Turning Point: Carrie Fisher's Latest Star Turn

Carrie Fisher's life has gone through more turns than a revolving door at Macy's. The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she herself became a celebrity when she was cast as Princess Leia in "Star Wars" at age 19. (And later married her own celebrity: Paul Simon.) Before she had reached 30, she had checked into rehab, and by 31 she'd become a best-selling author with a semi-autobiographical novel, "Postcards from The Edge." She herself adapted it for the screen, and thus began a career as a top Hollywood scriptwriter (that's Fisher's dialogue you're hearing in "The Wedding Singer" and "Sister Act"). Thanks to her startling frankness, she became something of a poster child for mental illness, most notably in the documentary "The Secret Life of a Manic-Depressive." And now comes her latest turn: a typically hilarious, typically frank memoir, "Wishful Drinking," where she chronicles all those ups and downs. She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. Excerpts:

Newsweek: What would you say is the turning point in your life?
Carrie Fisher: I haven't ever changed who I am. I've just gotten more accepting of it. Being happy isn't getting what you want, it's wanting what you have. I've been working towards that goal. It just works better that way.

Are you still working as a script doctor?
I haven't done it for a few years. I did it for many years, and then younger people came to do it and I started to do new things. It was a long, very lucrative episode of my life. But it's complicated to do that. Now it's all changed, actually. Now in order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix the script. So they can get all the notes from all the different writers, keep the notes and not hire you. That's free work and that's what I always call life-wasting events.

Why did you decide to become a spokesperson for bipolar disorder?
What happens with the insurance companies, they don't cover you for a physical illness and a mental illness. You have to pick. Obviously you're going to pick a heart medication over a mental-illness one. That's asking people to make a tough choice. I once said to my doctor, "the symptoms of mania are sexual promiscuity, excessive spending and substance abuse, which sounds like a terrific weekend in Vegas." To my shrink I said, "What do you mean shopping is one of the symptoms? Do you have to have money to be manic depressive?" She said you know those people in the streets with shopping carts full of trash? They're shopping.

Are you still close with your mother?
I love my mother. I've been out of town for most of the year doing my show and gaining weight. I told my mother that she could decorate my house for Christmas. And I came back home and there was an electric Santa on my front porch, there is the gayest curtain chiffon over the windows and all these lights. She was sad I came home during the day because I couldn't see all the lights she put up.

Did she do this herself?
Of course not. She hired someone—Dr. Christmas. We had a tree-trimming party this weekend, so the tree looks really good. Most of my great friends were there, so it's an intellectual tree. And I'm staying home. Does your mother ever say to you, "This might be my last year." I'm getting "This might be my last year."

Do you believe her?
No. My mother is still doing her nightclub act all over the United States. We did "This could be my grandmother's last year" for 20 years.

Do you ever regret signing away your rights to the Princess Leia character when you were cast in "Star Wars"?
You foolishly sign a paper when you're 19 years old. But it's not so foolish because there was no precedent for this thing. There was no precedent for merchandising going this crazy. This was 30 years ago. At the time, it didn't mean anything. George Lucas owns my likeness as Princess Leia, but that's still my likeness, isn't it? He gave me permission to use stuff in the show that I'm doing. I mean, George is great. He came to the show and explained why you can't wear your bra in space.

Why can't you wear a bra in space?
What happened was he told me, you can't wear your bra in space, because when you go into space, you become weightless and then—this is all per George—your body expands, but your bra doesn't. So you get strangled by your bra. Which I think is a fantastic way to go. I did take off my bra in the special DVD extras.


Do you think you could still get into that bikini?
Oh my God. My friend sent me this blog, "Look how fat she is." From being on the road for a year, it was not a big exercise situation. Someone has said that I look like Jabba the Hut, so that's nice.

You can't listen to those people.
I don't listen to them. I read them. But it keeps you grounded. I think I'm on a blog-induced diet.