Carrie Fisher was just 2 when a Hollywood scandal thrust her into the spotlight: Her celebrity-crooner father, Eddie Fisher, left her movie-star mother, Debbie Reynolds, for a bigger movie star, Elizabeth Taylor. At 19, Fisher became a movie star herself, as Princess Leia in Star Wars. Then came booze, drugs and a struggle with mental illness she now controls with medication and electroconvulsive therapy. Now 54, Fisher tells the (hilarious) story in Wishful Drinking, both a book and one-woman stage show, opening in Toronto this week.
Everyone associates you with Princess Leia, of course, but my personal favourite role of yours was Marie in When Harry Met Sally. How difficult was it to film that scene where you and Bruno Kirby are on the phone at the same time with Harry [Billy Crystal] and Sally [Meg Ryan]?
Oh my God. Horrible. We were all in one soundstage, all four of us. So that means me and Bruno in bed, Meg somewhere, and Billy somewhere. And we all have to do it in real time. It’s not edited; we did it as a play. And so we did it like 40 or 50 times. Crazy. So finally [director] Rob [Reiner] goes ‘Okay we got it.’ And Bruno says ‘I think I want another one.’ And I said ‘You’ll get that one alone, sir.’ It was hard. I don’t like doing things that are hard. But it was worth it.
You don’t like doing things that are hard but you get onstage every night and talk about.…
That’s not hard.
How does all of this personal revelation affect your daughter [Billie, now 18]?
The main thing that bothered her was saying that I turned her father gay. So I’m not touching that again.
How did your father’s death affect you? Your relationship with him was different....
But it was good. It was good by the end. I missed him all my life, but now I know who I missed. I got to know him. Because I took care of him. He was not a father. He was a kid. So once I became his parent, we could have a relationship.
Did you ever ask him about leaving your mother when you were so young?
Nah. You don’t have to; you look at Elizabeth. I screamed at him: ‘You were horrible!’ I don’t know how much I asked, though.
Elizabeth Taylor died recently too. Your relationship with her must have been pretty complex.
It was good, though. We got along great once we got over the little hump in the beginning. I had heard that she called my mother a Goody Two-Shoes and so I said, ‘I heard you did that and I don’t think it’s cool. She may have been a Goody Two-Shoes, but in light of what happened, and you know 100,000 reasons why that’s not cool.’ And she kind of looked off and said ‘I don’t remember doing that,’ but clearly she did. Anyway, she goes away and she comes back and she goes ‘I’m going to push you in the pool.’ And she did.
Elizabeth Taylor pushed you in a pool?
She pushed me in her pool, yes.
Did you maintain a relationship with her?
Yeah, it was great after that. And we did These Old Broads, a TV movie, and my mom had a scene with her and they talked and laughed about “Freddie,” their old husband. I can’t believe I named him that. And they got along great at that time and it was funny.
I guess you can get over anything, right?
Unless you’re dumb. I mean, unless you don’t want to.
Do you ever wish that you hadn’t been cast as Princess Leia?
No. Well, not right now; probably sometimes. But I don’t go around making a point of it.
What did you think when you were first shown the bagel-like hairstyle for the role?
I thought it was horrible, but I thought [George Lucas] was gonna fire me ’cause they told me to lose weight when I got the part and I really couldn’t do it. I had a fat face. I only weighed like 105. So they brought me this horrible hairstyle and they said what do you think of it and I said I think it’s awesome. What was I gonna say?
On Canadian content, I’ve read that you’re a Leonard Cohen fan and I know you were once engaged to Dan Aykroyd.
I really like Canada. And I was with Danny for a while and he was adorable. He was darling. The first person I was ever engaged to. I went somewhere with him. Ottawa. Eh? I love that accent.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Wishful Drinking is at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto July 12-Aug. 21.