Carrie Fisher on “Wishful Drinking”

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[NOTE: This is an unedited version of an article I wrote for the Boston Herald in 2008, when Carrie Fisher was performing her one-woman show Wishful Drinking at the BU Theatre. The link no longer seems to exist, so figured it would be worth reposting here today in the wake of Fisher’s passing today.]

When Carrie Fisher says she’s seen it all, she isn’t kidding. Born into Tinseltown royalty (the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds), she achieved instant celebrity in the ’70s as a certain be-bunned princess in the original Star Wars films. She’s been romantically linked with the likes of Paul Simon and Dan Akroyd, penned four novels, and is one of Hollywood’s top script doctors.

But Fisher’s also spent much of her life battling drug addiction and bipolar disorder, and has seen more than her share of loss and heartache.

She’s channeled it all, good and bad, into Wishful Drinking, an autobiographical one-woman show. The piece comes to the BU Theatre this Wednesday, courtesy of the Huntington Theatre Company.

Calling from Washington, D.C., Fisher dished about mental illness, creativity, fame, and why it’s okay if she never lives down that infamous metal bikini. 

So give me Wishful Drinking in a nutshell.
It’s about Star Wars a bit, my relationships a bit, mental illness, and alcoholism.

What’s it like to tell your life story onstage?
I certainly didn’t start it this way, but it does end up being in a way therapeutic. If I make these problems really my own and put them in my language and declare them, in a way then I have problems and problems don’t have me. I can make it fun, and that makes these things less powerful.

You’re famously forthcoming about your bipolar disorder.
There’s a saying — you’re only as sick as your secrets. If that’s so, then I’m a very, very healthy person.

Do you feel that your illness is linked to your creativity?
Yes, I do. When you’re in conflict or pain, it’s a very intense experience. The intensity makes it easier and more essential to take dictation from the disorder, so you’re not run by it. It’s about taking ownership of the problem.

You’ve been in and out of the spotlight for years. How do you feel about celebrity?
I was always ambivalent about fame. It’s a very sort of ephemeral thing. It comes and it goes; there’s no way to sustain it. I watched my parent’s careers subside when I was teenager, so I never had any illusions about its staying power. I knew only too well that it went. You just have enjoy it as much as you can. It’s not going to last, and that’s not really bad news.

When I googled you, the first thing that came up was a slew of Star Wars glamour shots. Do you feel like you’ve been pinned as Princess Leia forever?
Yeah, I probably have. But for me to decide that’s not a good thing would be to consign myself to it. I just see it as funny.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on publishing a stage version of Wishful Drinking, and then I’m moving on to my fifth novel. We’re taking the show to Seattle after Boston, and we’re currently negotiating about bringing it to Broadway. It all depends on how greedy everyone is.

“WISHFUL DRINKING,” presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the BU Theatre. Oct. 8–26, 2008.

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