12 December 2017

George Lucas held his auditions for Star Wars in an office on a lot in Hollywood. It was in one of those faux-Spanish cream-colored buildings from the thirties with dark orange-tiled roofs and black-iron-grated windows, lined with sidewalks and interrupted by parched patches of once-green lawns. Everything was a little worse for the wear, but good things would happen in these buildings. Lives would be led, businesses would prosper, and men would attend meetings - hopeful meetings, meetings where big plans were made and ideas were proposed. But of all the meetings that had ever been held in that particular office, none of them could compare in world impact with the casting calls for the Star Wars movie.

George gave me the impression of being smaller than he was because he spoke so infrequently. I first encountered his all-but-silent presence at these auditions - the first of which he held with the director Brian De Palma. Brian was casting his horror film Carrie, and they both required an actress between the age of eighteen and twenty-two. I was the right age at the right time, so I read for both George and Brian. The roles I met with the two directors for that first day were Princess Leia in Star Wars and Carrie in Carrie. I thought that last role would be a funny casting coup if I got it: Carrie as Carrie in Carrie. I doubt that that was why I never made it to the next level with Carrie - but it didn't help as far as I was concerned that there would have to be a goofy film poster advertising a serious horror film.

The Princess Diarist

'The roles I met with the two directors for that first day were Princess Leia in Star Wars and Carrie in Carrie'

I have no recollection now of how I felt reading the two scenes. I can only asssume I beat myself up. Did they like me? Did they think I was fat? Did they think I looked like a bowl of oatmeal with features? Four little dark dots in one big flat pale face. Did they think I looked pretty enough? Was I likable enough for me to relax at all? Not on your life. Because (a) there was no relaxing anywhere in my general area, and (b) there was no relaxing anywhere in show business. But George must have thought I did well enough to have me back. They sent me the Star Wars script so I could practice it before the last reading. I remember opening the envelope it came in very carefully, one edge at a time, before removing its unknown cargo. It didn't look any different from other scripts - cardboard-like paper on each end, protecting the ordinary paper within - covered in antlike scratches of letters. I don't know why, but I wanted to read this screenplay out loud. Enter Miguel Ferrer. Miguel wasn't certain that he wanted to be an actor yet - like me. But we were both intrigued enough that we continued exploring. Like me, he came from a show business background. His father was the actor José Ferrer and his mother the singer/actress Rosemary Clooney. We were friends, and I called him up and asked him to read this script with me. He arrived at my mother's newer, much smaller house - since her dramatically reduced financial circumstances due to a second failed marriage - and we went to my bedroom on the second floor. Like every young man wanted to be an actor in Hollywood then, he had also read for the film, so both of us were dimly aware what we were in store for. We sat on my bed and began to read. From the first page - STAR WARS: A SPACE FANTASY - the images and characters jumped off the pages. Not only into our minds, but into the chairs and other furniture that surrounded us. The images of space opened around us, planets and stars floated by. The character I was reading for, Leia, was kidnapped by the evil Darth Vader - kidnapped and hung upside down when the smuggler pilot Han Solo (who Miguel was reading for) and his giant monkey creature copilot Chewbacca rescued me. I had been (in the script) upside down and unconscious with yellow eyes. I'll never forget that image. Whoever got the part of the princess named Leia would get to do this. I would potentially get to do this! Maybe - if I was lucky - I would be rescued by Han and Chewbacca (Chewie!) from the caverns underneath wherever they'd tortured me, and Chewie would carry me, slung over his shoulder through thigh deep water as we made it our of (interplanetary) harm's way.

The Princess Diarist

'From the first page - STAR WARS: A SPACE FANTASY - the images and characters jumped off the pages'

The Force was put in me (in a non-invasive way) by the script that day with Miguel, and it has remained in me ever since. I ended up reading for the film with a new actor, and actor I'd never seen before, but then he had never seen me, either. I'll bet that since that reading with me he's rued the day - if he can get his strong hands on a rue that is - and if anyone could get their hands on a rue or a Woo it was Harrison Ford. We read together in a room in that building I'd met George and Brian De Palma in. I was so nervous about the reading I don't remember much about Harrison, and given how nervous Harrison would come to make me, that was plenty frightened indeed. The following week, my agent called me. "Carrie?" he asked. I knew my name. So I let him know I knew it. "Yeah," I said in a voice very like mine. Mine but hollow, mine but it didn't matter because my stomach had swung into action. "They called," he said. Great, 'cause that was really all I wanted to know. If they called, that they called, not what they said - that didn't matter. "They want you," he continued.

There was a silence. "They do? I mean they did?" He laughed, then I laughed and dropped the phone and ran out into the front yard and into the street. It was raining. It didn't rain in L.A.. It was raining in L.A. and I was Princess Leia. I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was. They would pay me nothing and fly me economy - a fact that would haunt my mother for months - but I was Leia and that was all that truly mattered.

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