Following the death of Carrie Fisher last week at the age of 60, Mark Hamill spoke with Entertainment Weekly to share memories of his Star Wars costar. Read his tribute below, as told to EW’s Anthony Breznican.
Before Star Wars, the world was pre-programmed to accept a storybook damsel-in-distress who cowers as the men save her, but Carrie Fisher shattered that mold. She was so take-charge that she made Harrison Ford and me look like a couple of chumps. Not only was Princess Leia demanding — as royalty ought to be — but she was even judgmental about the kind of aircraft that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker picked her up in: ‘You came in that thing?’ There was great humor in that, and a relatability that was effortlessly empowering: “I don’t need a guy to be fulfilled in this world or any other.” Carrie was an inspiration for young girls and women everywhere.
When I met Carrie, I was amazed at how, within 20 minutes, we felt like we had known each other for years. Some of the things she told me that first night were brutal assessments of her father and stepfather. You think, “Should she be telling me this?” Carrie didn’t just take you into her confidence, she bulldozed you into her confidence. That’s funny because if you confided in Carrie, you were guaranteed it was going to be everywhere. In fact, if you wanted to get something out, you could say, “Hey Carrie, let me tell you this, but you can’t tell anybody…” Then everybody would know. She had no vault.
She was only 19 when I met her. On one level, she was still such a little girl — I was a worldly 24, of course — and yet she had this old soul. It seemed like she’d lived many, many lives. Because she was a teenager, and was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher — these big Hollywood stars — you had this anticipation that she was going to be a certain type of person. To an extent she was, but she was so much more than that. Hilarious, and dark, and sardonic. You got a kind of contact high with her. She was like a latter-day Auntie Mame or Dorothy Parker, and so witty that you really had to be on your game. It was an accomplishment to be able to make her laugh.
We were the closest — Harrison Ford, Carrie and I — on the first film. By the time of The Empire Strikes Back, the storylines had split us up, so the relationship on set wasn’t as intense. But she still had that ability to make you feel like you were the most important thing in her life at that moment.
The only predictability about Carrie was her unpredictability. She could be infuriating. As caring as she was — I’d go to New York and she’d find out I was in a hotel and demand I stay at her apartment — she could be equally thoughtless. But that was just her. You accepted the whole package.
Over the years, we’d talk on the phone or see each other at a convention, but we had lost that closeness we once had. So coming back for The Force Awakens was a real gift. We could reconnect in a meaningful way. She was very open about how scary it was. But I thought she looked fantastic, and so dignified. We couldn’t be what we were before — running around the Death Star, bumping heads and swapping one-liners — but that’s life. And that’s what these stories deal with: Life and death, renewal and hope. Once we expressed our fear, we were able to embrace the experience, and it was easy to fall back into that energy we had before. I loved her guts and she drove me crazy. We really were like a brother and sister.
I’m still trying to process this. I can’t think of her in the past tense. I feel so devastated that I can’t imagine what Carrie’s daughter Billie or her brother Todd are going through. It was too soon. I’m sure there is a long list of people who knew her better than I did, but our relationship was special. We were in the garage band that hit it big, and then we split up and went on our merry ways. She was something else. I met only one Carrie Fisher. I don’t expect to meet another.