Remembering 'Star Wars' Actress Carrie Fisher
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. When I spoke with Carrie Fisher last month, I never dreamed that we'd be running that interview again today in memoriam. She died yesterday after suffering a heart attack last week. She was 60. She left an indelible mark on the zillions of people around the world who grew up watching her as Princess Leia. But "Star Wars" was hardly her only achievement. She was a novelist and adapted her own semi-autobiographical bestseller "Postcards From The Edge" into a movie directed by Mike Nichols. She started acting when she was a teenager and was in the film "Shampoo." She was born into a showbiz family, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.
But Carrie Fisher was also known and loved for her sense of humor and her willingness to talk frankly about the difficult issues she grappled with like addiction and bipolar disorder. We have three interviews to listen back to from 1990, 2004 and last month after the publication of her memoir about making the first "Star Wars" film. We'll start with 1990, when the movie adaptation of "Postcards" was released. The main character, who was played by Meryl Streep, had just gotten out of rehab. Fisher had formerly been in rehab herself. I asked Fisher why she didn't play the main character.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
CARRIE FISHER: It never occurred to me. First of all, if I could have the choice between me and Meryl Streep as who would be the actress in anything, I would go for Meryl Streep. And I didn't - I don't think I would have been able to carry that film (laughter). So it's not like Stallone writing "Rocky," you know, I think it's a film that would be perceived as being far more autobiographical than it actually is. And me mixing myself up into that will then turn it into an apparent documentary.
GROSS: Right. You've been in a lot of films and now you've had the chance to write dialogue for others. You've written some very funny lines for people. Have there been lines you've had to read during your career that you didn't think quite work that you really wanted to rewrite?
FISHER: General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. I have begged you to help...
FISHER: I have placed information vital to the survival of the rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. OK. We used to say to him you can type this stuff, but you can't say it.
FISHER: Yeah. I have tons of stuff that, you know, seems like it's a well-constructed sentence but it is not how people talk, it's how people write. So that's why I think it's sometimes easier for me to write for actors 'cause I know what's frustrating about, you know, sentences that come out just perfect. Well, who talks like that? And who of us don't overlap each other? Except on the radio, hopefully.
GROSS: (Laughter). Now, you not only have a new movie, but you have a new book and the book is called "Surrender The Pink." And in the back of the book you have acknowledgements. One of them reads, (reading) I would like to thank my mother for being such a good sport about what people think apropos of what I write. Would you elaborate on that?
FISHER: Well, meaning that she not only had to sit through my book where she said to me after reading it, she said, well, you know, dear, people are going to think that this is you. Meaning people are going to think this is her daughter taking a lot of drugs. And also in the movie now, you know, the character of the mother is - I don't know what is sort of like - drinks a couple of times and the daughter thinks that she's an alcoholic. But I wrote that intending it to be that if I had moved in with the pope after I got out of the rehab, I would have thought he was an alcoholic 'cause of the wine every day.
FISHER: I mean, that's how I thought. And my - I don't really believe the mother is an alcoholic in this. And it's - that's not based on anything current or true in my life. But I know it will be, you know, thought because the movie is so well done, that my mother and I shriek at each other on stairways. After - actually after she saw it, she said she thought the fight scene was so good that she thought we could find a nice stairway and try it out.
FISHER: But we actually, you know, fought when I was a teenager, which I think is a more appropriate time. And we were so upset by the fighting that we haven't repeated it.
GROSS: Carrie Fisher, you were probably photographed since you were born because you were the daughter of famous parents. How did that affect how you feel about...
FISHER: About being...
GROSS: ...Being on camera? Yeah.
FISHER: I don't like it. I don't like it. I really don't like it. I don't like my face. I don't like to look at it. I - and I just can't get past it. That's why I say I would rather not watch myself in movies. I enjoy the experience, but I won't really see the film until they're on cable deep on into my life so I can pretend it's someone else at another time.
GROSS: What are some of your memories of these press sessions as a kid when you were, you know, daughter of famous Hollywood celebs?
FISHER: They don't ask you anything. You just had to stay out of the living room and not, you know, make too much noise 'cause mommy was having a meeting.
GROSS: Were you ever though the adorable child that had to be on camera?
