Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fantasy, but it’s no fairy tale.
There are heroes, and monsters, a castle, and magic and machines that defy belief. There’s even a princess, although … nobody in the galaxy calls Leia that anymore.
“She’s referred to as General,” says director and co-writer J.J. Abrams. “But … there’s a moment in the movie where a character sort of slips and calls her ‘Princess.’”
Okay, so almost no one calls her that anymore. You’ll have to imagine who slips — and how it goes over.
We’ve already glimpsed one emotional moment between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher’s characters: Han and Leia, reunited on the tarmac of a Resistance base, embracing tenderly, almost sadly.
“The stakes are pretty high in the story for her, so there’s not much goofing around where Leia’s concerned,” Abrams said. “But it felt historic to have her, especially with Harrison, back in scenes together. I can only imagine the baggage that they bring to it, I’m just a fan who loves this stuff, but they’ve been living with it — and living in it — since ’77.”
The veteran cast members couldn’t give a damn, actually.
“I think we’re pretty sick of each other by now, so we pretend to be interested in each other between takes,” Fisher jokes. “And we fail. I’m mostly interested in how [Ford] stays in such good shape. I can talk to him about that for a long time.”
She has a knack for cutting through treacle with a sense of humor more piercing than a lightsaber, which proved to be a vital resource on this movie.
“[The shoot] wasn’t without incident; it wasn’t without difficulty; it wasn’t without tears shed and bones broken and things that could never have been anticipated happening,” Abrams says, referring to the on-set accident that sidelined Ford on only his second day in front of the cameras. “But with everything in the aggregate, it was a truly joyful experience, and I think that that has to do with the fact that people as funny as Carrie Fisher were simply there.”
Fisher’s okay not being “princess” anymore, but given what Abrams says about her, she thinks the other characters should address Leia a little differently. “People should say, ‘Hey! You! My one true joy!’” she says.
Abrams said Fisher reminds him of the director of the first movie he worked on with Ford, as the screenwriter of 1991’s Regarding Henry.
“She is crazy brilliant. She’s actually, she reminds me more than anyone I’ve met of Mike Nichols, which is why, I think, when they did Postcards from the Edge, they got along so famously,” he says. “It’s an amazing thing, her sort of free-associative mind, her ability to find humor in anything — she’s like a divining rod for wordplay. She’s incredible.”
One thing that initially gave him pause was, not only had Fisher not played Leia, but she hadn’t acted, period, for years. “She’d been writing more than she had been acting,” Abrams says. “So I think that for her, it was a bigger adjustment, which she made beautifully.”
Part of the reason it was a big adjustment is Leia is far from the movie’s comic relief. As Abrams said, her story is one of the heavier ones in the film. So how is the General handling things when we meet her again?
“Not easily,” Fisher says, describing Leia as, “solitary. Under a lot of pressure. Committed as ever to her cause, but I would imagine feeling somewhat defeated, tired, and pissed.”
Leia was once the only role model for girls in the original films. What does the actress hope that the original generation of fans, now grown up, may take away from this version of Leia?
Fisher’s response is simple and without sarcasm: “Never give up.”
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Thursday at EW.com: Why is Luke Skywalker missing? And more on the characters Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke.
To continue reading more on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here.