While Princess Leia fights the good fight throughout the galaxy, Carrie Fisher is the one battling behind the scenes on her behalf.
Exactly where we find the character in December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, three decades after the events of Return of the Jedi, is top-secret information worthy of Bothan spies, but at Star Wars Celebration last week Fisher was able to tease fans with, at the very least, promise of another distinctive look – even if Leia’s signature hairstyle is no longer en vogue.
“The buns are, you know … they’re tired now,” Fisher told fans just before the new trailer was revealed. “We’re probably not going to have the futuristic buns. But I think we have an alternate thing that you’ll be very into — which is not the metal bikini, I promise!”
But there’s far more than style to Leia, who started out as a damsel in distress but proved she could hold her own with a blaster. Over the course of the original Star Wars trilogy, she evolved from a diplomat to a military leader, an undercover agent, and even a boots-on-the-ground frontline soldier.
Catching up with EW after the panel, Fisher was candid about her worries as a new generation joins the quest, her protectiveness of Leia, and which iteration of the princess remains her favorite. (Clearly, not the gold bikini version.)
In sci-fi fandom, Leia’s importance can’t be overstated. She was the lone standard-bearer for women in the Star Wars universe, providing little girls everywhere with a connection to a fantasy realm dominated by boys. She even inspired the Legion of Leia following. It was a lot of responsibility for the actress, but now she’s not carrying it alone.
With The Force Awakens, she will be joined onscreen by Daisy Ridley’s desert scavenger, Rey, and unspecified characters played by Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie and 12 Years a Slave Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, among a handful of others. (In the stand-alone Rogue One movie, about the quest to steal plans for the original Death Star, The Theory of Everything’s Felicity Jones has been cast as one of the leads.)
“It’s good to have a little help,” Fisher told the crowd. “But I liked being the only one when I was 19… Now, I need some backup.”
Eventually, Fisher will get to talk about where we find Leia’s character (beyond hinting at her look), but for now she’s doing her best to keep secrets – which she admits is not her strong suit.
Entertainment Weekly: How did it feel out there in front of that arena full of screaming fans? You’ve done this a lot over the years.
Carrie Fisher: I get self-conscious when I’m on stage. Like that, I’m standing next to a beautiful, very tall, very young girl [Ridley], and so I was thinking about that in the beginning, like they just wanted to do this to me. But the fans are great with this. They love this movie. It’s a huge part of their lives.
EW: I’m not sure how much you worked together, but did a bond form between you and Daisy on set?
Fisher: Yeah, I’ve been trying to help her. I’ve been warning her, that’s how I help people. [Laughs.] You know, ‘Get ready!’ Because there is an element of it which is frenzy. And I said to her, ‘Pay attention because you want to remember it.’
EW: That’s good advice, too. Because it can go by in a whirlwind.
Fisher: Yes! And it’s chaotic.
EW: That’s something Mark Hamill told me, that this new film is a chance to enjoy Star Wars in ways you guys couldn’t before. With more … perspective?
Fisher: It’s extraordinary that they’re doing it at all. Imagine doing Gone with the Wind with Hattie McDaniel 30 years down the line.
EW: Before this, is Leia a character that you had kind of resigned to the past? That you were sure you were done with?
Fisher: I can’t. [Laughs.] It’s me. I’m the custodian of Leia. I keep her in my bag!
EW: You’re a novelist, a screenwriter, playwright. Did you ever try to change what she says or how she is portrayed?
Fisher: I do have a reaction to what they write for me, and that has to be a certain way or I’m uncomfortable. In one of the drafts, in one of the sequels, I said, I don’t think I’m right for the part.
EW: For the new movie?
Fisher: It could be anywhere! [She gives a look that suggests she doesn’t want to specify.] It wasn’t what I thought Leia should be. It didn’t feel like her. Like me. But it’s a combination. I’ve become that. She’s become me, and I’ve become her. Because it’s been a while. And people call me that, they go, ‘Leia!’ and I go like this: [sweetly, eyes fluttering] ‘…Yes?’ [Laughs] What do they think I’m going to do?
EW: She’s also a powerful character. As the father of a little girl who loves Star Wars, you are one of her favorite princesses!
Fisher: And it’s been amazing for girls. And that’s what’s great. It’s great that there are new women. That’s going to be great for the girls too. Because they only had me to buy as a doll — and then take my head off.
EW: Do you have a favorite version of Leia? The white gown with the buns, the snowscape commander on Hoth …?
Fisher: The snow commander. I like any sort of thing that looks like a gas station attendant. [Laughs.] Designer gas station attendant!
EW: My favorite is Princess Leia in the Boushh disguise from Jedi. She’s totally badass there. I also like to imagine the real Boushh waking up somewhere without his uniform – maybe wearing only gold underwear! Poetic justice.
Fisher: [Imitating her line after a blind Han Solo asks who she is.] ‘Someone who loves you …’ And someone who’s really hot behind this mask! [Mimes slapping Solo.] ‘God, wake the f–k up!’
EW: Was it a relief to finally be able to talk about the movie a little bit publicly? I know you’ve been under lock and key.
Fisher: [Alarmed.] Did I talk about it? I don’t think I’ve talked about it! [Laughs.]
EW: You just hinted at a new look.
Fisher: I am so self-conscious because I have a big mouth. Everything else is little. But my mouth is huge. So I have to be very careful. All through the beginning when we were starting, and [Lucasfilm] would say, ‘You can’t say that! Don’t say that!’ I was like, ‘You mean I can’t say that? Well if I can’t say that, we’re f–ked. Because I’m used to being candid. [Laughs.] So that’s not a good thing to be.