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Carrie Fisher: Still On The Edge


Carrie Fisher wrote and performs in "Wishful Drinking."


Carrie Fisher refers to her "all-too-eventful life."

She was a child of Beverly Hills: the daughter of '50s film princess Debbie Reynolds and singing idol Eddie Fisher. So it was no surprise that she began acting in films at an early age. (Her debut was as Warren Beatty's teen babe in 1975's "Shampoo.")

It was a surprise, however, when one of those movies — 1977's " Star Wars" — became a sensation, and her character, Princess Leia Organa, became a cinematic icon.

Another surprise was when the smart and sardonic Fisher turned to writing, crafting a series of witty novels (from 1987's "Postcards from the Edge" to 2004's "The Best Awful There Is") in which she dealt with a celebrated mother; drugs, alcohol and addiction, having bipolar disorder and finding out your lover is gay, all of which have played a part in her life.

There were also her Hollywood party days, her marriage to songwriter Paul Simon and the discovery of a friend dead in her bed.

Fisher uses all of this as inspiration for her all-out autobiographical one-woman stage show "Wishful Drinking," which premiered in 2006 in Los Angeles. The show plays Hartford Stage starting Wednesday and continuing through Aug. 17

We recently talked to Fisher, 51, about — among other things — returning to the stage, dealing with an independent daughter and her celebrated night with Sens. Chris Dodd and Teddy Kennedy. The following is an edited telephone interview:

Fisher: I'm calling from the privacy of my very own home in Los Angeles. I just finished working out.

Q: So you're all sweaty?

A: I didn't do it that hard. But I did it! And now I'm going to go through my show and start to edit it.

Q: The show is still a work-in-progress?

A: Yeah. I mean, it's all there, basically, but it's sort of the kind of thing that you can still mess with. Plus I have audience-participation stuff in the show.

Q: Like sing-alongs?

A: Noooooo. But that could be funny

Q: What made you go for all-out autobiography instead of your previous roman à clef novels? And performing it yourself alone on stage, no less?

A: Both my parents are gifted performers. My father is less a gifted performer than singer, but either way, their whole trip has been the stage. But who'd want to follow acts like theirs? I had stage fright all those years. Like my legs would shake.

Q: Even when you were in the chorus of your mother's Broadway show, "Irene" in 1973?

A: Well, if we're going to go nuts on my stage career, I also did a terrible play on Broadway called "Censored Scenes From King Kong" [in 1980].

Q: I must have missed that.

A: Most everyone did.

Q:But your stage fright?

A: Over time, I have been doing speeches for you-name-it, quite a bit of it having to do with drug addiction or alcoholism or mental illness. So over time I've developed material.

Q: And a comfort level, too?

A: Yes, but look how many years that took. I spent 30 years without being comfortable. The other thing I've been doing for years is giving George Lucas awards, and all of that became part of my material. Listen, at my age, I'm not going to go and have some big film career. I never really wanted to do that, but I enjoyed it once I did it. You'd be a fool to go, "No, I don't want to..." But that was something else I sort of fell into. It took me this many years to feel that I could do it on my own terms and that I wasn't terrified.

Q: There's a great quote attributed to you: "If my life weren't funny, it would just be true. And that would be unacceptable."

A: That's in the show. That's how it starts out.

Q: How important is humor, and when did you know that you were funny, as opposed to a kid who could be amusing?

A: It's a survival technique

Q: But professionally funny?

A: Ah, professionally funny. My hero growing up was Dorothy Parker. I wanted to be her, and I worked out all this stuff when I was a teenager: I was 5-feet-1 1/2 -inches tall, and so was she; we both had dark hair, dark eyes, half-Jewish. Later on, she married a gay guy. She did not have a child — but she did miscarry. Also, she married the gay guy twice. Thus far I haven't done that, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

Q: What has been the reaction about some of the people you talk about in the show?

A: I went to anybody that I talk about and asked them if it was OK to use the material. If they were uncomfortable, I'd take it out because I'm not here to make people's lives worse — that I know of.

Q:A lot of those stories were public knowledge anyway.

A: Everything about my life is public knowledge. All I ever wanted to do was make it mine and say, "OK, here's something you know about me, but here's my version of it."

Q: You're so identified with Hollywood life.

A: But I also lived in New York City for 10 years and England for four [where she attended London's Central School of Speech and Drama]. When my daughter finishes high school, I will probably move to either England or...

Q:...Hartford?

A: Not Hartford. I would have to go where I know people. Maybe upstate New York, where two of my best friends live. I'd just rather not be in L.A. now. But who knows? Maybe I'll meet someone when I'm in Hartford and get married and stay there. So will you come and meet me and set me up with a blind date with someone?

Q: What's the perfect date material for you?

A: (Sighs) No one. Wait, here's the quality that they would have to have: Imperturbability

Q: When a fan approaches you, do you know what kind of fan they are: from "Star Wars" or your acting gigs or your writing?

A: "Star Wars" — a huge amount of "Star War" fans. But there will be the ones who run up to you and scream: "I'm mentally ill,too!"

Q: Exactly what you want to hear in the security line at an airport.

A: All of this is hard for my daughter, P.S. — about me having been a drug addict and having a manic-depressive illness, blah-blah-blah — that embarrasses my daughter, and rightly so.

Q: Does the "Star Wars" thing embarrass her, too?

A: She likes that after a while. But at her age, it's all about them and who gives a [expletive] about anyone else. Q: You were quoted as saying,"Leia follows me like a vague smell."

A: It's more faint now. But as long as I can turn it into my joke, or whatever, then it's easier. I'd be a fool to have that bother me.

Q: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, you were linked with Sen. Chris Dodd.

A: I was stunned about the "dating" tag. I was shooting a film in Baltimore or somewhere, and someone I knew said, "Hey, you want to go on a blind date with a senator?" So I said, "All right. Whatever."

Q: Man, it could have been Strom Thurmond.

A: I was, like, 28, so I was sober — though no one else at the table was. But Chris Dodd was a very nice guy, but it's not like we really dated. I love seeing that he put it that we "courted." First of all, who [expletive] does that, anyway? But I was completely naive when it came to politics. Actually, there's a hilarious quote from me at the time, where I asked Chris Dodd how many senators there were. I told my mom, thinking that was funny, in an inept way, and my mother said, "Oh, darling, everyone knows that there's one per state."

But certainly we shared one evening that was an amazing experience. There was one evening with me, Chris Dodd, Teddy Kennedy and some other people who lived next door to the Kennedys, and it was insane. It was during everyone's rowdy period. Actually, Teddy Kennedy and I really squared off on each other, and it was pretty funny. I think he was trying to shock me because he's Teddy Kennedy and he can do and say whatever he wants, and my feeling was, "Nyah-nyah." But I was trying to shock him, too. Chris enjoyed it.

Q: Who won?

A: Uh ... it's a long time ago. He's Teddy Kennedy, so let's pretend he won. Now, if you write this...

Q: I'll be discreet.

WISHFUL DRINKING plays Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Wednesday through Aug. 17. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; and Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $31 to $60. For tickets and information: 860-527-5151 or www.hartfordstage.org.

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