Carrie Fisher: 8 Movie Roles the Star Wars Princess Didn't Get
The teen musical Grease made John Travolta a true big-screen actor and introduced audiences to the acting talents of Australian pop singer Olivia Newton-John.
In the movie the character Sandy would be a goody-goody girl who eventually, shall we say, moved over to the "dark side," becoming something of a cigarette-smoking bad girl dressed in black. The actress chosen to play the part needed to be a credible singer and dancer.
Before Newton John got the part, the producers auditioned a number of young actresses for the movie. Marie Osmond was one of them. She had the singing talent, but decided the part was a bit too racy for her carefully-polished Mormon good-girl image. Susan Dey, known for her TV series The Partridge Family was another actress considered.
Producers then looked at Carrie Fisher who had just completed Star Wars. She had burst onto the big screen the year earlier in Star Wars, had the "goody-girl" quality they were looking for, and she could dance. But her singing talents were a bit sketchy, and with her Star Wars success and attention nearing the point of "overwhelm," Carrie went on to sign for the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back.
None-the-less, Grease was a huge success and the top box office movie for 1978.
2. Thelma and Louise
By 1991, Carrie Fisher had filmed all three of the original Star Wars movies and assumed she'd donned the Princess Leia costume for the last time. Of course she didn't know several decades later she would again grace the big screen as the world's most beloved galactic princess in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and her final appearance before her death in 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
So in the 1990s she was looking to play "older" roles and escape the Star Wars hysteria, and the opportunity presented itself to potentially star in what would become an iconic "girl buddy" movie called Thelma and Louise.
"You get to choose what monsters you want to slay. I'm sorry to say this again, but let's face it - the Force is with you."— Carrie Fisher
Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster originally accepted the two lead roles, but starting the actual production took longer than expected and both actresses had to bail out, opening the door for other actresses to be tested.
Some of the actresses who were considered for the part of Louise before Susan Sarandon landed it were Jessica Lange, Jane Seymour, Liza Minelli, Farrah Fawcett and Carrie Fisher. To play Thelma, although the part eventually went to Geena Davis, producers considered Diane Keaton, Debra Winger and Kelly McGillis. In some cases, some actresses auditioned for both parts.
And as a bit of trivia, Geena Davis was one of the two dozen actresses who auditioned back in 1976 to play Princess Leia in the originally-titled Star Wars.
Thelma and Louise went on to great commercial success and both Sarandon and Davis were nominated for the Academy Award's Best Actress Oscar, but ironically Jodie Foster--who was initially going to play one of the two stars--won for The Silence of the Lambs.
Carrie Fisher Movies
Which of Carrie's non-Star Wars movies is your favorite?
It's hard to imagine seeing Princess Leia flying through the skies in the arms of Superman, but in 1978 it nearly happened.
Many actors and actresses were considered for the parts of Superman and Lois Lane. James Caan, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford were all offered the Superman role and turned it down. Producers finally gambled on an unknown actor by the name of Christopher Reeve.
"The thing about being famous is, it's weird. The only people who get how weird it is are other famous people."— Margot Kidder
The part of Lois Lane was up for grabs and although Fisher was seriously considered for the part, Canadian actress Margot Kidder was the one who won the role.
But with the wild success the film brought were multiple personal challenges for Kidder. In December 1990 she was in a car accident and suffered lingering painful health issues and drug addiction. In 1996 she suffered what was called a bipolar disorder and police found her babbling, disheveled and hiding in bushes before she was committed to a mental health institution.
On May 18, 2017 Kidder was found dead in her home in Livingston, Montana from what the coroner would later rule a suicide from alcohol and prescription drugs.
She was 69.
4. Taxi Driver
Jodie Foster starred with Robert Di Niro in the 1976 classic Taxi Driver. The story is about a mentally unstable veteran played by Robert Di Niro, working as a taxi driver. He becomes obsessed and protective of a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris played by Foster.
At the time the movie was filmed, Jodie Foster really was just 12, but had a long list of movie credentials, having been acting in movies and on TV since she was seven. Di Niro, who received great critical acclaim for his acting, wasn't director Martin Scorcese's first choice for the role. He initially offered the part to Dustin Hoffman who turned it down and later said he regretted his decision.
Carrie Fisher was in her late teens at the time and was asked to audition for the role. She had just begun her movie career with a role opposite Warren Beatty in Shampoo. Her petite stature and youthful looks would have helped her to play a younger teen. However, Carrie turned it down saying she wasn't comfortable playing the part of a young prostitute.
It may have been Carrie's smartest move since the next movie she signed for was Star Wars where she played a galactic princess named Leia.
After the Gone With The Wind movie, Star Wars is the second-highest grossing film of all time.
Clearly, the Force was with Fisher.
