Daisy Ridley] I think is more relatable, she is not princess militant.
What is Daisy Ridley’s character Rey like? Do you think she'll resonate with the modern woman today?
How does the princess with the weird hair resonate? There's really no accounting for what people will find relatable, but I think it's some sort of gestalt that people have and that pulls you toward them. That makes you go on the journey they're on with them. They want you as a companion. This seems to me there's no trick to it. They have to find people that can aggravate that feeling.
What did Lucasfilm have to say, or promise, or guarantee, to get you to return to this world?
I would really like to say I made them promise that I wouldn’t do it unless I had respective lines coming out of my mouth all the time and I want to be hilarious. No. You say, "I'm female. I'm in show business. I'm well over 50." You say, "I want to make a living.” I had fun doing those movies and it's fun being a part of it. It's not always fun, but it's certainly a life-changing. I have been Princess Leia exclusively. It's been a part of my life for 40 years. Even if I didn't do the movie, I would still be Princess Leia. I'm like the diplomat to a country that I haven't been to yet. I am that country.
What did you and J.J. Abrams talk about in regards to Leia?
This was before I read the script and it was theoretical and where he wanted to her to be, and what I thought, and what we thought. It was the first time that we met. He was a fan. He had a great vision for everybody. Same thing with Leia. He's a great feminist sort of human. He was very exciting to talk. I hadn't felt that energized in a conversation about “Star Wars” in decades.
Did that translate to when you were on set?
Yes. Not consistently, that would be weird. [Abrams] is very energetic and enthusiastic. I don't think I ever saw him have a dark moment. He just has boundless energy, and interests, and vast, and all-encompassing and he's daunting to watch from a certain angle.
Are you protective of the character of Leia?
So protective, and that has happened over time. [Leia] has become more than a character that's on the screen. She has melted off-screen into the audience and out into the street and into everybody's life. Slept in their beds, sat on their walls, [people wear] her as Halloween costumes. That happened over time, and I do feel like the custodian. She's mine. Of course she’s not mine — she's George’s [Lucas] — but to a certain extent, she's mine.
When we meet Leia, 30 years after “Return of the Jedi,” is she in a better place?
In a lot of ways, yeah. This is a lot of years in between. She's still walking and talking. She doesn't have any mortal wounds or diseases, but things have happened that have been difficult.
How does someone like Leia -- she was such a huge part of the rebellion. She was in there blowing up stuff with everybody else. How does that character move on from the fighting? Does she keep fighting?
Nothing is going to be as good as that. I would have liked more of that. It would have been funny to see a 57-year-old woman bouncing around with a gun, and helping children with their homework. She still is actively in there and doing it, but it's a new generation. If I'm going to go to a event, it's my daughter's turn, you know what I mean? You had your deal. It's fun to still be in there, and doing it, and having relationships that reverberate over the years, but these other people were just beginning and it's their ride. It's a privilege to inform that, if they want you to. But this is not “Princess Leia Goes to Town.”
Sorry, I'm just thinking of “Princess Leia Goes to Town,” because I'd watch it.
Goes to Vegas, the Vegas planet and she gambles away the Force. Which is why there are so many towers, and why Vegas is still such a dark place, and why I'm going there tonight. To try to take back the Force from the casinos.
I'd watch it.
I would too. I would be in it.
Was there actual advice you passed on to this new class of “Star Wars” characters and what was it?
You did not want to be the person that says, "Yes, of course. I gave advice." I feel like a [jerk]. You know what I said to Daisy, “It makes dating tough.” Daisy doesn't need my help. She's a terrific actor. She can do things I could never do in terms of emotion and access. What's funny is this then and now. What's different, what's the same? A lot of it is the same.
Why is Daisy Ridley great as Rey?
I just said she was a great actress. I haven't seen the movie, but she's dedicated and she's absolutely fierce in her portrayal and her dedication to doing this thing. She's never worked before and she's carrying this movie. Are you kidding me? Then I think, "Well, I hadn't either," but I grew up in an acting family. And also I think she actually is Keira Knightley and that they've done something with bone marrow and baby's blood.
When the “Force Awakens” poster came out, Daisy was right in the middle. How does that make you feel?
Yes, good! There's seven versions of you that react to that. The worst one is the first one that's like, "Where am I?" You look over your shoulder when you say something like that because a) you're 75 years old. You're so lucky you're back. I think it's great and I think it's great for her. It's a great opportunity. I think it's going to be a very different thing for her, but we're very different people. But the thing that's the same is this dedication to a cause.
Then there's the flip side. I watched a news report that an angry dad was mad because there was the Princess Leia bikini.
How stupid was that? How about telling his daughter that the character is wearing that outfit not because she's chosen to wear it. She's been forced to wear it. She's a prisoner of a giant testicle who has a lot of saliva going on and 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…. That's asinine.
What do you like to see for the future of these characters in the “Star Wars” world? What do you want to see in the future?
Confidence, ability. The ability to take care of yourself and the people that you care about, and wisdom, but conveyed through this kind of fun way. They have that. You just watch the movie differently every time you see it. It's like certain books you read.
Did you ever have a moment of deja vu on set?
I was [on set] watching because I knew people would ask me this. You're so self-conscious, you're exhausted before you get out of your trailer. I was in my trailer in the back and I heard Harrison [Ford]. I recognized how his boots sound and I heard him say, "Is Carrie here?" That was funny. That was like we're back on “Star Wars” campus.
Wait, you were self-conscious on the "Star Wars" set? How was that possible? You're Carrie Fisher.
Yeah, OK. I think whatever you think. I think everyone thinks the same way, only some people pretend better. [I was thinking] “I’m going to do badly this time. I look like.... The new people are better. Are you kidding? What am I going to do? My hair looks bad again.”
Did you eventually get to a good place on set where you found Princess Leia again?
Yes. Absolutely. Abso-…-lutely That was a couple of months in. I just was comfortable. It was a skin again.
The Force is strong with these stories: