Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher © 2010 Home Box Office

Carrie Fisher’s successful stage production of the autobiographical tale of her life, Wishful Drinking, comes to HBO as a feature-length documentary this month.

An actress, screenwriter and bestselling author (Postcards from the Edge, The Best Awful and Wishful Drinking), Fisher is the daughter of the late singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, known as ‘America’s Sweethearts’ in the late ‘50s.

Carrie Fisher became an icon herself when she was chosen at 19-years-old to portray Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. Despite growing up with ‘Hollywood royalty,’ and finding fame early in her career, Fisher’s life had its challenges, which she chronicles in Wishful Drinking.

Note: The interview with Carrie Fisher took place a month before the death of her father, Eddie Fisher.

When did you first realize that sharing your stories would be cathartic for you and entertaining for others?

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher © 2010 Home Box Office

Gradually what I realized was when I got sober, overdosed and went to a mental hospital, all these things went in the paper. And my thing was if it’s going to be out there, please let my version be in it. Also, you know there is the saying, ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets.’ I’m sure you have that T-shirt! If you can claim it, it has very little power over you.

I used to say, ’I want to live on one side of the magnifying glass or the other; on the side that makes big things small, or small things big.’ And I live on the side that makes big things small. You meet a better class of people there. So I make big things small.

Had you always wanted to do a one-woman show?

I had stage fright most of my life. It was things my parents’ did. They put me in their shows and they had me sing. And I was just terrified. I didn’t ever go into show business. The trick would have been to stay out.

So I never would have thought I would be doing a show. I preferred writing, and the solitariness of it. And it took getting older to realize that I was sort of a spectacle anyway.

You’ve been through so much in your life, how did you decide what to put in the show?

Well, it evolved. When the things happened at the time I would have been too ashamed to talk about them. So there’s a great relief in being able to just own this and have it be something that happened that I learned from and wasn’t defeated by.

If I could do that, and some of the stuff was really hard, then anybody could do it. I don’t have the kind of courage or bravery that the people do that have to live with poverty and live in Port-au-Prince, I was lucky. My tragedies have happened and I was able to eat through them.

In the show you point out the similarities between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston and your mom and Eddie Fisher, when he had the affair with Elizabeth Taylor while she was doing Cleopatra. But Brad’s career has continued to flourish and the affair with Elizabeth Taylor destroyed Eddie’s career.

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher © 2010 Home Box Office

Well, he didn’t have as big a career as Brad’s to destroy, though it was considerable. It is very similar, and I did point that out to Brad once at a party. He pretended to know what I was talking about. Yes, it destroyed my father. But it wasn’t simply divorce that destroyed him; it was every choice after that. It was drugs, it was Connie Stevens, it was the Playmate of the Year, it was Ms. Louisiana, marrying her. My dad is not the bastion of good judgments, but he’s really fun.

Not that this is riveting, but they were never really in love. They loved being loved, in a way. My mother said, ‘We went into Yankee Stadium one time, and 30,000 people stood up and cheered.’ So literally they were a concept that was born in a publicity office practically, and they embraced being embraced. It’s the saddest life ever.

How much do you talk about Star Wars in the show, and what new perspective were you able to offer?

Well, I talk about sleeping with all the Ewoks and why Jabba and I split up! (she laughs) My God, Star Wars was a big event. So what fresh perspective can I bring? It’s great to be merchandised; I don’t get any money for it!

Some of the show came from roasting George Lucas. I gave awards to everybody for many years. That is what my job was. You’re honoring Meryl Streep, I’m here. You’re honoring George, I’m here. You’re honoring Harrison Ford, I’m here. So some of the show came out of those honorings.

How did it feel wearing the hair buns again?

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher © 2010 Home Box Office

Like an asshole, a complete, undignified jerk-off, but other than that, really good!

Has your mother seen the show?

Yes, she has.

What was her candid opinion of it?

Well, I’m out of her will. But she doesn’t have any money anyway. My mom is like any mother. She’s actually glad that I’m doing this kind of show because she thinks it’s like a night club, so I finally can understand her. So my rebellion all my life was not doing a night club act! Not drugs, all that stuff was fine. But the night club she was happy about.

Is she able to laugh at the Eddie Fisher/Elizabeth Taylor situation the way you can now?

God, I hope so. It was 51 or 52 years ago. Yeah, absolutely she does. She says, ‘The last time I saw Eddie he went out to get some cigarettes and he hasn’t come back since,’ and I asked him, ‘Where did you go, down the Nile?’ (she laughs)

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.