As I was updating this article a few months ago, I purchased a most enjoyable book, the highly rated by Todd Fisher. Fisher is Carrie's brother, and Debbie's son. Being a family member, Todd shares some delightful memories of growing up with Carrie, and her often tempestuous relationship with her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds. My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie
Fisher comes across as a caring and compassionate brother and son as he shares intimate details of his mother's financial troubles and failed marriages, and Carrie's battle with bipolar disorder. I especially loved his story about bring home an actual tank, and all the great photos of Carrie and Debbie being shared with the public for the first time.
If you're a fan of Carrie or Debbie, this book has to be in your library!
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5. The Exorcist
In 1972, when she would have been around sixteen, Carrie was strongly considered for the role of Regan in the horror classic The Exorcist which eventually went to an unknown young actress named Linda Blair.
However, Carrie wasn't the only member of her family who almost got a part in the cult horror film. Her mother Debbie Reynolds also was a contender for a part in the movie, playing Chris MacNeil, the possessed girl's mother. That role eventually was given to Ellen Burstyn.
One can only imagine how the movie would have turned out had Carrie and real life mother Debbie landed the roles.
The Exorcist went on to make nearly $250,000,000 at the box office over the years, and would be the highest-grossing horror film of all time for decades. As a small piece of trivia, the author of The Exorcist book, William Peter Blatty had been a contestant 20 years earlier on the Groucho Marx TV show, You Bet Your Life. He ended up winning $10,000 and when asked by Groucho what he planned to do with the money, he stated he would be taking some time off to write a novel.
It took Blatty 20 years to write, but his book finally got published in 1971.
That novel turned out to be The Exorcist.
"When I was 13 I asked my mother if it was possible for this to end - I'd had enough of it. And that was right about the time that we got a call for 'The Exorcist' interview."— Linda Blair
6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
One-time Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe was the force behind 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The movie would help launch the careers of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold and Phoebe Cates, who played the sexy role of Linda Barrett. Look closely and you'll also see a young 17-year-old Nicholas Cage who used his real surname in the credits--Coppola.
Carrie was one of the young actresses considered for the role of Linda which Phoebe Cates eventually landed. No doubt many Star Wars fans would have a problem trying to imagine Princess Leia in a two-piece bikini and eventually going topless as she walked toward the camera. That particular scene was voted the top movie nude scene of all time by Mr. Skin fans.
Besides Fisher, some of the other actresses who were considered for either the Linda Barrett role or that of Stacy (Leigh's part) were Elizabeth Shue, Rosanna Arquette, Diana Lane and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Fisher went on to film Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi which was being filmed that same year.
7. Top Gun
In 1986, the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun was the biggest hit of the year. Cruise had achieved a degree of success a few years earlier with Risky Business playing a teen entrepreneur, but Top Gun made him a bonafide box office sex symbol and his career took off faster than the F-14A Tomcat he flew in the movie.
The movie's producers knew for the film to be a success they had to choose the right love interest for the 24-year-old actor, and Darryl Hannah, Jodie Foster, Brooke Shields, Linda Hamilton, and Carrie Fisher were among those who were either offered or considered for the part.
Ironically, the role went to a little-known actress named Kelly McGillis who was five years older than Cruise, and who had acted with Fisher's Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford a year earlier in Witness.
8. Pretty Woman
It's hard to imagine anyone but Julia Roberts in the iconic role of street-walking prostitute Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman, but Carrie Fisher, who had just recently finished When Harry Met Sally, was one of the actresses considered for the role.
In the movie, Roberts hooks up with wealthy Richard Gere and the casual business arrangement eventually develops into a serious and loving romance between the two. Before Gere was signed, Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone were offered the role, but both turned it down due to other commitments.
Before Roberts agreed to play the part, Carrie Fisher, Bo Derek, Sharon Stone and Jamie Lee Curtis were among the many others who came close to landing the part. Roberts was still relatively unknown at the time, her biggest role a year earlier in Steel Magnolias, but she and Gere had chemistry and the search for the two leads was over.
With Gere and Roberts at the helm, Pretty Woman was one of 1990's smash hits, raking in nearly $180 million at the box office.
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Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope
She got to live every little girl's dream of growing up to be a princess in love with a dashing young knight.
The princess was Carrie Fisher, her handsome knight-in-shining armor was Harrison Ford, and they starred in one of the greatest movies of all time: Star Wars: A New Hope.
Fisher would eventually play the part in five of the eight Star Wars movies before passing away in December 2016 from complications attributed to heart disease and sleep apnea.
The daughter of Hollywood legends Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Carrie's acting career began in 1975 with a small role opposite Warren Beatty in Shampoo.
Her next movie turned out to be the second highest grossing film of all time, just behind Gone With The Wind and made her an international star. But she wasn't a shoo-in for the Leia role, and faced some stiff competition from some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Click here to see some of the actresses who auditioned for the Princess Leia part.
During her more than four decades the actress appeared in dozens of movies, but was almost cast in many more.
Here are some of the great movie roles she almost landed.
Carrie Fisher's Original Star Wars Audition With Harrison Ford
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Tim Anderson