The films' principals were not often together on the set — especially during the shooting of Empire — and the same goes for their promo tours. While they get along well with one another, there's little sense of a shared experience. And as for the actual creation of the film fantasy, vivid anecdotes are rare; Carrie Fisher, who plays Princess Leia, admits that the actors had to "pretend a lot.
"On the set, I would have to say, 'Don't blow up my planet, please!' and all I'm doing is looking at a board with an X on it, held by an assistant director who couldn't wait for the tea break.
"There are certain things you can bring to a movie that have substitutions in your life," she adds. "Well, you can't do that in this type of film. I had never seen hyperspace till I saw the finished films, so I could never imagine how they would do it. You just make what Kierkegaard called the 'great leap of faith.'"
"I felt curiously detached watching Empire," says Hamill. "I sound like my therapist, but you do start taking these things to heart, thinking, 'Yes, you are a terrible actor, and it was only the special effects that made it all memorable.'"
It is perhaps a sign of the times that the biggest entertainment phenomenon in history is also a wondrous cliffhanger that is as mesmerizing as it is manipulative. At this rate, we will have to wait until sometime around the year 2000 to see the final episode of Lucas' cinematic fairy tale, while the actors, who were paid sizable salaries (and, in the case of Star Wars, a reported bonus cut of Lucas' own profits), may never derive any great satisfaction from the most celebrated roles of their careers.
The man getting the most personal gratification from this project must be Lucas himself, who, after miraculously surviving a car crash at the age of eighteen, decided, "I should do something positive with my life because I was spared for a reason. Maybe I was here for Star Wars."*
None of the actors are apologetic about their part in this unfolding drama, but one gets the feeling that they would relish a greater comprehension of, and control over, the science-fiction serial that has assumed such power over their lives and careers. (Ford, Hamill, Fisher, Billy Dee Williams and most of the other costars are signed for The Revenge of the Jedi.)
"The Force is what you perceive it to be," Lucas notes, "and it is always changing."
I was nineteen, chosen at random, and told to lose weight, which at the time was a problem," says pretty, petite Carrie Fisher, 23, curled up in an overstuffed chair in her New York apartment. "This time around, for Empire, I was told to gain weight. The only film I'd done before Star Wars was Shampoo. But they decided to go with me anyway, a strong girl with a low voice and self-righteous nature."
Sardonic would be a better word. Fisher's flippant outlook on life may be the result of a childhood spent enduring mother Debbie Reynolds' two celebrated divorces ("She's a Texas chain-saw survivor; she's real great") and the gossip-magazine prattle that plagued father Eddie Fisher ("He's a little shellshocked from thirteen years of doing speed, but he's real friendly"). Her quick-witted style, heavily influenced by the blasé-just-before-the-gallows banter of Saturday Night Live alumnus Michael O'Donoghue (who's a close chum), contains traces of Joan Rivers, Bette Midler and a dollop of Dorothy Parker.
"I liked whenever Harrison and I yelled at each other," she giggles, recalling her favorite scenes from both films. "And whenever Darth Vader came in, a lot of the scenes were funny, because he was physically depicted by David Prowse, this muscle man from Cornwall or Devon. [Vader's eerie, wheezing voice was dubbed in by James Earl Jones.] And 'cause he had this Devon farmer's accent, we used to call him Darth Farmer!
"In the first film," Fisher adds, "I had to wear that white dress and I couldn't wear a bra. Everything was bouncing around, so I had to wear gaffer's tape for three months to keep my breasts down. A new crew member used to come up every day and get to rip it off—only kidding!
"Lucas always had to remind me to 'Stand up! Be a princess!' And I would act like a Jewish princess and lean forward, slouching, chewing gum."
Fisher laments the fact that several exotic scenes never made it into either film. "In the original script. I was captured, and when Mark and Harrison found me, I was hanging upside down with yellow eyes, like in The Exorcist. They shoulda just gotten Linda Blair for it. Some form of radar torture was done to me and I was in a beam, bruised and beaten up, suspended in midair. The reason it was cut from the film was because I was unconscious and the Wookie would have had to carry me for, like, the next fifteen minutes. But I loved the idea of having yellow eyes and being beaten and carried."
The talk shifts to Leia's romance with Han Solo in Empire, and Carrie slyly speculates that "if she had her wits about her, she would have fallen for the big, strong Wookie. She's not that experienced, but because she's a princess, she would have some kind of problem with whoever she dated. Like, 'She can't marry out of her solar system' or something."
Her notion of an X-rated sequel to Empire makes her howl with laughter.
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