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(Credit: Lucasfilm)

Film

Looking at the prolific ghostwriting career of Carrie Fisher

@Russellisation

The late, great Carrie Fisher is no doubt best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, appearing in the original 1977 film and subsequent sequels, as well as the most recent sequel trilogy, featuring once more alongside Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. Whilst it was the commercial success of her cosmic adventures, Carrie Fisher also enjoyed working with Woody Allen and John Landis throughout her career, appearing in Hannah and Her Sisters and The Blues Brothers respectively. 

Even still, however, the true extent to Carrie Fisher’s influence on the film industry cannot be truly appreciated until you peer behind the curtain of her acting career and focus on her work as an unlikely script doctor and ghostwriter. A lover of literature, Fisher explained her first ghostwriting gig to the Phoenix New Times, noting: “I read mostly fiction and then it went to obligation. I was asked to write a book based on an interview I did for Esquire…I was asked to adapt that book and then I started doing rewrites”. 

Soon, Carrie Fisher became more confident in her abilities, taking her newfound skill to her contemporary film projects as she began tweaking the notoriously dodgy dialogue work of George Lucas. Rewriting the dialogue for Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher stated: “It is easier as an actor to go into rewriting because you know what would fit into your mouth dialogue wise. We would tell George Lucas, ‘You can type this […] but you can’t say it’”.

Later, toward the end of the 1980s, Fisher then turned toward an altogether more personal project, adapting her very own semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge. Starring Meryl Streep, the film was well-received both critically and commercially, with Fisher now becoming highly sought after in the writing world, to the extent that Entertainment Weekly was quick to name her as “one of the most sought after doctors in town”. 

Carrie Fisher: The turbulent life of an unsung Hollywood hero

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This led Fisher down several exciting paths, writing an episode of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles for George Lucas, before Steven Spielberg requested her assistance on Hook, specifically to rewrite the Tinkerbell scenes. Finding that it was “nice being treated with a different kind of respect than certainly you would be as an actor,” whilst Fisher found success with Hook, she also found it a draining experience as was pleased to finally finish the production. 

Carrie Fisher went on to help bolster the scripts for Sister Act, Lethal Weapon, Last Action Hero and Anastasia, though found the industry to considerably change as it entered the 21st century. Speaking to Newsweek in 2008, Fisher stated that her time as a writer represented a “long, very lucrative episode of my life,” she said, before adding: “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”.

Whilst Carrie Fisher will be forever remembered for her role in a galaxy far, far away, her ghostwriting achievements are truly extraordinary and are an illustration of the actor’s boundless ambition and passion for the silver screen. 

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