FISHER: Just in those sort of parades and stuff and at Christmas and what have you. And - a lot of - I - my mother liked to take a lot of pictures of everything. And we had leather bound books of every birthday and Christmas. And I used to just really sulk dramatically as a Hollywood child might be want to do. This is the biggest power struggle my mother and I had. My biggest rebellion was finally getting out of some Christmas shots once. I just felt that was just too intense to continuously be documenting our lives in this way. But that's - she liked to do it and she'd gotten used to it. I just didn't like it.
GROSS: You also didn't have a career that it was going to help.
FISHER: I had her career. I was part of her career. You know, that's part of the thing. They take home shots, particularly in those days. You know, that was like Debbie and her family. And then when my parents divorced, they took all those, like, spying shots - Debbie's tragedy, Debbie's sobbing over children.
FISHER: And I always just looked really like someone who will someday be on prescription medication.
FISHER: No, I looked sort of panicked and jostled. I looked like - it's, you know, caught in the headlights.
GROSS: (Laughter) You look back at those pictures now? Do you, I mean, do you have scrapbooks with this stuff in it?
FISHER: Every night sobbing - every night.
GROSS: Yeah, right, right.
FISHER: Every night drinking and drinking and looking through these scrapbooks of my mother.
GROSS: No, but really, do you have them anywhere? So you have these...
FISHER: Somewhere. I only come upon them every - I remember one evening I found stuff at the beach and I - some fan had sent my mother a scrapbook of the whole divorce thing which I have no memory of. I was 2. And there was all this stuff in it about Elizabeth and what she said at the time - well, you can't really break up a happy marriage. And I remember at whatever age I was then which was like 23, I was pissed. I thought, you know what, the classier thing to do, babe, is just don't say anything. Maybe that's true, but you don't come out and say stuff like that. So it's like when people ask me what I felt about her at that time, nothing. But at 23 I had a little bit of a thing where I thought, oh, really?
GROSS: Have you seen her since then?
FISHER: We don't really correspond. Yes, I have seen her at a party.
FISHER: But, you know, someone came up to me at a party once and said, Elizabeth is very upset that you haven't come and said hello. And I thought, Elizabeth is upset that I haven't come in - you're like, what is our relationship? So I was summoned. So I went up to her and I sang, (singing) we have so much in common.
FISHER: And whatever else ensued. It was this inane exchange.
GROSS: Your first movie role was in "Shampoo." hmm. And you were, what, 17?
GROSS: And you play the daughter of a woman who's having an affair with Warren Beatty, one of the many affairs that he's having, and then you proposition him quite aggressively in the movie. So you were pretty young, 17. And in your new book you have a line that goes, I'm not really fluent in sex. I speak it, but it's more a second language. Now, I don't know if you feel that's speaking for you or not, but...
FISHER: Oh, yes.
GROSS: (Laughter) Well, what was it like for you at 17 to, you know, be saying...
FISHER: Saying that line. I was a virgin. And Warren, of course, so lovely, informed the entire crew. So that there is - when you see the film, they cut instantly after the line because the entire crew would burst out laughing. Because there I am saying you want to - and, you know, I didn't know what I was referring to in fact. So it was, you know, I had no sense memory to draw on.
GROSS: What was your audition like for "Star Wars"?
FISHER: I like to say that I was sitting in Schwab's with that ridiculous hairstyle and George Lucas walked in. Isn't - there's no good story to it. You know, I knew Fred Roos, who was the casting director. I was going to drama college in England by then. And I came back and they did a video of me reading maybe alone, and then with Harrison. And that's, you know - and they did two of those, and I was selected out of a - was a very long process, but they sort of hired us as a trio.
GROSS: That's an excerpt of my 1990 interview with Carrie Fisher. We'll listen to an excerpt of our 2004 interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're remembering Carrie Fisher today with excerpts of three interviews I recorded with her. This next one is from 2004, recorded after the publication of her semi-autobiographical novel "The Best Awful." It continues the story of Suzanne Vale, the main character in "Postcards From The Edge." In "The Best Awful," she's an actress who feels lost after her husband leaves her for a man. Her extreme mood swings become so extreme she ends up in a mental hospital and is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Carrie Fisher was open about having bipolar disorder herself and having to deal with severe mood swings.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: Now, your character in the novel, when she's going through a manic period, will not only, like, just talk. She doesn't want to sleep. At 3:00 in the morning, while the rest of her family is trying to sleep, she can be hammering away, trying to redo the tiling on the patio at 3:00 in the morning. But she likes these manic phases, but then when she gets depressed life becomes quite unbearable. What do you find so appealing about the manic part of manic depression?
