CARL KASELL: Next up, an actress and writer who's had a long and varied career, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Carrie Fisher has been a screenwriter, novelist and actress noted for her sharp...
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Carl, she's Princess Leia.
SAGAL: Her worshipfulness joined us, along with panelists Alison Stewart, Paul Provenza and Roy Blount, Jr., in January 2009.
"Star Wars," you got the role of Princess Leia when you were something like 19-years-old?
CARRIE FISHER: Yeah.
SAGAL: Now, this is a total dork question but it's bothered me for years. You're doing the first movie. You are, of course, the great romantic interest of the young hero Luke Skywalker.
SAGAL: We found out later, quite famously, that you're sisters - sister and brother, rather. Did you know that when you did the first movie?
FISHER: Not at all.
SAGAL: You didn't know that you were supposed to be - Lucas, he didn't tell you?
FISHER: No, I didn't know. And I think he sort of went according to our personalities a little bit. But he also didn't tell me about the metal bikini. I was brought to San Francisco and shown this thing I was going to have to wear.
ROY BLOUNT JR: Isn't a metal bikini sort of cold?
FISHER: Well, what it is, is it doesn't adhere to your body. So Boba Fett was standing behind me. You remember him.
SAGAL: I remember him well, yes.
FISHER: And I'm laying there on Jabba the Hutt, and he can see all the way to Florida.
SAGAL: And he's wearing that mask, so who knows where he's looking. So he's having a good time.
FISHER: Yep. There's nothing I can do about it.
SAGAL: Got to ask you about the hair. You had that hair, the famous hair.
FISHER: I hated that hair.
SAGAL: Yeah. Could you do anything about it? Did you try to do anything about it?
FISHER: No, I didn't understand why they'd hired me to begin with. So I...
FISHER: You know, didn't...
PAUL PROVENZA: That's because you hadn't worn the bikini yet.
FISHER: I didn't want to make any trouble. So whatever they told me to do, that was just fine. And they put the horrible hairstyle on. They'd given me the job with the caveat that I had to lose ten pounds. And I weighed 105 at the time.
SAGAL: Good grief.
FISHER: But about 60 of those pounds were in my face. So a good idea would be, though, to give me a hairstyle that further widens my already wide face.
FISHER: And it took two hours to do that hairstyle. When I did "Saturday Night Live," they had one just made up that just plopped on your head. And I thought why couldn't we have done that?
SAGAL: OK, your book is so candid. You've told us so many things. But you also say, at a part in your book, you wouldn't believe what I'm not telling you.
SAGAL: So when do we get that version? When do we get the unexpurgated version?
FISHER: When all the people that those stories relate to are dead.
FISHER: Including me.
JR: That'll keep them alive.
SAGAL: All right, do you know anything juicy about Alec Guinness, for example?
FISHER: Alec Guinness once gave Mark Hamill 20 pounds to go away.
SAGAL: Is that true?
FISHER: Yes, it is.
SAGAL: He just said, "Here, take this money and leave me alone," is that what you're saying?
SAGAL: Yeah, he was asking Alec all these questions about his career and it became annoying, because Mark was something of a film buff. So he gave him the money to go away.
And did Mark take it?
FISHER: Of course.
FISHER: I think after Alec signed it.
JR: When you and Cary Grant talked, did you call each other Carrie?
SAGAL: Well, Carrie Fisher, we are honored to have you with us. We have invited you here to play a game we're calling?
KASELL: OK, it's complicated and expensive and it never worked, but at least this Star Wars doesn't have Ewoks.
FISHER: Oh, fantastic.
SAGAL: That's right, Carrie Fisher, we're going to ask you about the other Star Wars, formerly known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, the missile defense program dreamed up by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
SAGAL: Get three questions about this Star Wars right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Carrie Fisher playing for?
KASELL: She is playing for Katerina Hurlahe of Chicago.
SAGAL: All right, here we go. Here's your first question. People have wondered for years why Reagan became so enamored with the idea of shooting down enemy missiles with ray guns.
Among the possible reasons were which of these? A: he once played a spy name Brass Bancroft in a movie serial, whose mission was to protect a new government space weapon called the Inertia Ray? Was it B: he liked to pun on his name, saying things like, I'm a real ray gun and if you don't watch out I'll blast you?
SAGAL: Or C: he loved to collect umbrellas, always looking for the sturdiest and strongest and wondered how big and effective they could get?
FISHER: I'm going to have to say A, though I wish I could say B.
SAGAL: You're going to say A that he played a guy named Brass Bancroft in a movie serial involving a ray gun.
FISHER: Just as probable as the umbrella.
SAGAL: You're right. But you're right, he did play Brass Bancroft in a movie serial.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: In which there was an inertia ray, which shot down an enemy plane. All right that's good. You have two more questions. Here's number two. Reagan was encouraged to pursue Star Wars by the notorious Dr. Edward Teller, known as the father of the hydrogen bomb.
Teller told the president that the US could construct powerful x-ray lasers that could shoot down enemy missiles. But Teller didn't tell the president one small detail, what? A: each x-ray laser would have to be a mile long and cost a trillion dollars? B: each x-ray would have to be powered by an exploding atomic bomb? Or C: at the current rate of research and development, the x-ray lasers would be ready to launch in 2150?
FISHER: I like A, but I'm going to go with C.
SAGAL: You're going to go with C, that they wouldn't be ready until 2150?
SAGAL: No, it was B. The lasers would work beautifully as long as you could blow up an atomic bomb every time you needed to use one, to provide the x-rays.
FISHER: Oh, damn.
SAGAL: Teller neglected to mention that detail. The program went forward.
SAGAL: All right. Third question: the SDI program never became operational, despite a few successful tests. At least one of those tests back in the 80s might not have been as successful as the Pentagon claimed. Why?
A: the Pentagon said it was a success when one of its target missiles happened to blow up by accident? B: the target missiles were wired to explode when the Star Wars missile got anywhere near it? Or C: the Pentagon claimed that the hunter missile found its target simply because both missiles crashed into the same ocean?
FISHER: Let me go with three then.
SAGAL: You're going to go with the third choice, that they both crashed into the Pacific? No, I'm afraid it was B. It was B. Yes, they were wired to explode, you see, and thus the Pentagon...
FISHER: See, I'm not good at this.
SAGAL: No, it's all right.
SAGAL: So Carl, how did Carrie Fisher do on our quiz?
KASELL: Well, Carrie needed at least two correct answers to win for Katerina Hurlahe but she had just one.
FISHER: Oh, I'm so sorry.
SAGAL: It's all right, because even though you didn't do well on this, you still helped blow up two Death Stars.
FISHER: That's really what counts.
SAGAL: Isn't it, though, ultimately?
SAGAL: Carrie Fisher, thank you so much for being with us.
FISHER: Thank you. Thank you guys.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.