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Carrie Fisher's 'Wishful Drinking'

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Carrie Fisher's 'Wishful Drinking'


Carrie Fisher's 'Wishful Drinking'

Carrie Fisher's 'Wishful Drinking'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Actress and writer Carrie Fisher is starring in Wishful Drinking, her one-woman show currently running in Los Angeles. Fisher is best known for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars films, and for her novel-turned-film, Postcards from the Edge. She speaks with Alex Chadwick about how she mined humor from fractured relationships and struggles with drugs, alcohol and mental illness.


This is the Thanksgiving DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick. Let us all give thanks that most lives are less complicated than this one.

(Soundbite of running water)

CHADWICK: Here's a line I wrote down. This show is a pathetic bid to gain the attention I lacked as a child.

Ms. CARRIE FISHER (Actress): Well, it is, and I only say that because I actually never, ever wanted to be an actress.

CHADWICK: Carrie Fisher. She is an actress, and a writer, daughter, sister, wife, ex-wife, mother, survivor. She's now created a funny and personal one-woman show, “Wishful Drinking.” It comes out of her own story that began with one of the most broken families of American pop culture. Her mother is singer and actress Debbie Reynolds, her father the singer Eddie Fisher, who notoriously left both of them for serial home-wrecker Elizabeth Taylor. So, Carrie Fisher's personal history was already dizzy when she got a bit part in a Warren Beatty film and then exploded into “Star Wars” as Princess Leia.

Ms. FISHER: What happened was, I grew up watching my mother's career diminish. You know, she was a huge star when I was a child, and then as a teenager, when everything becomes very vivid, mostly you do because you're so self-obsessed as a teenager and especially if you're an alcoholic, you're triple-self-obsessed. But, you know, her life was my life. So, I watched her stop getting movie roles and things started to go away, and then she lost her contract at MGM, and she had to go and do nightclubs.

So, I knew better than I knew anything that what happens with stardom, with fame, is it goes away, and it leaves you in a humiliated space. And, I didn't want that. So, when I became a celebrity, it was with horror because I knew what was coming.

CHADWICK: You didn't want to be an actress, but you go try out for this role in a movie.

Ms. FISHER: In a cult film. Now, that movie I did a one-day role on “Shampoo.” That was like a goof. And then on this cult film, Star Wars - no one cared about that movie, no one cared. And then it did something that a movie was never meant to do and had never done. It became a blockbuster. It busted blocks. It had lines, and it turned me in to a thing that I now was going to lose, and I knew from the instant I had it that it would go.

CHADWICK: Let's say you're pitching Carrie's life as a movie or a book, which she has already, by the way, and very successfully in the bestseller novel and hit movie “Postcards from the Edge.” Think of the real-life cast: Elizabeth Taylor as the evil stepmother, okay, and then Paul Simon as the wandering troubadour love interest. They were married for two years. Harrison Ford as the co-star pal. Then, the alcoholism, the drugs, the bipolar shifts that get her locked up and medicated, and finally true love, a solid romance, a baby - until her guy, Brian(ph), says he's fallen for someone else named Scott(ph).

You note that when you were writing your book, you quote yourself.

Ms. FISHER: Well, if I don't, maybe no one else will.

CHADWICK: Of your former husband Brian - I was tempted to marry him to tell how we met.

Ms. FISHER: No, not Brian. That's about the guy that pumped my stomach.

CHADWICK: Never mind, the interview's over.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FISHER: No, the guy that pumped my stomach - and I never did marry Brian. I only had a child with him.

CHADWICK: How long after your daughter was born?

Ms. FISHER: A year.


Ms. FISHER: One year.

CHADWICK: Well, that's got to be a…

Ms. FISHER: Blow?


(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: It's got to be difficult. I mean, you make light of it the show, but still.

Ms. FISHER: You have to make light of any of these things. It was difficult at the time, but the great thing is I did Katie Couric's show at some point, and she said to me: But you know, I would've thought it would be easier because he was rejecting all women and not you. And I looked at her and was like: You know, I should've thought about it that way. Where were you, Katie? That is a great point of view.

But we've actually managed. We're very good friends now, and he's a very good father, and I'm very proud of that because my parents could not stay friends, and that was - I didn't want that for my daughter. So - and in a way, I probably picked him - you know, it's the dorky fricking(ph).

CHADWICK: No, you can't. No, you didn't pick him for that.

Ms. FISHER: And Scott - and that makes Scott Elizabeth Taylor, the man who got the man that got away.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: You mention that name, Liz Taylor.

Ms. FISHER: Yeah. And she's great, Elizabeth Taylor, and I've become good friends with her, and you know, I did a thing - I wrote this thing, “These Old Broads,” which didn't turn out well, but she was in it with my mother, and I actually got to write a scene between Elizabeth and my mother that was basically about Eddie, which was great. And to see them sort of get together and improvise on it and stuff like that was just awesome.

CHADWICK: You said a few moments ago that you were an alcoholic when you were a teenager. Is that true?

Ms. FISHER: Well, I was.

CHADWICK: Or are you saying…?

Ms. FISHER: I'm an addict. But if all the drugs ran out, for sure I'd go to the alcohol. So I was in rehab at 28 - 25, 26, and it just was so bad so fast.

CHADWICK: But when you - were you writing at that age?

Ms. FISHER: I always did. In fact, I was reading last night. I found all this stuff, notes I kept during - when I was with Paul.

CHADWICK: Great cast.

Ms. FISHER: Yeah.

CHADWICK: Paul Simon's in the cast.

Ms. FISHER: And we had great arguments, and I just did not remember. One of them was he said to me - it's not an argument - he said, you're the only girl I know that compliments herself. And I said, I think it's sweet that I do it, though.

CHADWICK: Carrie Fisher has just turned 50. Maybe that is what has prompted this new show, “Wishful Drinking.” It's funny - much funnier than you would think given this material: failed relationships, families gone wrong, addictions and mental illness that she has to treat still with daily medication.

Ms. FISHER: It controls the symptoms, but it's still happening underneath.

CHADWICK: Well, how do you write when there's something like that?

Ms. FISHER: Oh, but when it's happening, if you have a manic thing, if it's happening, it's great. I mean, ride the brainwave, you know, surf it. But I mean, that is the best time to work. But if you're depressed, that's not so hot, and you don't want to do anything. What do they call that? They call it blunted affect. You just are - nothing works.

And it just, it's like it takes all the color out of everything, and you just -the facts of your life are the same, the fiction you make up about it changes. And that means everything because what you have to say about it is what makes it so. And so, if you're depressed, you start to tell yourself well, this is all bad, and it's going to get worse, and it's never going to change, and then I'm going to die. You know, it's just - but if you're manic, it's fantastic.

CHADWICK: Does having a kid help that?

Ms. FISHER: You take - because you have a child, you have to take medication. It's not fair to subject them to the facicitudes(ph) of, you know, your mood disorder. It's just, it's horrible. My daughter, I taught her that a faucet was broken in my brain so when I was depressed, the faucet would go drip, drip, drip, and mommy was in bed. And when I was manic, the faucet would go shh, and you're want to go shh because mommy does not shut up.

CHADWICK: Writer, actress and humorist Carrie Fisher. Her one-woman show, “Wishful Drinking,” runs at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles through December 23.

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