ByTom Bacon, writer at
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Tom Bacon

The news that has sadly passed away has left fans reeling and emotional. She's best known for playing the part of Princess Leia in — a role she reprised in last year's The Force Awakens. But in truth, Carrie Fisher had a lot more skills than just her acting clout; and as important and iconic as Leia Organa may be, the actor herself had a massive impact on the Star Wars films — and on more classics than you'd think!

George Lucas's Dialogue Problem

While has always had a tremendous imagination, there's one area where he's always struggled: dialogue. Harrison Ford once told Lucas, "You can type this shit, but you sure can't say it!" By The Empire Strikes Back, Harrison Ford was beginning to adapt his dialogue, often with ad-libs. That, of course, left Carrie Fisher with a real problem; when your co-star in a scene ad-libs his dialogue, you have to run with it!

But, even as early on as The Empire Strikes Back, Carrie Fisher was tweaking dialogue herself. We were recently given this scan from the script Empire, which features Fisher's own notes:

Remarkably, as you can see she wasn't just adapting her own dialogue - she was also changing Harrison Ford's! This continued into the third film.

Carrie Fisher as a Writer

By the late 1980s, Carrie Fisher's life was taking a very different direction — 1987 saw the publication of Postcards from the Edge, a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the tale of an actress struggling to rebuild her life after drug abuse. By 1990 Postcards from the Edge had been adapted for the big screen.

That was where Carrie Fisher's life as a script doctor began. A script doctor's role is essentially to run through the script and improve the dialogue; in so doing, you naturally wind up having a major impact on the flow of the script. Films Carrie Fisher was involved in included classics like Hook, Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3 and Last Action Hero! By all accounts, she was considered one of the best script doctors in Hollywood — in 1992, Entertainment Weekly described her like this:

"One of the most sought after doctors in town."

'Sister Act'. [Credit: Buena Vista Pictures]
'Sister Act'. [Credit: Buena Vista Pictures]

Fisher always maintained strong ties with George Lucas; in fact, she and Lucas have an uncredited cameo in Hook as a couple kissing on a bridge! Fisher polished up the scripts for Lucas's 1992 TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and then — in a beautiful "full-circle" moment — she was hired to work as a script doctor on the Prequel Trilogy.

Ultimately, Carrie Fisher bowed out of scriptwriting in the early 2000s. She told Newsweek:

"I did it for many years, and then younger people came to do it and I started to do new things. It was a long, very lucrative episode of my life. But it’s complicated to do that. 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."

Anakin on Mustafar in 'Revenge of the Sith'. [Credit: Lucasfilm]
Anakin on Mustafar in 'Revenge of the Sith'. [Credit: Lucasfilm]

See also:

Carrie Fisher may be best known for playing the iconic role of Leia Organa, but she's always been a lot more important to Hollywood than that. Some of her dialogue changes made it into the Original Trilogy, and who knows what difference she made to the the Prequels! Meanwhile, though, Star Wars fans all-too-easily overlook the fact that she shaped so many classics — from Hook to The Wedding Singer, from Sister Act to Lethal Weapon 3. She truly was a Hollywood giant, and here at Movie Pilot we can only add our own voice of sorrow to say: She will be sadly missed.

Did you know about Carrie Fisher's influential work as a script doctor?

General Leia in 'The Force Awakens'. [Credit: Lucasfilm]
General Leia in 'The Force Awakens'. [Credit: Lucasfilm]

(Sources: CBR, Newsweek, The Mary Sue )


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