In 1978, a tiny little film called Star Wars: A New Hope hit theaters and took an unsuspecting world by storm. It changed the movie landscape forever and gave us a cast of characters that are to this day spoken of on a first name basis in homes around the world: Luke, Han, Chewie, Obi-wan, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Darth Vader, but the greatest of these is Princess Leia Organa. Yes, I said it. And I'll tell you why.
To a generation of kids who grew up with these films, Leia was more than just a movie character or an action figure or a face on our officially licensed Star Wars lunchbox. She was tough, strong, and brave. She experienced unspeakable loss and not only didn't break, she fought all the harder. She was a female action hero in an era when there were few. To kids like me, she was a big sister and a role model, a welcome alternative to the singing, dress-wearing, someday-my-prince-will-come princesses pedaled by the Walt Disney Co.
The role of Princess Leia was, of course, played by the phenomenal Carrie Fisher. Though Fisher sadly passed away from a cardiac arrest on December 27, 2016, her legacy lives on, in Princess Leia, in the hearts and minds of her fans, and in her many other works. You've seen the Star Wars films, but how much do you really know about Fisher and her most iconic role? Well, keep reading, because here are 25 crazy secrets you've never heard about Princess Leia.
Although Finn doesn't join the Rebellion until 30+ years after the events of A New Hope, it seems he was always destined to be there. Immediately after the ending of Rogue One, Princess Leia's ship is racing away from the planet Scarif with the Death Star plans when it's captured by Darth Vader. While awaiting execution (and eventual rescue by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo), Leia is kept in cell number 2187. Decades later, a stormtrooper with the designation FN-2187 would take a chance on a Resistance pilot named Poe Dameron, change his name to Finn, meet a girl named Rey, and the rest is history.
And if you need even more evidence that the Force binds together all things, consider this: George Lucas' first directorial effort, 1971's THX 1138, is set in the year 2187.
It's a plot hole so big you could fly the Millennium Falcon through it: that scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Leia plants a great big smooch on Luke's lips, much to his delight and Han's consternation. It's an uncomfortable part of Star Wars canon considering that one film later, Luke and Leia find out they're twins. The Star Wars powers-that-be have never really addressed it either, seemingly thinking that the fact that Luke and Leia were unaware of their sibling relationship makes it all okay, even though Leia's first reaction to the news was, "I know. Somehow I've always known." (Not helping, Leia.)
Carrie Fisher had a pretty simple explanation for all this awkwardness, however; apparently the actors didn't know either! She said that if they had known the characters were related, the kiss never would've happened. Which would've been good, but then we wouldn't have all these memes.
Once upon a time, all Star Wars mythology (a.k.a. the Expanded Universe or EU) was stored in a database called the Holocron, and Lucas Licensing was responsible for ensuring that all books, TV shows, comics, etc. fit within that canon. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, the entire EU got flushed down the toilet (with the notable exception of villain General Thrawn from Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy). All EU material was proclaimed non-canon and re-branded as Star Wars Legends. One storyline that got tossed with the rest was that Leia and Han had three children: twins Jacen and Jaina and little brother Anakin. However, this story didn't have a much happier ending than the Kylo Ren fiasco from Episode VII. In the books, Anakin dies while on a mission for the Jedi, and Jaina is forced to kill Jacen when he turns to the Dark Side.
Return of the Jedi is chock full of epic scenes, like the speeder bike chase on Endor and the moment we finally see Darth Vader without his helmet. One of the best, however, is when Leia takes advantage of the chaos during the battle on Jabba's sail barge to take the very chain he's been holding her captive with and use it to choke him to death.
In Star Wars: Bloodline, a Leia-centric novel in the new Disney-approved Star Wars canon, we learn that a hologram video of Leia killing Jabba has been circulating in underworld circles, earning the Princess the name Huttslayer. This idea was born from a movement among fans who hated Leia's iconic slave bikini because of the powerlessness it represented. To take the power back, one fan suggested it be called the Huttslayer outfit, and the name is now canon.
After Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia devoted herself to the cause of the New Republic. But with the war over, their military was disarmed despite her warnings that the remnants of the Empire could not be trusted. When these remnants did indeed become a new threat in the form of the First Order, Leia founded the Resistance to counter the growing danger. It was at this time that Leia dropped the title of Princess, going instead by the name General Organa.
This is more than just swapping one title for another; it represents a shift in Leia herself. The government she dedicated herself to had failed. The peace she sacrificed for disintegrated. Her family (Han and their son Ben) fell apart. In taking the title General, Leia is, in a way, saying goodbye to her past. The idealism of youth is behind her, but she'll always fight for the future she believes in.
