The latest surprise in the Star Wars galaxy didn’t come from any of the battles in Rogue One or Jedi rumors of Episode VIII. Instead, it’s old history coming to light, in Carrie Fisher’s new memoir: The Princess Diarist. A week before the book was published, its biggest bombshell was released: Carrie Fisher and her co-star, Harrison Ford slept together during the filming of Star Wars. The characters of Han Solo and Princess Leia were created during this time, too, and it seems — for better or for worse — that the affair is directly connected to the creation of this beloved fictional romance.
The Princess Diarist was ostensibly written specifically because Fisher had discovered her old diaries about Star Wars from 1976. But the entries themselves only take up about a third of the book, the rest of the pages spent with Carrie Fisher contextualizing what happens and why. Fans looking for minutiae about the heft of Princess Leia’s blaster, or what it was like to find out she was Luke Skywalker’s sister in Return of the Jedi will have to look elsewhere. Save for some flash-forwards to the relative present, Carrie Fisher only writes about the filming of A New Hope, and primarily explains her affair with Harrison Ford.
Fisher does not paint herself a victim in this affair, but instead, a willing participant. She also doesn’t think Harrison Ford is a bad guy. “You’ve got to feel bad for Harrison,” Fisher writes, then teasingly adds, “Well, you don’t have to, but if you can, for my sake, try.” Neither of the two of them promised to be in love with the other one forever, and Fisher admits freely that she started filming Star Wars hoping to have a no-strings-attached fling. “My affair with Harrison was a very long one-night stand,” Fisher writes. “I was relieved when it ended. I didn’t approve of myself.” Still, as her diary entries reveal, Fisher did eventually want a relationship with Ford, and even defines this never-realized dream as “Carrison.”
But in an art-imitating-life-imitating-art kind of way, their Star Wars characters were shaped by the affair: The sexual chemistry between Han Solo and Princess Leia in all four of the Star Wars films in which they appear is 100% real. Writing about kissing in the backseat of a car in 1976, Fisher describes it as “…the place where we could rehearse that kissing we would be doing a year and a half later in The Empire Strikes Back…”
We know what happened to Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford after the old Star Wars movies stopped. Ford had a successful acting career, and eventually married Calista Flockhart. Carrie Fisher had success as an actress and writer, and publicly talked about her struggles with drugs and alcohol. Obviously, most of us will never know Fisher or Ford, but because of their roles as Han and Leia, it feels like we do. Which is why for some fans, the affair might seem like it sullies the purity of Han and Leia’s romance. But was Han and Leia’s courtship ever clean? In almost every way, their sex life in Star Wars is clandestine and dirty, which now, is mirrored by how it was in our world.
In last year’s The Force Awakens, we discovered Han and Leia didn’t stay romantically attached to each other, despite having a son together. Why? Most fans let Han off the hook: Something about Ben turning to the Dark side destroyed their relationship. But, maybe it was more than that; maybe Han Solo — like Harrison Ford, who had a wife and kid at the time of the affair — couldn’t commit. In this way, the pain of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford not becoming “Carrison” in real life, seeped its way back into the Star Wars mythology. Just as the couple Carrison “was doomed from the start,” so it seems, were Han and Leia.
In the broad strokes of galactic politics, Star Wars seems to present black-and-white good guys and bad guys. But when you start analyzing the details of the films, nearly everything is actually rendered in shades of grey: The heroic Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader and murders countless innocents. His son, Luke Skywalker, saves the Rebels by destroying the Death Star, which also results in the murder of countless people. Han and Leia fall in love, but can’t seem to stay together. Plus, Han, as a 70-year-old man, has borrowed money from criminals and loan sharks. If there weren’t for the fact there were so many action figures based on these characters, we’d hardly think of Star Wars as family-friendly.
The Star Wars films are stories of desperate, confusing, and amoral actions. Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist has simply reminded everyone that the same kind of thing was going on behind the scenes, too.
The Princess Diarist is out now from Blue Rider Press.