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We Found Love in ‘A New Hope’ Place

Rewatching ‘Star Wars’ after the Carrie Fisher–Harrison Ford affair reveal

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

This past weekend, I watched Star Wars. So far, that sounds like many of my weekends, but the latest Star Wars watch was different from the countless Star Wars watches that came before. This was the first time I’d seen A New Hope since Carrie Fisher disclosed last week that she and Harrison Ford were definitely doin’ it during the making of the movie.

George Lucas hasn’t had time to release an Even More Special Edition with a scene of the two actors on set, tenderly talking about sand, so the movie itself is the same as ever. Luke is still super whiny, the Jawas and Tusken Raiders are still racially stereotyped, and that one Stormtrooper still hits his head on a door. From the repeat viewer’s perspective, though, this is a new A New Hope, one in which the phrase “Han shot first” takes on a new meaning. When you watch Star Wars now, the newly revealed, real-life relationship is the CGI ronto in the room.

On-set trysts, both real and rumored, are a Hollywood tradition that dates back to before Bogart-Bacall and is still observed today (much to Marion Cotillard’s dismay). Casting a bunch of pretty people, sending them somewhere remote, and paying them to fake falling in love is a formula for Olympic Village–level lust. Given the circumstances and the convincing on-screen chemistry between Han and Leia, Star Wars watchers have always wondered whether Ford’s small, one-man fighter had penetrated Fisher’s outer defense. Ford and Fisher were both beautiful, consenting adults, so why wouldn’t they costar sexually? Aside from the many complications of workplace romance, I mean, or the fact that Ford — who was 14 years older than the 19-year-old Fisher — was married with multiple kids, which raised the specter of an unpleasant scenario from the Star Wars comics coming true.

(Marvel Comics)
(Marvel Comics)

But just try to find one other reason!

Ford is famously evasive about his personal life, and for years, Fisher denied the affair. It’s like Darth Vader told Grand Moff Tarkin: “It will be some time before we can extract any information from her.” It took Fisher 40 years to acknowledge the three-month fling, which she describes as a dalliance for Ford and a simultaneously traumatizing and affirming fixation for her. If Tarkin had just waited until Leia turned 60, she might have written a memoir and divulged the location of the Rebel base.

Fisher’s memoir, The Princess Diarist, comes out Tuesday, and the chapter about Ford (excerpted here) has been as big a bombshell as one would expect of the news that two of our culture’s most common first crushes hooked up not that long ago in a galaxy not far away. If you’re hoping for details about whether Ford’s shaft is ray-shielded, you’ll be disappointed, but the confirmation of our fantasies about a young Fisher and a fairly young Ford are enough to color your first post-Carrison confirmation exposure to Star Wars in the following five ways.

I. The Han-Luke-Leia Love Triangle Is Even Less Convincing

Once you’ve watched Return of the Jedi, it’s hard to take Luke’s chances with Leia seriously, aside from the “Eww, incest” angle. Even in the summer of 1977, though, Han had to be the favorite. Although the metal bikini was still several years away from fruition, the bond between Leia and a legion of hormonal Star Wars fans formed the second that Stormtrooper said, “Set for stun.” Many of those fans might have seen themselves in the immature Luke, who sulks about not getting to go to Tosche station, mopes after Obi-Wan dies as if Leia hasn’t just lost her whole home planet, and almost pitiably imprints on the pixelated, holographic princess (who in fairness to the farm boy is clearly a Tatooine 10). It was easier to identify with the flawed, boyish Luke than the experienced smuggler whose looks and swagger made him, as Fisher writes, “a shining specimen of a man.”

Deep down, though, even Team Luke had to realize that Han was the inevitable victor. There’s just no sensible world in which a guy gets a girl despite this great a mismatch in outerwear.

(20th Century Fox)
(20th Century Fox)

Now we’re aware that not only was Fisher more attracted to Ford, but Mark Hamill (whom she loves “more like a sibling”) was so far from the picture that he — unlike everyone else who’s seen Star Wars — was “shocked” when he recently learned about Carrison. Knowing how Ford and Fisher were spending their weekends makes it even harder to believe the film’s fiction that this was ever a two-way race.