Princess Leia's iconic double bun hairstyle might be the only look from the Star Wars movies that can rival her golden bikini in terms of instant recognizability. And as it turns out, the hairstyle is not just some silly '70s designer nonsense. When asked where he came up with the look, George Lucas explained that he was inspired by the soladeras, female rebel fighters of the Mexican Revolution. There was some controversy surrounding the accuracy of this information, however, when the BBC later said that the hairstyle would not have been "convenient" for the soladeras because of harsh conditions during battle. They claimed the style was instead worn by the women of the Hopi tribe in Arizona. However the details shake out, one thing is certain: in spirit at least, Princess Leia's iconic look has a heritage befitting the future hero of the Rebellion.
The double bun hairstyle is irrevocably linked to Princess Leia. So it's fitting that in The Force Awakens, General Organa has long since moved past that look, but a new character named Lieutenant Connix is shown, briefly, wearing a subtler version of the famous "cinnamon bun" style. Lieutenant Connix is played by Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher's real-life daughter, and she continues the role in the soon-to-be-released The Last Jedi, her mother's final film.
Though Lourd originally auditioned for the part of Rey, Lieutenant Connix ended up being her first acting job. Now she's best known for her roles in American Horror Story and Scream Queens. She said in an interview that her mother encouraged her to pursue acting after seeing how comfortable she was on the set of The Force Awakens.
Legendary composer John Williams (who also wrote the scores for Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter, among dozens and dozens of others) made heavy use of motifs, or leitmotifs, to represent different characters in the Star Wars film scores. By using this strategy, a composer can help move the audience's emotions in the right direction for the scene.
The Rebellion has their own theme, though it's not quite as recognizable as the far more epic Imperial March. There are themes for the Force, the Emperor, and Yoda. In total, Williams uses 18 different themes, including the main iconic overture, to convey the Star Wars universe.
Princess Leia naturally has her own theme. It plays when she's first shown in A New Hope and all throughout the movies in moments where she's vulnerable or reflective. It also plays in Revenge of the Sith when the audience sees infant Leia.
As anyone who has seen A New Hope knows, the characters spend a lot of time running around the Death Star trying to avoid being caught by the Empire. During filming, George Lucas thought Carrie Fisher's chest bounced too much when she ran, so she was ordered to tape them down with gaffer tape. Fisher later joked, "For Star Wars, they had me tape down my [chest] because there are no [chests] in space. I have some. I have two."
And in case you were wondering, the first commercially available sports bra (the "Free Swing Tennis Bra") was introduced in 1975, so Fisher supposedly could have worn one during the 1976 film shoot. But if there are no "bosoms" in space, there are probably no sports bras either.
The original Star Wars trilogy is bursting full of quotable lines: "The Force will be with you, always." "No, Luke. I am your father." "Never tell me the odds!" So when the prequels were released, long-time fans were confused; why did they suck SO MUCH? The dialogue was particularly cringe-worthy (my personal favorite to quote in mocking tone: "Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo").
As it turns out, George Lucas was never really great at writing dialogue. Alec Guinness, who played Obi-wan Kenobi, was reportedly glad to have his character killed in the first film so he “wouldn’t have to carry on saying these rubbish lines.” Carrie Fisher also had trouble performing many of her lines, telling Lucas after an especially difficult take, "You can type this stuff, but you can’t say it!"
Although Carrie Fisher had many romantic interests, she was only married once: to singer Paul Simon. After dating for six years, the couple wed in 1983, and Simon was inspired to write the song "Hearts and Bones" from his relationship with Fisher (the lyrics read, "The arc of a love affair, his hands rolling down her hair. Love like lightning, shaking 'til it moans, hearts and bones"). They divorced after only one year, however, and Fisher never married again. She later had a serious relationship with talent agent Bryan Lourd; they had a child together, and she even described him as her "second husband," though the couple eventually split without ever making it official. After Fisher's death, Simon posted on Twitter, "Yesterday was a horrible day. Carrie was a special, wonderful girl. It's too soon."
The golden bikini that Princess Leia is forced to wear while in Jabba the Hutt's captivity in Return of the Jedi is arguably the most iconic look in the entire Star Wars universe, and that's really saying something. The reality, however, was far less attractive. Carrie Fisher loathed the costume, calling it "what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of Hell."
