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She's Sending Oscar Some Postcards From the Edge

Q&A with CARRIE FISHER

March 20, 1997|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Carrie Fisher is very much in the public eye these days thanks to the enormous box-office success of the re-release of the "Star Wars" trilogy. But Fisher's Princess Leia days are far behind her. These days, Fisher, 40, is concentrating more on her writing career. She's penned three funny novels, including the best-selling "Postcards From the Edge" and "Surrender the Pink," as well as the screenplay for the acclaimed 1990 film version of "Postcards."

Now she's bringing her wry sense of humor to the 69th Academy Awards presentation as a member of the show's writing team, which is led by veteran comedy writer Hal Kanter. Fisher, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, managed to squeeze a quick interview into her hectic schedule to chat about her latest writing assignment.

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Question: How would you describe your sense of humor?

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Answer: Gallows.

Q: How did this Oscar writing gig happen?

A: I don't know. [Producer] Gil Cates asked me to do it. I thought it was such an odd request because I had never done anything like it. I usually like to try new things, so I am trying new things.

Q: But you've written speeches before. The one you wrote for your mother at the recent American Comedy Awards was hysterical [she described her marriage to Fisher as "Oh My Faux Pas"].

A: [I wrote] my mom's and my own. I have been writing speeches for a lot of people for a while--acceptance, giving awards, things like that. [I've been writing speeches] a couple of years now. A friend started asking me. I don't really charge for it. They give me a gift or something.

Q: What are the challenges of writing the Oscar show?

A: The challenge is to make it funny and short--like me.

Q: But not every speech can be funny.

A: You have to do a combination of both. If there's an opportunity for humor, you use it. If there's not, you do something that genuinely reflects the category you are writing about.

Q: Will this year's show feature topical or political humor?

A: We are not political--topical, yes, political, no. We have no O.J. jokes and, as far as I know, we have no Clinton jokes. I think we are just staying fairly in the joke realm. It's hard to classify.

Q: Are you assigned certain Oscar categories to write?

A: Yes. We have got them split. I did my mom's--she's doing music score in a comedy or musical.

Q: Do you find out who is presenting a certain Oscar and then tailor the speech to that person?

A: Yes, we do. We know most of the people who are presenting. [The introductions are] pretty short, depending on the thing, depending on the award, depending on if it's a lifetime achievement award. It's usually pretty short when it comes to best supporting actor or actress. Foreign film doesn't seem to be very short. Editing has its own special requirements--it's being tied into music.

Q: What's the theme of this year's Oscars?

A: I don't know--just trying to get through the speeches. I think it's the year of the buffalo.

Q: Are you also writing host Billy Crystal's material?

A: No. Thank God. Billy works with [writer] Bruce Vilanch and his own team.

Q: How many times have you attended the Oscars?

A: I think two or three times. One time I was on with Martin Short, wearing the same dress, and when I was in my teens and then I went with Peter Weller when he was nominated for best short film.

Q: What have been some of the high and low points of past Oscar ceremonies?

A: Like the Rob Lowe thing? [He danced with Snow White in a much-maligned skit in 1989.] I have been watching some [past Oscar shows]. I have wanted to because this is not something I do. I am just an apprentice to Hal Kanter's sorcery.

It's always fun to see the stars. I think I don't like it as well when there are two speakers and they sort of face front and talk into the cameras and sort of don't interact. But you know, it's just a great show.

Q: Do you have a new novel on the horizon?

A: I am starting another novel now, but I can't start it until I finish another couple of scripts and this show.

* The Academy Awards will be telecast live from the Shrine on Monday starting at 6 p.m. on ABC.

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