Princess Leia - General Leia Organa - Carrie Fisher
Leia’s – Carrie’s purpose: standing adaptable and resilient in the face of challenges, no matter how impossible they seem.
This story traces her Resilient Leadership™ journey as she works towards achieving this purpose.
On 15th January 2018, I watched The Last Jedi. The shift in General Leia’s demeanour since her previous movie The Force Awakens was profound. Towards the end of The Last Jedi, Leia said with heartfelt pain, “I don’t think I can do this any more.” I sensed that this was not just an acting line; this was as REAL to her as Leia AND as to her as Carrie! She died in 2016, not long after she finished the shooting; she was nearing the end in that scene, and I wondered what the journey was that was ending for her.
Rian Johnson, the director of The Last Jedi, says of Carrie as Leia, “She was so aware of the power of Leia, as the one female character in that universe at the time [of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope]” [The Australian Review, 2-3 December 2017].
One fan said just after she died: “she [General Organa] is who I’m going to be looking to in dark times.” Please click here to read more from the source of this quote.
Although she acted in many movies, it was only as Leia in Star Wars that Carrie Fisher stretched herself into a character who was the epitome of resilience. Given her challenges in ‘real’ life, I wondered if this Star Wars space allowed her to consider how she might overcome her life challenges. Perhaps this is something that actors have in common – the opportunity to step into others’ shoes and truly see life from others’ perspectives.
I first watched Princess Leia on the screen in 1977, when Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) was released in Australia. Having previously enjoyed the movie 2001, I thought that the Star Wars story was a little light on. However our family took to it and A New Hope became the most-rewatched movie in our home. During the endless repeats I engaged better with the main characters – Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.
At the time, and since, against a background of public mutterings about Carrie Fisher’s various personal challenges, I related to the feisty princess. I’ve seen Carrie in other movie roles, but never has she approached the sheer resilience of her Princess Leia. I wonder if, in the world of movies, she could let her demons stay ‘outside the room’ and explore the adaptable, resilient Leia. In the Star Wars journey Leia had a far wider story than the story of Carrie Fisher the person. As the Star Wars movies progressed during the early 1980s through The Empire Strikes Back, then The Return of the Jedi, I sensed that Carrie opened up into the same personal growth that Leia embraced as she faced her own dark side with adaptability and resilience. She never gave up. Never.
Then came the prequel Rogue One a few years ago. This movie shone a sharper light on the dark side. When Leia appeared towards the end of the movie as the young Leia in A New Hope, I had even more admiration for the extent of the evil she was facing yet remained so resilient.
At the same time, General Leia Organa appeared in The Force Awakens. Here Carrie, older and wiser now, allowed her adaptability and resilience to reach its pinnacle, even keeping going after her beloved Han Solo was killed. At the end of the movie I felt that Leia had become truly great, at a time when the rebellion needed her to be truly great to inspire all the rebels to keep going no matter what. And in a way she passed some of that greatness on to Rey.
Then The Last Jedi was released in December 2017, a year after Carrie died. Here General Organa was tired, but she could allow herself to be tired because Rey became resilient when it mattered, as Leia had been when she was younger. Although exhausted, General Organa was the elder of them both – wiser and more reflective than I’ve ever seen her. So when she spoke those words “I don’t think I can do this any more,” she shifted to the last place of resilience in life – the place of letting go and allowing peace enfold her. For Carrie Fisher, this was what she’d sought all her troubled life, and as General Leia Organa she could embrace it as her very best self.
Rian Johnson expressed his pleasure of working with Carrie on her last movie: “We really connected over the love of words…She was a force of nature, such a special person” [The Australian Review, 2-3 December 2017]. She had reached a good place.
My tears at the end of The Last Jedi were for Carrie – tears of happiness that she was finally at peace, having given our world such a profound example of a proud, adaptable and truly resilient woman to the end.
Thank you Carrie and Leia,
Photo: Promotional photo of Fisher as General Leia Organa from Wikipedia.