II. Curse My Metal Body Language

You’ve probably seen some of those suspect breakdowns by “body language experts” who pop up on the news to explain opaque interactions using transparent physical cues. For instance, we might never know the behind-the-scenes specifics of the Oval Office sit-down between President Obama and President-elect Trump, but we can find someone to extrapolate from the president manspreading slightly more after the meeting.

You scoff now, but the next time you watch Star Wars, you’ll be tempted to dissect all of the Fisher-Ford footage Zapruder style. By “body language,” I don’t mean the curious absence of bras in space, or that Leia’s robes start out pure and virginal and gradually get grimier, or that she finds a way to look alluring despite being detained, tortured, and scheduled to be terminated. I mean the appearance of intimacy between the two leads. Do they look like they’re doin’ it? Do they look like they’re trying not to look like they’re doin’ it? In later movies, when their on-screen story gets physical, do they look like they used to do it but don’t do it now, and haven’t discussed it since? What would that look like? And how much more resonant is their reunion in The Force Awakens, in light of our discovery that both Carrison and the Solos had once been together and then grown apart?

(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Fisher recounts shooting after her first weekend with Ford and “having to behave towards each other as though the weekend before hadn’t even occurred.” Do I detect a hint of self-conscious reserve in the Han-Leia hug that happens after the climactic battle? I don’t know, but I do know that I watched it frame by frame in an effort to figure it out.

III. The Innuendo Is Strong With This One

Who hasn’t giggled at a dirty-sounding Star Wars line? There’s no shortage of unintentional humor in A New Hope alone, from “At that speed, will you be able to pull out in time?” to “It didn’t go in. It just impacted on the surface.” Below are the top five Han/Leia lines from A New Hope that are even more nudge-nudge-able now:

5. “When you came in here, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”

4. “Put that thing away or you’re going to get us all killed!”

3. “Into the garbage chute, flyboy.”

2. “Get on top of it!” “I’m trying!”

1. “Get on top!” “I can’t!”

IV. Fisher’s Performance Is Much More Impressive

“Harrison made me feel nervous,” Fisher writes of their affair. “I got tongue-tied in his company, and clumsy.”

Off camera and working without a script, Fisher — who believes she was already experiencing a then-undiagnosed bipolar disorder — agonized over every exchange with Ford, “fretting over what I would and would not say.” On camera, she played the movie’s most competent, commanding character, a born leader with little self-doubt who leaves Han fumbling for words when she orders him to “do as I tell you.” Considering her inexperience in both acting and romance — she’d had only one movie role and one boyfriend before Star Wars — playing opposite the older Ford in both roles at once (and acting almost full time, lest he realize how unworldly she was) was an intimidating assignment. Somehow, she navigated her first lead role and a messy relationship without her work ever slipping on screen, which makes an iconic performance even more worthy of praise.

In the excerpt, Fisher doesn’t mention any encounters with Ford’s then-wife, Mary Marquardt, whom he divorced three years later. But if she ever had to hide her involvement with Ford, she’d already refined her technique.

V. The Galaxies Aren’t Always Aligned

Fisher describes her former feelings for Ford as “unreciprocated love,” an IRL rehearsal for “I love you” and “I know.

“[Ford’s] face in repose looked closer to a scowl than any other expression,” Fisher writes. “He looked like he didn’t care whether or not you looked at him.” Later in the chapter, she adds that “he didn’t exhibit emotions,” and she remembers thinking, “It could happen, though … This could be the night he smiles.”

In other words, Ford isn’t a lot like Han Solo, who’s famous for his grin and ends up marrying Leia. During filming, Ford was foremost on Fisher’s mind, while “she reckons she was probably around 15th on his list of priorities.” She no longer needs our sympathy for a 40-year-old pain, but it’s hard not to feel for Fisher when Luke says what she wanted to hear from Ford — “I care” — while Solo scowls in the foreground.

“He’s not a wink person,” Fisher says. He just played one pretty well.