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Sunday, 8 January 2017

CELEBRATING CARRIE FISHER AND LEIA ORGANA - PART FIVE: 'THE FORCE AWAKENS' (2015)

Now a General, ready to face the threat of the First Order, Carrie Fisher returns for THE FORCE AWAKENS.

With the return of Princess Leia to the big screen with the love them or hate them Special Edition releases of the Classic Trilogy, followed by their popularity across DVD and Blu-ray, Carrie Fisher's occasional negativity to her career making role, notably saying that Leia followed her around like a bad smell, was starting to ease off by the mid 2000's, finally accepting the fact that she was the greatest space fantasy female icon ever to be imagined and portrayed, and that there was nothing she could really do about it but to go with the flow. And that she did, though a terrific career with popular film and TV cameos continued, plus the acclaim of her writing and subsequent one woman stage shows, and her person inner courage in facing the difficulties of a bi-polar disorder.

By the time of 2010, and a top secret lunch meeting with George Lucas and Mark and Marilou Hamill, where the creator gave them the jaw dropping news that he was planning an all-new trilogy of which Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo would play an important part whilst seeing in a new generation of characters, Fisher was straight out of the gate committing to her return as Leia, and when Harrison Ford also agreed to come back, Hollywood was soon abuzz with the eventual news that the three great icons of STAR WARS were returning to a galaxy far, far away...

The now iconic pre-filming script table read for the film featuring the main cast.

Sadly, Lucas's original unused storyline for EPISODE VII (and beyond) is being deliberately kept in a shroudy haze by the franchise's current custodians at LUCASFILM and DISNEY, and will likely never see the light of day, but the trio of actors nonetheless remained committed with the project alongside the DISNEY buyout of LUCASFILM that followed, buoyed when the dependable Lawrence Kasdan took creative reins on screenplay duties, along with bright director J.J. Abrams, for what would become THE FORCE AWAKENS- a true passing of the torch in many ways to the new heroes of Rey, Finn, Poe and BB-8 amongst others, but not without giving Harrrison Ford a meaty share of the action, Hamill a mysterious finale cameo building to more in the future, and Fisher a very good role for a mature woman in Hollywood, with further character drama ahead planned in later sequels as she became General to the next band of heroes (including real-life daughter/actress Billie Lourde) against the next generation of evildoers in the First Order.

Early promotional image of Leia.

Back filming STAR WARS - this time at Pinewood Studios, with early scenes filmed featuring an alternate hairstyle. In some of these scenes that made the completed film, the long hair tassle was digitally removed.
Getting confident reassurance between takes from J.J. Abrams.
A deleted scene conferring with Rebel officer Brance (Emun Elliot). Several other D'Qar base scenes with Leia and other characters were also filmed but removed from the final cut.
With trusted adviser Admiral Statura (Ken Leung).
With Lt. Connix (Billie Lourd) and droid PZ-4CO.
A later point in filming with Carrie and J.J.

Signing up to play Leia again for filming at her second home in the UK was great, and much appreciated by fans worldwide who'd never stopped loving the character and wanted to see what had happened to her, and the Han Solo relationship, thirty years on. What wasn't so great, of course, was the fact that she was unhappy with her looks after such a passage of time (wishing that George had decided to make these films ten years earlier), feared the prospect of seeing herself on HD large screen IMAX, and going back to the gym and losing weight- a strict requirement for the movie and for the insurance people. She persevered, though, and took on such challenges as best she could, looking great in her scenes as witnessed in the completed movie. Early days on set at the new studio base of Pinewood saw further "dutch courage" initiated by Fisher, stepping back into her role after such a long time away, though J.J. Abrams and Ford would give great support, plus there were the fine new stars in Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, people who'd impressed her and whom she'd happily give advice and her own unique kind of personal support and insight too (hopefully only joking to Daisy that she shouldn't go through the behind the scenes crew "like wildfire" on her first film!). And then there was Carrie's constant medical companion in loyal French Bulldog super pooch Gary- always on set and soon a star of STAR WARS, across all multimedia, in his own right!

Recently released General Leia deleted scene: Epicstream

Not a dry eye in the house with this reunion between once lovers.
Publicity images of Harrison Ford and Carrie on the Resistance Base set at Pinewood.
Filming a tense scene between Han and Leia.
J.J watches the scene rehearsal.
Filming their goodbye,
The original unused take that was later reshot.
Reunited with Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) in location scenes filmed at Greenham Common military base in the UK.
Cherishing a new friendship with Rey (Daisy Ridley) at a difficult time.

With THE FORCE AWAKENS's release, fans were mostly surprised by the revelation that Han and Leia's son in Adam Driver's Kylo Ren had gone to the dark side, and there was genuine emotion and sadness brought to the screen by Ford and Fisher in their roles as they realize what they've lost over the years- always a relatable couple on screen, a true pairing. Han Solo's tragic death is given equal audience emotional weight via Fisher's far-off reaction as Leia, slowly feeling his passing and her powerful son's murderous act in the Force- one of Fisher's finest acting moments in STAR WARS.

In political gown for TFA.
Back promoting the film to worldwide press by the end of 2015, and a phenomenon which soon enough made over $2 billion dollars at the box office, Fisher and Leia's popularity were now unlikely to diminish, as the world waited to see what happened next with the additional return of Luke Skywalker to Leia and the family fold with the upcoming EPISODE VIII, written and directed with darker, even bolder ambition by Rian Johnson. A terrific year in 2016 followed for Carrie and her fans, with a new book, completed TV work, and the promise of even more for Leia to do via Colin Trevorrow's approaching EPISODE IX. Sadly such light was sent into darkness by late December, with the truly devastating and heart breaking news that Carrie had suffered a heart attack whilst on a flight from London to Los Angeles, and would pass away a few days on when everyone was hoping that she was on the mend. The shock was compounded by the fact that Fisher, prior to the journey, had been in such great spirits and had recently celebrated her sixtieth birthday in style. The shocking passing was followed by even more heart-breaking news- that her mother Debbie Reynolds would join her a mere few days after, not wanting to be without her daughter in life or death. Truly the end of one of Hollywood's most popular, formidable and quirkily unique mother/daughter relationships.

A lovely group shot for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY MAGAZINE - April 2015.

Carrie Fisher will live on in our hearts and minds, especially her film work, and as Princess Leia across two incredible STAR WARS trilogies. The power of the Force, and the Force of love, will always be with her. R.I.P.

EPISODE IX update: A Statement Regarding New Rumors | StarWars.com

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