Fans didn't seem to care, however. In 2015, the actual costume from the film set was auctioned off with a letter of authenticity signed by the designer, Richard Miller. Bidding began at $80,000 but climbed to $96,000, when it was sold to an anonymous party. Crazily enough, it wasn't even the highest selling item at the auction; a miniature model of Princess Leia's "Blockade Runner" ship from the opening shots of A New Hope went for $450,000.
In what turned out to be another major shocker in a year already stuffed full of bombshells, Carrie Fisher revealed in her 2016 memoir The Princess Diarist that she and Harrison Ford had an affair during the filming of A New Hope. That the affair had happened was not the headline of interest (in hindsight, of course, everyone claimed it had been totally obvious), but rather that Fisher was 19 years-old at the time while Ford was 33 and still married to his first wife, Mary Marquardt, with whom he had two children. Ford reportedly told Fisher to "lawyer up" after she dropped news of their affair, though she maintained he was joking. After her death, Ford released a statement saying, "Carrie was one-of-a-kind…brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life, bravely."
Despite her fierce hatred for the golden bikini, Carrie Fisher was partly to blame for its creation. After she complained about her boring costumes in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the designers took inspiration from sci-fi and fantasy artist Frank Frazetta’s 1969 work titled "Egyptian Queen" to create Princess Leia's iconic slave bikini Huttslayer outfit. The design initially included a 25-foot fabric train, which ultimately was dubbed infeasible. Two versions of the bikini were created: one in rubber for action sequences and another in metal for all other scenes. Both versions were extremely temperamental and prone to "wardrobe malfunctions." It got so bad, in fact, that one person was assigned to the job of making sure Fisher hadn't slipped out anywhere before they rolled camera.
When Carrie Fisher passed away, George Lucas called her "our great and powerful princess," saying, "Carrie and I have been friends for most of our adult lives." In reality, Fisher and Lucas had a love-hate relationship. Fisher was only 19 years-old when filming A New Hope and later said she didn't realize what it meant to be "signing away her likeness," so that Lucas received the profit on all merchandise bearing Princess Leia's (her) face. By 2016, Lucas had a net worth of $5.1 billion while Fisher was worth $25 million (there are numerous other reasons for this discrepancy, but it does make you wonder). It wasn't enough to cause a permanent rift in their relationship, however. When Lucas received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 2005, Fisher was on hand to give him a good-natured roasting.
After escaping from the garbage chute in A New Hope, Leia, Luke, and Han are trying to sneak back to the Millennium Falcon when they run into some stormtroopers. Han tries to lead the stormtroopers away to clear the path for Leia and Luke, but they run into trouble of their own, finding themselves trapped on the end of a broken extension bridge with no way across. Luke takes a rope from his belt, and after Leia wishes him good luck, the pair uses it swing across to safety.
This scene is remarkable for two reasons: One, It’s one of the first times that the stormtroopers’ legendarily bad aim is put on display, and two, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill performed the stunt themselves in only one take. I bet Fisher’s wish for good luck was as much for herself and Hamill as it was for Leia and Luke.
In A New Hope, when Luke Skywalker (disguised as a stormtrooper) opens the door to Princess Leia's cell in order to rescue her, she greets him with a snarky question: "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" That line is even funnier when you know this behind-the-scenes story.
The heights of the main trio in the Star Wars movies varied greatly. Harrison Ford stood above the others at 6’1”. Mark Hamill was in the middle at 5’7”, and Carrie Fisher was the shortest at 5’1”. The full foot of difference between Fisher and Ford wasn’t really an issue until The Empire Strikes Back when they needed to be in close-ups together. It was too difficult to frame the shot well when their heights were so different, so Fisher was asked to stand on a box for those shots. Good thing she never had to pass as a stormtrooper.
In 1978, CBS aired the Star Wars Holiday Special, a variety show-style program in which all the actors reprise their roles from A New Hope. The special revolved around Han and Chewie returning to Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld, for a celebration of Life Day. The program is legendary for its awfulness and includes such classic moments as Bea Arthur playing a Cantina bartender and the Imperial Guard rocking out to Jefferson Starship.
It aired only once, on November 17, 1978, and has never been re-aired or released on video. But thanks to YouTube, you can view the whole gloriously awful thing here. But if you only want to cut to the best part, click here: it's Princess Leia singing a Wookie Life Day carol set to the tune of the Star Wars theme.
Although A New Hope went on to become the highest grossing film ever (until it was eventually dethroned by E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), at the time of its production, it was just a cheesy little space western with a nobody director and a budget of only $10 million (tiny even by 1976 standards). So when you look at the list of actresses that auditioned for the role of Princess Leia, it's nothing short of incredible.
