Moviecrazed
  Web www.moviecrazed.com   



COMEDIC POSTSCRIPTS FROM THE EDGE


By SHARON WAXMAN
The New York Times, 11/15/06


There is a canvas sign hanging over Princess Leia’s parking lot that reads, “May the Life Force Be With You.”

Carrie Fisher’s house gets only more curious from there. To the left of the lot, up a long driveway, a small bungalow is home to Ms. Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds. Steps lead to the main house, a low-slung ranch where Bette Davis once lived. Now it belongs to Ms. Fisher, at 50 a Hollywood survivor and, as ever, a witty chronicler of its many pitfalls.

Inside is Ms. Fisher, clutching an ever-present Coke and a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. She strides past the stuffed moose head in her living room and the stained-glass panel of her daughter, Billie, 14, out to the terrace, which is filled with more collectibles. (A Howdy Doody head in a gilt display case, for example.)

It is not yet two years since Ms. Fisher found the body of her friend R. Gregory Stevens, a 42-year-old Republican operative, in her bedroom, an event that shook her to the core. His death was declared an overdose, but Ms. Fisher attributes it to sleep apnea and a surfeit of sleeping pills.

For Ms. Fisher, who has long struggled with drug addiction and a bipolar disorder, the sudden death at close range sent her into a post-traumatic spiral of shock and renewed drug use. Her hair turned white. Nothing was funny for months. But she finally climbed back toward stability, and work. Now, many years after her mother urged her to go onstage, Dear, and sing, she is finally doing so, in “Wishful Drinking,” a one-woman show that opens on Wednesday and runs through Dec. 23 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

This ironic look at her life gives no more than a nod to her friend’s recent death, but includes a survey of her often bizarre childhood as the daughter of Ms. Reynolds and the singer Eddie Fisher, details about her brief marriage to Paul Simon and her travels through addiction and struggle with mental illness. There’s some juicy stuff about making out with the actor Harrison Ford and her relationship with a man who later declared himself gay (Billie’s father, the agent Bryan Lourd).

In the show she sums all this up in the painfully deadpan observation: “If my life weren’t funny, it would just be true. And that would be unacceptable.”

Of course, Ms. Fisher has long been a gifted observer of her own life, which many already know well from her roman à clef, “Postcards From the Edge.” She followed that by writing a hilarious movie based on the book, with Meryl Streep as the Fisher character and Shirley MacLaine as the mother.

Now, a day after one of her previews, Ms. Fisher is dressed in black pants, black T-shirt, black jacket, black shoes and, lounging in a rattan armchair, already imagining the critical response. “I know I’m going to get reviews saying, ‘Someone tell her to shut up about her stuff,’ ” she said, her voice deep with cigarettes. “Not only do you know everything about me — it’s like, ‘Enough already’ too.”

Ms. Fisher got the idea for the play after seeing a number of other solo comic monologues — like ones by Julia Sweeney and John Leguizamo — and realizing she had a wealth of good material from countless gigs she had introducing the “Star Wars” creator George Lucas for a never-ending parade of awards.

“I’d host the evening, and end up roasting George: ‘Now I’m going to introduce someone who knows George better than anyone, except for a couple of hookers from Hong Kong. But they couldn’t be here because they’re busy at another benefit, for Mel Gibson,’ ” she recalled. But since those gigs never paid, she thought she might try to put together her patter in a show. “I’d never done anything like this, and I was raised to do a nightclub act,” she continued.

As a naturally rebellious child, she refused anything of the kind, until now. She said she hoped this show would be something on the model of a Spalding Gray monologue.

She has an unusual ability to regard her privileged youth and Hollywood fame with a writer’s detachment and a native skepticism. Her life certainly provides plenty of material. With time, her perspective has shifted to a more forgiving tone toward herself and the entertainment ecosystem she knows so well.

“I learned early on that it was a unique position to be in, one that I hadn’t earned,” she said, explaining her often caustic attitude. “It was an accident of birth.” She recalled being surprised by a video of herself, assembled this year for her 50th birthday, which showed her silent and perplexed-looking as a young child, very unlike the overexuberant teenager she became after puberty struck.

“I’m literally doing a show based on being an outsider looking in,” she said. “I’m a spy in the house of me.”

The times weren’t so jolly. When she was 2, her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. Her mother married a shoe magnate, Harry Karl, who lost his fortune, and then his wife’s.

“By the time I was 15, all the money was gone; I’ve never had the sense that money stays,” Ms. Fisher said. “And I always had a sense of shame. I grew up on the back side of show business. So I had no desire to go into it. It had beat up my mother. I had a front-and-center view of how that hurt her. I understood that when they were done with you, they were done.”

While still a teenager, Ms. Fisher had a fleeting role in “Shampoo,” and then, after auditioning as a lark, landed the part that has permanently knit her into the cultural fabric: Princess Leia in “Star Wars.” In her new show she mocks her inability to separate from that role of nearly 30 years ago, and closes with familiar dialogue that she can’t seem to shake.

Now single, rearing a teenager, Ms. Fisher can admit that contentment is less elusive than it once was. “I was born into everything; I had everything,” she said. “But I could never feel my life. So much of it is good, and I can’t feel it. It’s over there.”


Does she still feel that way?

“Not all the time,” she said. “I’m still transfixed at looking at how things are, and not how they ought to be.

"I am happy,” she adds. “Among other things.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


TO READ GUY FLATLEY'S 1977 INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE FISHER, click here.