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Sunday, 1 January 2017

CELEBRATING CARRIE FISHER AND LEIA ORGANA - PART TWO: 'THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK' (1980)

Strong and ready to defend herself and the Rebellion she believes in, Carrie Fisher gives her finest performance as Leia Organa, in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

The sleeping giant had awakened- STAR WARS was a blockbuster of worldwide proportions, the floodgates of its success opened to a wave of sci-fi and fantasy, and the chance for its creator George Lucas to make his idea of a series of adventures, originally twelve films then nine (three trilogies), a reality. Prior contracted for two more films beyond her original 1976 work in this now "middle trilogy" being touted to the press by 1980, Carrie Fisher had enjoyed the reaction to the launch film's release and her character, and travelling the world promoting it- on her own or with her co-stars. She'd also realised just what a fine springboard it had been into a larger world of acting work on film and TV internationally. But by Spring 1979, and barring the previous year's unusual appearance as the all-singing 'Life Day' Leia for THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL, the time had come for her to return to the role that had launched her to stardom beyond the Hollywood Royalty title that she'd had growing up with as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.

At the March 1979 press conference in Norway for the filming start of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Having fun on location.
With her guys Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford for another publicity image.
Getting in some sunbathing after the publicity shoot.

There was no real need for her to travel to Finse, Norway for the start of principal photography on STAR WARS II, aka THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, in March, 1979, as none of her scenes on the ice planet Hoth Rebel Base were set outdoors, but the idea to see the location and have fun with co-star Mark Hamill, and the later arriving Harrison Ford, plus the majority of the returning behind the scenes crew she had worked with on STAR WARS, was too good to pass up- having fun and posing for publicity images for the start of filming and enjoying the scenery even when their ski resort base was cut off by avalanches and some of the worst weather in that country's history.

In London, going through the script with Irvin Kershner and Gary Kurtz.
Kay Freeborn supervises Carrie's make-up at Elstree.
With George Lucas near the Millennium Falcon cockpit set at Elstree.
Enjoying some fun in the fake snow for another press image. Image: Ian Trussler.
Early scenes in the Rebel Command Centre with Anthony Daniels as Threepio.
Amused with Irvin Kershner in the Rebel Medical Centre.
Yikes- this'll cause problems later on!
Posing with a special friend.
Filming early Falcon cockpit scenes.
A Princess and a Scoundrel. And a second deleted kiss.
"You look absolutely beautiful..."
A rare moment of contemplation on the Bespin set.
Lights, camera, Carrie!
Still getting on...

Clowning about with Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.
A quick snuggle up.
Goofing about for a promotional image.
Oops!
Captured by Jeremy Bulloch!
A fine on set friend and supporter in Gary Kurtz. Image: STAR WARS ARCHIVES.
Even a Princess needs her beauty sleep.
With David Tomblin and Carrie together, you could always expect a laugh.
Getting ready for an interview at the STAR WARS Production Office at Elstree.

With George Lucas now behind the scenes in an Executive Producer capacity, Fisher was interested to see how her character would develop in the new screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and brought to life by her new director in Irvin Kershner, the visualist proving a thoughtful, intelligent and quite tough director who wanted to make sure audiences got to see new facets to Leia's character and Fisher's performance. Kershner and his stars would work through the script, make changes and always looked out for key moments to make this sequel as good if not better in character than the original film it had sprung from. Filming her first scenes at London's Elstree by April, it seemed like a return home- the wake-me-up Fantas, Diet Cokes and Pot having returned. This time, though, the early months of a cold London would see her plagued by ill health and an apparent and alarming weight loss, with producer Gary Kurtz on hand to giver her support. Her relationship with Harrison Ford was different to the one she'd had with him during that weird and wonderful Summer of 1976, too, respectful but strained- though her crush on him subtly remained. Despite some often heated exchanges over changed scenes done without her consultation, which would throw off her concentration and made her worried, the screen chemistry of their cinematic love affair was plain to see in the rushes- especially as the film headed towards its sad climax and Han Solo's carbon frozen state. As filming went on, there were more doubts and insecurities creeping into her mindset- trouble with difficult lines, more blue screen work than before, and self worry that she didn't look like a commanding enough presence in her scenes with Rebel Alliance comrades. Thankfully, Kershner, with Kurtz, would steer her successfully though these concerns to a great and memorable performance, the actress complimented in her beauty via the stunning cinematography of Peter Suschitzky.

A lovely cast portrait for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Harrison and Carrie- a potent on and off screen mixture.
The pair keep their distance somewhat after problems with script changes.
Irvin Kershner confers on Han and Leia's important goodbye scene.
The memorable kiss.
Giving Carrie careful attention whilst planning the next big scene.
A shock for Chewie and Leia.
Another press call on the Rebel Base/hangar set in the Summer of 1979.
Leia addresses the pilots on the evacuation of Hoth.
Back to some fun with Harrison Ford.
Letting her nordic inspired braids down playing a background trooper on the Rebel Hangar set.
With friend Treat Williams as a fellow Rebel extra.
Golden affection!
The day after the party at Eric Idle's house!
Clowning about for the film's finale scenes, watched by Peter Suschitzky.
Always a target for Mark and Carrie's affection.
Going for a ride!
Always there for the bubbly- Peter Mayhew and Carrie Fisher at the Elstree wrap party!

By the Summer of 1979, Fisher's late night partying with Ford and some co-stars had notably returned, one evening shared in the company of her leading man and British Monty Python comedian Eric Idle proving particularly memorable thanks to a special Tunisian tonic that had them acting quite ridiculously by the time of wearily filming their next morning Bespin introductory scenes with new series family addition Billy Dee Williams. As her work on the film was completed by August, she was helping to break out the celebratory bubbly in style and zest with the likes of Peter Mayhew and Kershner, as early footage for the film screened at the studio showed enormous promise for its eventual release in May 1980.

In London to celebrate the release of EMPIRE in May 1980.

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