Among the names who reportedly tried out for the part are Farrah Fawcett, Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Anjelica Huston, and Jessica Lange. Of course, as we all know, the role eventually went to Carrie Fisher, an alum of the London Central School of Speech and Drama and daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. But to have to choose between all those fantastic ladies? That's a problem all directors wish they had.
In 2001, Miramax released the Kevin Smith comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Set in Smith's "View Askewniverse," the film features characters from his cult hit Clerks. Though it was met with mixed reviews and received tepid box office attention, Star Wars fans have a whole other reason to watch the movie: it's a secret love letter to Star Wars.
From the title to the logo to Ben Affleck's line, "I don't think I'm alone in the world in imagining this flick may be the worst idea since Greedo shooting first," the film is full of nods to Star Wars. At one point, a character even says, "I think George Lucas gonna sue somebody." But the movie's crowning glory is a cameo by Carrie Fisher as a nun who picks up the hitchhiking Jay and Silent Bob. You can watch the scene here.
Carrie Fisher had a close but complicated relationship with her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds (a veteran of over 50 films, but most famous for her role in Singin' in the Rain). In her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, Fisher spoke of the difficulties of growing up with such a famous mother, writing, "She belonged to the world... and I didn't like sharing her." But since both Reynolds and Fisher were unafraid to speak their mind, conflicts naturally arose. One such spat occurred during the filming of A New Hope. The budget was so minuscule that the cast had to fly coach to England for interior shoots. Aghast that her daughter should suffer such lowbrow accommodations, Reynolds called George Lucas to complain. Lucas handed the phone to Fisher, who said, "Mother, I want to fly coach, will you f**k off?!"
You know her as Princess Leia. Perhaps you've also seen her in When Harry Met Sally. Maybe you even caught her guest role on 30 Rock. But what you probably don't realize is that Carrie Fisher was a writing tour de force, and you already love her work. In addition to her four novels, four non-fiction books, and two plays, Fisher was a script doctor: a writer who is brought in to fix problems in existing screenplays. According to Entertainment Weekly, she was one of the most sought-after script doctors in the industry, and when you look at her credits, it's no wonder why. Fisher worked on the screenplays for Hook, Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3, Wedding Singer, Last Action Hero, Outbreak, and many others. In fact, it's difficult to know exactly how many films bear Fisher's touch because much of her work was uncredited.
Earlier this year, the internet blew up with the news that Princess Leia earned her Ph.D. at the age of 19. The story is based on comments that George Lucas made about the character in a behind-the-scenes commentary interview in 2004. As usual, the tale is not without controversy. Many people expressed disbelief, not only at her age when earning the degree but also about the fact that a Ph.D. is a thing firmly grown from our universe, not a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Perhaps the biggest death blow for the story came from Star Wars' new masters over at Disney, who did not include the idea as canon in the new novel about Leia's teenage years, Leia, Princess of Alderaan. But just like with Leia's three children, just because Disney doesn't like it doesn't necessarily mean it never happened.
In 1979, Carrie Fisher was having lunch on the set of The Blues Brothers movie where she was filming for her role as "Mystery Woman." When she suddenly began choking on a Brussels sprout, Dan Aykroyd (who plays "Joliet" Jake Blues in the film) rushed over and performed the Heimlich maneuver, saving her life. And if that wasn't crazy enough, he then proposed to her!
Fisher later said of the incident, "He saved my life, and then he asked me to marry him. And I thought… wow, what if that happens again? I should probably marry him.” The couple was engaged for two years before calling it quits. When Fisher died 35 years later, just after Christmas, Aykroyd tweeted, "Our beautiful brilliant funny wise kind and generous Blues Sister -so ironic - Xmas was Carrie's favorite thing next to babies."
Carrie Fisher was very open about her struggles with bipolar disorder and substance abuse. In her memoir Wishful Drinking (and in her stand-up comedy show based on it), she admitted to doing substances on the set of The Empire Strikes Back, saying, "I didn't even like [it] that much. It was just a case of getting on whatever train I needed to take to get [there]." At 24 years old, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and gave names to the up and down moods she experienced: Roy ("the wild ride of a mood") and Pam ("who stands on the shore and sobs").
Though she continued to struggle for the remainder of her life, she was never one to give up. She fought against the stigma surrounding these conditions and offered advice for others trying to cope with addiction and mental illness, saying, "Stay afraid, but do it anyway."