FISHER: Well, but - what every manic does. I mean, it's liquid confidence. You feel - everything that you do feels charmed and feels sort of like the best idea you've ever had in your life, and like you can do it better than anybody else and should do it, and have been chosen to do it by some god or other, and should stay up all night doing it, and should get everyone in the world up to do it with you. It's an extraordinary feeling. And I've - it's unlike any drug. And I've taken all of those.
FISHER: And you - there is no drug that you can say, oh, it's just like - I mean, it's just - it's this amazing feeling of just being the chosen one. And it eventually goes terribly awry. But, you know, just imagine feeling just like nobody could resist you, just like you could do anything that you want to do. You - any talent, anything that you pursue you could get done.
GROSS: How did you figure out that you were bipolar, that you had bipolar disorder?
FISHER: I didn't. Somebody had to tell me. And I had to be told by a lot of different people over the years. I was told when I was 24, which I thought was very annoying. And you really - they shouldn't - I mean, they told me at 24, and I was still taking drugs. And you really - when someone someone's drug-addicted or alcoholic and you're still taking a lot of substances or drinking a lot, that looks like manic depression. You can't really accurately diagnose someone, I think. Or I've been told that.
So - but when I got sober for the first time when I was 28, I was told again quite emphatically. And I believed it. Or I said I would, you know, try it their way. And so I took lithium for a year, but I said I would take it reserving the right to go off it if I didn't like it. So at the first opportunity, I went off lithium.
GROSS: What didn't you like about it?
FISHER: It put too much air in my world.
GROSS: (Laughter) What does that mean?
FISHER: And I just - I used to think I wanted to feel like others seemed, but I didn't have as much fun and there was no - there were less surprises. So I was in Australia and I went off the lithium. And I - then I wanted to go to China because it was near. I ended up getting in a lot of trouble.
GROSS: So what do you do now?
FISHER: Just - I do radio shows.
FISHER: I snort radio shows. You mean - what do I do now in what way?
GROSS: I mean, are...
FISHER: For fun?
GROSS: No, for medication.
FISHER: I take a lot of this dreck they give me for being a manic depressive. It's a horror. I'm - take the little round watchful pills they give me to keep my moods under control. And that's it. I'm consigned to this sort of - this way. I have to be under - I do this - I have an 11-year-old daughter. I am not going to put my daughter under any sort of stresses.
GROSS: In writing this novel, "The Best Awful," about a woman who, like you, has bipolar disorder, did you have to stand back and see what that looks like...
GROSS: ...From the point of view of, like, your friends, your family, your ex-husband?
FISHER: Yeah, I don't - and the awful thing is to put that look in people's eyes at any age. But, you know, at middle age it's really insane. Yes, I had to stand back and look at it. And it's inappropriate at any age, but - and certainly, you know, you want people to have compassion. And then you just think, I'm really pushing this, you know? But I - yes, I have to stand back and look at it like it's a character.
GROSS: So is it helpful at all in getting control of it to have stood back and written about a character with bipolar disorder? Or is - you know, or...
GROSS: ...Once you're in the grip of it, does it not really matter that you've been able to stand back?
FISHER: But I - in the grip of it, I have this thing that is standing back and watching it.
GROSS: Oh yeah?
FISHER: Which has probably saved my life half the time.
GROSS: That's, like, the writerly part of you.
FISHER: I'm - there's somebody watching.
FISHER: The only reason I remember something in the six days that I stayed awake - which felt like I was going to die. I mean, that's how they torture people. You know, soldiers or whatever you - I don't know what they do to the soldiers for keeping them awake. What do they get out of them? But I know now how they feel really pretty awful. But I - there was something in me tethered that stood back and watched. And it's that thing that can write the books.
And I guess it's that thing that - it's not cathartic, but it's that thing that's sort of sensible in me that's - you know, that does make me right. That has always stayed there and watched, that's watched while I was, you know, children of celebrities, that's watched while I was married to a celebrity, that - while I was Princess Leia, that has just watched all this stuff that's crazy that doesn't make any sense on a sensible person.
