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Thursday, 5 January 2017

CELEBRATING CARRIE FISHER AND LEIA ORGANA - PART THREE: 'RETURN OF THE JEDI' (1983)

The unforgettable sight of Carrie Fisher in Princess Leia's "slave girl outfit" for RETURN OF THE JEDI, taken during a California beach shoot for a holidays themed 1983 edition of ROLLING STONE magazine.

A "love/hate relationship" is probably the best way to describe Carrie Fisher's inhabiting of the role of Princess Leia Organa for her then final time for the Classic Trilogy by January 1982, and the completion of REVENGE, later re-named RETURN, OF THE JEDI eventually hitting cinemas by May 1983. With THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK having proved such a critical and audience success with its May 1980 release, the wait for the concluding chapter seemed interminable as George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, experienced producer Howard Kazanjian and new British director Richard Marquand finally hammered out the story and its many plot arcs to be resolved by the end of 1981, promising surprises and an audience satisfying ending- a film which was more ambitious than EMPIRE, and on a bigger budget that had to be kept in check since the production overruns on the first sequel had nearly crippled and financially bankrupt Lucas and his company - RETURN was not going to go over budget, returning to the kind of production shooting which, in many ways, echoed back to the kind of fast and loose tactics liked by Lucas during 1976, much admired by Marquand.

Late 1981 costume test in the US, and Carrie gets to clown around.
Working on new hair styles at Elstree with Chief Hairdresser Barbara Ritchie.
Early make-up/hair polaroid of Carrie Fisher at Elstree.
Enduring the ultimately deleted Sandstorm sequence with Harrison Ford, in the first scene filmed for RETURN OF THE JEDI in January, 1982 at Elstree. 
Leia and Luke discover their lineage.
Filming a sad moment for Leia at the misty Ewok village set.
A war is won for Han and Leia at the Ewok celebrations, one of the earliest scenes shot for ROTJ.
The cast assemble for an early filming group shot.

How and when Han Solo was coming back with the early named STAR WARS III was the big question, as was the final decision of whom Leia would ultimately end up with- the cocksure space smuggler or heroic and youthful Luke, who was now on the verge of becoming a Jedi. The decision was ultimately made for Leia/Carrie in Han by the creator/writer, as Lucas, intent on closing the saga due to exhaustion and a strained marriage, decided to condense elements originally panned for EPISODEs VII to IX into RETURN's finale, the result being that the female sister - the "Other" - returning from galactic space to help Luke ultimately, and conveniently, became Leia. With Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Fisher all happy to return for the conclusion and looking forward to finishing this chapter of their acting careers so as to go on to projects anew, the final script for their characters and their resolutions, featuring an additional array of creatures and the equivalent of a galactic battle with the enemy involving Teddy Bear's, surprised all three, yet not altogether positively- for them it didn't quite have the depth and darkness they'd all hope the conclusion would bring after EMPIRE's thoughtful innerworkings, though they recognised that this was the spectacular goodies must win finale that Lucas wanted and that they would honour his intentions-that they'd all pretty much owed their successful careers to him in the first place.

Receiving sometimes conflicting on-set direction from Marquand and Lucas.
Leia Organa, new slave girl to Jabba the Hutt.
Jabba's tight collar was the ultimate reason Leia had such little dialogue in the Throne Room scenes.
A welcome break between filming.
More clowning for friends Fisher and David Tomblin.
Not the drinking company she wanted!
Fisher and Marquand on the small Sail Barge interior cabin set.
Getting ready for revenge!
Polaroid of Carrie as Leia in a deleted scene.
Fun with Howard Kazanjian.
George gets a nice surprise!

After a brief holiday with Harrison Ford and his then wife, Fisher, now in a spiky but loving relationship with singer Paul Simon, reported for costume duties at ILM in late 1981 to find out more about what exactly Lucas had in mind for Leia's costume, for her Tatooine-based scenes with the loathsome gangster Jabba the Hutt, to whom much of the film's first third she would be involved with and trapped by. To say that she liked the idea of the metal bikini, being sculpted for it and wearing it, and having to lose weight at the gym, was a bit of shock. She also wondered just how the fans, especially her adoring young ones comparing her beauty to a summer's day in worldwide fan mail, would react to see her skimpy but lovely frame in this new situation. Still, there was at least an array of fascinating creatures for her and the cast to intermix with on the sets of Elstree by the cold, flu-bringing January 1982 starting of principal photography, of which Fisher was ultimately impressed with Stuart Freeborn's immense and amazing realisation of Jabba, whom she'd enjoy strangling to death with her force of will and the latent powers of the Force within her.

Reunited at Elstree before jetting back to the States for the next filming.
Because a girl's gotta have a big gun!
Who's in there!?
Getting a tan with Tracy Eddon- all in the name of continuity, of course!
Hey out there!
Fisher and Hamill in da house!
Swing something simple!

As filming continued into early April, the on set camaraderie between the three leads was still there, as it had been in '76 and '79, though her relationship with Ford was cooled off and more professional- their substance taking also eased considerably after the shocking overdose death of their comedy star friend John Belushi the year before. Fisher's sister/brother relationship offscreen with Hamill was now being cemented onscreen, though the actress was never happy with the twins revelation scene they filmed- feeling that more rehearsal/consultation time with her fellow actor and the director should have been spent on such an important moment. Frustratingly, time was not always on the side of the actors on a production that had to stay on schedule. By Mid-April the city of London was replaced by the heat and fun of filming in Yuma, Arizona, for the impressive outdoor scenes set on the immense sail barge and skiff sets- spending several weeks there to complete a massive action sequence that literally lasted only a few minutes on celluloid. On site, Fisher would enjoy the company of British stuntwoman Tracy Eddon, her physically impressive stunt double for the film, often getting up to some naughty fun in the sun together that captured lively attention in numerous behind the scenes footage and stills.

Just another day in the California Redwoods!
Comparing weapons with Peter Mayhew!
When Leia met Wcket!
Having fun at the Redwoods with Warwick Davis.
Going over the speeder bike scene with Kazanjian.
Leia gets her man!
The cast with Lucas and Kazanjian pose for a final ROTJ group publicity image.
Fisher and Charles Wessler have fun in an AT-AT cockpit at ILM.
The chase is on during the Speeder Bike thrill ride.
Dennis Muren and Lucas on the main ILM blue screen stage as the chase is filmed.
Main filming is almost complete for Mark and Carrie at ILM.

After Yuma came the green beauty of the Californian Redwoods and the finale scenes set on Endor with the cute and lovable Ewoks to whom an Empire would ultimately fall to in guerilla warfare, with Fisher enjoying the company of the often hilarious and riotous little people playing the roles, and especially falling for young Warwick Davis in his first on screen roles as Wicket, becoming the Ewok star of the film and the one whom she'd look after and keep hydrated, fed with cookiees, whilst filming within his hot costume. As the final sections of demanding value screen work were completed at ILM a short time later, Fisher had, for the time being, left the part of Leia behind her, soon establishing a new career as a writer and script editor/doctor in between other acting jobs. STAR WARS related publicity work would still be required for RETURN's release world wide from May 1983, and she was more than happy to oblige. STAR WARS had concluded and everyone involved in its production and success knew that it would live on in the hearts and minds of fans and filmgoers for a few more years yet, but, with Lucas exhausted and wanting to take a break from 1983 to an un specified time, no one really expected or imagined its cinematic resurrection potential and success by the late nineties, followed by the Prequels and the eventual reuniting of the original cast for EPISODE VII by 2014...

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