Carrie Fisher on Spy in the House of Me, Tinkerbell and being the movie industry's best script doctor
By Jonathan McNamara
On April 29, Carrie Fisher kicked off the first of six performances of her one-woman tour de force Spy in the House of Me at Theater 4301. Spy,which is roughly taken from her other show Wishful Drinking, is heavy on audience interaction. It begins and ends with candid Q&A sessions during which Fisher will answer anything.
The Hollywood princess was certainly enthusiastic about answering my questions about Spy, her time as a script doctor, and the other projects she's got up her sleeve.
New Times: Walk me through the storyline of Spy in the House of Me
Carrie Fisher: It’s about this girl that was born to a father that owned a hardware store and a mother that was as substitute teacher in the local school . . . It’s not about my parents, but it is about my fantasy parents.
Here’s what I say: If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true. And that’s unacceptable. One of my 12,000 shrinks told me that I should learn the difference between a problem and an inconvenience. Once I did that, I realized that I’ve had four problems . . . It’s about those four nasty little problems.
NT: How does Spy in the Houst of Me differ from Wishful Drinking?
CF: I’m going to be performing my other show all around the States and other places. What happened here is that they tried to get my show Wishful Drinking to come here. And the producer wanted to charge $50,000 to rent that set. If that had happened, people would have had to pay like $300 a seat. It’s just too much money for most places. So because I couldn’t bring the set and we couldn’t do it in conjunction with that producer, we had to vary it up. It’s a sort of a different slant on the same subject.
NT: Are there any obstacles to performing by yourself or do you prefer acting this way?
CF: I mean . . . actually I interact with the audience a lot cause otherwise I’d be very lonely. I don’t have an understudy. So I have to keep pretty healthy.
NT: How much does Spy in the House of Me borrow from Post Cards from the Edge?
CF: Not much at all. It’s the same subject matter although that was “faction.” Postcards was faction. It takes fact and spins fiction into it to make it work for cinema. You have to have a three act structure and a climatic moment and things have to work out . . . or not.
I was going to do something from Postcards, but I’ve never tried it and I got cold feet. I did write that 20 years ago. And I’ve written three other books since then. It doesn’t really borrow from my books — maybe a little bit. I wish that I could have — I sort of had to put it together roughly. I take things from the show Wishful Drinking, but that’s a show that’s basically about the four problems too — the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
NT: I’ve heard that this performance will include a Q&A session. What questions are you anticipating?
CF: It actually starts with a little bit of that too, 'cause I talk about the guy who died in my bed and I ask people if they have any questions.
I answer anything. People ask about Star Wars. They ask about how to become a writer sometimes.
NT: What do you tell them?
CF: Read a lot. Generally if you want to become a writer . . . it goes from inclination to obligation. You like to write in the beginning; maybe you keep journals or you write stuff.
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 write a nonfiction book and I didn’t. [Laughs] I was asked to adapt that book and then I started doing re-writes.
NT: I heard you are the best script doctor in the industry.
CF: Not anymore, but I was for a long, long time. I adapted my last book for HBO into four, one-hour episodes that Meg Ryan is supposed to play. I’ve still done re-writes but not as much. It’s a good job, but that is a job I did not look to get. I wrote Postcards and based on that I was asked to rewrite Hook. They told me they wanted me to rewrite Tinkerbell’s part, but if Tinkerbell interacts, you’re writing scenes.
To get off of that I took another rewrite job. So it just went from Hook to whatever. Sister Act. Lethal Weapon 3. The River Wild. Some really bad ones too. I would rewrite my parts if I did little parts too. I rewrite the dialogue. That’s sort of how I got to do it. Harrison Ford was rewriting his stuff in all the Star Wars movies and it became annoying because it impacted my stuff. 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 shit but you can’t say it.”
By the third film, I was rewriting a little bit of my dialogue. George asked me to punch up one of the prequels. I wrote a script with George for one of the Young Indy series.
NT: Let’s switch gears for a second. What can you tell me about your new film The Women and your character Nancy Blake?
CF: I have one scene in it and I act with Annette Bening, who was actually in Postcards, and I play a bitch. I play someone who is basically trying to get her to betray her friend for a story. Her friend being Meg Ryan. And she won’t do it and so I try to blackmail her. And it takes place in a gym.
NT: What else is coming up from you?
CF: I’m going to do Wishful Drinking here and there. I am coming out in another film [pauses]. I don’t really pay attention to my acting career. White Lightning! It’s a true story about a guy who’s one of those Rocky Mountain sort of dancers and his father is murdered. In his head he imagines killing these people and he’s this crazy, violent boy and he gets involved with a women who is older than he is . . . and that would be me. He tries to avenge his father’s death and so forth.
NT: Well, all the best with Spy in the House of Me. Break a leg.
CF: I’m going to shatter every bone.