GROSS: One more question - do you ever go to the "Star Wars" conventions?
FISHER: I've been to an autograph thing of theirs, and it was beyond belief. I wanted to make a documentary of the people that get in the outfits. One woman cried and said that I had inspired her. I said, to what end? What are you? She said, a lawyer. And I didn't know how Princess Leia had inspired her to be a lawyer. But, you know, I get to talk - I talked to a man who made cardboard. I meet all - it was very interesting.
GROSS: Carrie Fisher recorded in 2004. My most recent interview with her was recorded last month after the publication of her memoir, "The Princess Diarist," which included the journal she kept while making the first "Star Wars" film. Let's hear some of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: Carrie Fisher, welcome back to FRESH AIR. 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.
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 was it 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 there are 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 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: 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: We'll hear more of the interview I recorded last month with Carrie Fisher in which she talked about the secret affair she had with Harrison Ford while making "Star Wars," her famous iron bikini, her dog and her worries about the health of her mother, Debbie Reynolds, after we take a short break. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "HAN AND LEIA")
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're remembering Carrie Fisher by listening back to our interviews with her. Let's get back to the interview we recorded last month after the publication of her memoir, "The Princess Diarist," which is about her experiences making the first "Star Wars" film and includes the journal she kept then.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: So what 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 really 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...
GROSS: Did you...
FISHER: ...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.
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 - 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: 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...
GROSS: ...If you could read an excerpt for us.
FISHER: Sure. (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. He - 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: 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 because they really like each other (laughter), 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: 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: 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.
FISHER: Which I thought they should've kept in there.
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 (laughter).
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 thought he was kidding. 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 - on my sides, you know, like a little crease. No creases were allowed. So I had to sit very, very rigid straight.
GROSS: So 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 relished that because I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight. And I couldn't wait to kill him.
GROSS: We're listening back to the interview I recorded with Carrie Fisher last month after the publication of her memoir, "The Princess Diarist." After a break, we'll hear her talk about how her mother Debbie Reynolds nearly died recently, we'll hear Carrie Fisher's famous dog in the background, and she'll talk about oversharing. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF VITAMIN STRING QUARTET PERFORMANCE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS - THE IMPERIAL MARCH (DARTH VADER'S THEME)")
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're remembering Carrie Fisher. Let's get back to the interview I recorded with her last month after the publication of her memoir, "The Princess Diarist," about her experiences making the first "Star Wars" film. It includes the journal she kept while shooting the film.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: In the acknowledgements to this new book - included in the acknowledgements are, 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 - she had two strokes. And she got pneumonia. I mean, it was just - everything that could go wrong went wrong. And it was just the year from hell. There were days we thought she was going to die. Yes, she stopped breathing.
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?
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. Is the relationship still contentious? Has it changed?
FISHER: Not at all. I can appreciate - she's an immensely powerful woman. 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. And there's very few women from her generation who worked like that, who just kept her 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.
GROSS: How did you feel about her celebrity when you were young? Was it helpful? Was it intrusive?
FISHER: Well, it - I had to share her, and I didn't like that. When we went out, people sort of walked over me to get her. 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. 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: You write that you felt doomed to have bad relationships with men 'cause 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 - 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 manicurist. 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: Yeah. 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.
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. 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 sometimes 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's 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.
GROSS: Oh, OK.
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 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?
GROSS: Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOG LICKING)
GROSS: Oh my God, that is such a loud lick (laughter).
FISHER: Well, he has a very big tongue.
FISHER: Well, at least it's not that wet. But it's a 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. And frequently, he sits in the chair and I sit on the ground.
GROSS: I can't believe I still hear him licking you.
FISHER: He is 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, though.
FISHER: He really does. I can't even - you'll have to - I'll post a picture where 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 hairdos?
FISHER: Oh, my favorite one to see is the metal bikini on men. And...
GROSS: (Laughter) Wait, is that a thing?
FISHER: ...That is one that's 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: Yeah. So that makes me feel good about myself.
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 recorded last month after the publication of her memoir, "The Princess Diarist," about her experiences making "Star Wars." Carrie Fisher died yesterday. We thank her for her films, her writing, her sharp observations and her great wit. After we take a short break, rock historian Ed Ward will talk about the Ramones' debut album, which was released 40 years ago. The anniversary was commemorated with a deluxe edition of that album. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.