Fame & Fortune: Carrie Fisher

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Carrie Fisher is one of those stars who has been around long enough to mean different things to different generations. For one, she may primarily be regarded as the daughter of glamour couple Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, who famously left Reynolds for Liz Taylor.

To another, she is the space icon Princess Leia, one of the heroes of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” saga. Some got their first pubescent glimpse of sexuality thanks to the shiny gold bikini she wore in “Return of the Jedi.”

But for the younger generation, Fisher may come to be known more for her rousing confessional style and a wild life that puts most reality shows to shame. In the midst of a successful career as an actress, screenwriter and novelist, Fisher faced down horrible battles with mental illness and spent many years fighting these battles with drugs and alcohol, eventually landing in rehab for electroshock treatment.

In coming to terms with all this, Fisher, in 2006, released the hilarious and revealing memoir “Wishful Drinking,” telling tales of her bizarre showbiz upbringing and the downward spiral that landed her in the mental ward. This year, Fisher turned “Wishful Drinking” into a one-woman show, which opened on Broadway in early October.

Fisher, 53, spoke to Bankrate about this crazy life, and what it has meant to her financially. 

Bankrate: You were once engaged to Dan Aykroyd, so you were right in the middle of the crazy, first years of “Saturday Night Live.” Did all the partying and drugs make them more funny, or less so?

Carrie Fisher: With drugs, you generally work in spite of them. They were pretty professional, though. I maybe saw some pot smoking on the job. But they had to get a new show out every week, so it was a pretty professional atmosphere except for the incredibly immature people who were around, and I include myself in that.

Bankrate: John Belushi is always painted as wildly out of control.

Carrie Fisher: He was the sweetest guy. He was a drug addict, no more crazy or out of control than someone with a really bad drug problem. The difference with John was that unfortunately, to get close to him, people would give him drugs. So it was hard for him to stay straight.

Bankrate: You’re probably one of the few people who worked with the original “SNL” crew and the best of the latest. Comedically, how would you compare Tina Fey to the original cast?

Carrie Fisher: Tina Fey is creative, and a writer. Not all of the performers in the original troupe were writers. Danny (Aykroyd) wrote some, but Tina is all over the map in terms of what she does. It’s really impressive.

Bankrate: Was there a specific moment whent you realized how much “Star Wars” would come to mean for so many people?

Carrie Fisher: No. It was a shock to me in the beginning when they were waiting in line like that. We used to drive by the lines like, “Oh my God! What the hell?” No film had ever done that. It wasn’t like, “Remember when this happened with ‘Flipper?'” It hadn’t happened. They invented the term “blockbuster” for that film, because the lines broke for blocks. So when we did the second film, we realized we were doing a hit movie. There was this huge appetite for these other films, and that was a completely unique situation.

Bankrate: Now that you’ve had time to let it sink in, what was the greatest long-term effect of electroshock therapy on you?

Carrie Fisher: There’s less agitation. I was having some trouble with depression, and the medication really wasn’t working. It’s not like I was suicidal, but I wasn’t really glad I was alive.

Bankrate: With all the success you’ve had with acting and writing, have there been periods when you’ve had real economic hardship?

Carrie Fisher: Absolutely. How about right now? I’ve been working for the past two years on the road in nonprofit theaters. Nonprofit, as it relates to me, basically refers to the fact that they’re paying me practically nothing. There’s no profit like nonprofit, because someone’s making a bunch of money somewhere, but it’s not the performer or the writer. I know both the performer and the writer of “Wishful Drinking,” and neither of them got paid very much.

Bankrate: With Princess Leia being so iconic, it’s easy to assume that …

Carrie Fisher: … that I had a whole bunch of money? Why would I still be getting money in my early 50s off points that I received in my early 20s? I know people assume I’m very rich. I even do so sometimes, at the great despair of my office.

Bankrate: That being the case, when you make decisions about what you’re going to do next in your career, is it more about the economics of it?

Carrie Fisher: Sometimes, it’s definitely about the economics of it. I don’t just work as an artist. I have to make a living. I have a house. I have a daughter. I have people that take care of the house. I have people that work with me that make my life easier so I can write and perform. I need to make sure everybody’s taken care of.

Bankrate: So that’s why you took the role in (the recent slasher film remake) “Sorority Row”?

Carrie Fisher: Absolutely. They paid me great.

Bankrate: I was a little surprised when I saw you in the trailer.

Carrie Fisher: If I hadn’t done that film, I would have gone broke this year. You’d be surprised how many people are in that position. You make your biggest amount of money when you’re young, when you’re getting a bunch of parts. That’s when it’s all happening. But you have to save that money, and I did not do that.