Carrie Fisher on why Star Wars was ‘low-budget’

It was a role that would make Carrie Fisher one of the most famous faces on the planet. Star Wars is now so embedded in popular culture that it’s almost hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. However, as interviewer John Stapleton notes, when she first read the script it must have seemed “a pretty bizarre kind of film”.  While Fisher said she thought the script was “terrific”, a few leaps of imagination were needed to envisage how the film would turn out.

“They called it the most expensive low-budget film ever made,” she said. “They had to plan every shot because they were going to have to devise all sorts of new things for the special effects. They only had, and I say ‘only’ but for special effects it’s not much, $3m. It’s a $10m film.”

Her brother Todd Fisher told a BBC documentary in 2024 that when he accompanied her to an early Star Wars screening, she was convinced it was a science fiction B-movie that would probably end her career. Speaking on A Life in Ten Pictures, he said: “Of course, first thing that happens, the words fly over and then the battle cruiser flies over. She was clutching my hand, squeezing my hand really hard, and I said, ‘This is no B-movie’. Carrie’s very famous, all of a sudden – she’s a big star.”

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Star Wars was such an instant blockbuster that all sorts of unlikely people were jumping on the bandwagon. While the exact origins of Star Wars day, aka May the fourth, are unclear, according to Star Wars online encyclopaedia Wookieepedia, the punning phrase “May the fourth be with you” from which it derives dates back to at least May 1979, when it was used by Britain’s Conservative Party in a newspaper advert celebrating Margaret Thatcher becoming the country’s prime minister. “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations,” the copy ran.

A Tinseltown icon

Born into Hollywood royalty in 1956, Carrie Fisher was the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and pop singer Eddie Fisher. She secured the role of Princess Leia after studying acting in London. In 2004, she told BBC Breakfast about how in the first Star Wars film she spoke with a “floating British accent that I acquired at the Central School of Speech and Drama. I’m not exactly proud of the accent or the lip gloss, but other stuff… I had a really good time”.

Her acting career was dominated by her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. When asked in 2000 on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme about what the Star Wars legacy meant to her, she said: “I have no idea. My daughter carries around a folder of Princess Leia, and it follows me around for ever. Bad hair, weird clothes, no brassieres. I mean, I don’t know. It would be very difficult to encapsulate what it all was.” However, she did not resent being recognised in public for that role all those years later. “If I didn’t like it, it would set me up for a bad life,” she said.

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