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Carrie, The Pythons and The Stones (and The Beatle(s))

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Idle and Hamill with a very jolly Ford

Idle and Hamill with a very jolly Ford

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As a fan of both Star Wars and Monty Python for the vast majority of my 40 years, I was surprised and delighted to read, back in the mid 2000’s in Michael Palin’s diaries 1969-1979, that those two worlds of the famous collided on more than one occasion. On one particular night this celebrity friendship led to a third unexpected megastar encounter with… The Rolling Stones! – On a side note I have a tenuous link to the Stones myself, having been born in Dartford, the Stones being our most famous “export”. My dad even remembers being in the Cubs while a Scout member and BB gun wielding Keith Richards hid up a tree taking pot shots at the younger targets below.

Anyway, back to Carrie and that megastar crossover story…. You see in 1979 during the production of The Empire Strikes Back, Carrie Fisher rented one of Eric Idle’s properties.  41 Carlton Hill, London to be precise.  During that stay Carrie recounts one particular night:

“I was staying in Eric Idle’s town house in St. John’s Wood—that’s near St. John’s Wort, only more depressing—and Eric had just come home from filming “Life of Brian” in Tunisia. He brought this drink that he said they gave the extras so they’d work longer. I called it Tunisian Table Cleaner.”

“…Eric called down and said, ‘The Rolling Stones are here!’ They were recording two blocks away. And I came down and it was all of them. As a rule I’m allergic to alcohol, and Harrison doesn’t really drink either. But I called Harrison and said, ‘Get over here. This is ridiculous!”

“And we had a really early call the following morning, but you have to measure the fun – Rolling Stones, or early call? Rolling Stones, or early call? And we decided on both. I wonder how he remembers it. But that night, there was a makeshift party.”

“And they’re a partying bunch of guys, and though I didn’t drink at the time, to be kind of amenable, or whatever, I drank. I used to say I’m allergic to drinking, and this would have been a demonstration of that. And we stayed up pretty late. Charlie [Watts], that one, he didn’t have a lot of facial expressions. He’s like the Darth Vader of the Stones.”

“I remember that we never went to sleep.”

“That morning we shot our arrival at Cloud City, where we meet Billy Dee Williams. And it’s one of the very few times in the series both Harrison and I smile. To this day, Eric is proud as a papa of his impact on the trilogy.”

Behind the Scenes on Cloud City

Behind the Scenes on Cloud City


 

Carrie and Harrison having a rare smile together

Carrie and Harrison having a rare smile together

 

Michael Palin remembers that same night in this entry from his diaries –

“Saturday 6th June 1979:

In the evening to a party at Eric’s – given by Chris Miller (Chris looked after the house while Eric was away) for Carrie Fisher (the heroine of Star Wars), who is renting El’s house while she works on a Star Wars Sequel at Elstree.

Carrie looking very small and delicate, her soft, pale skin a refreshing change from the butch aerosol-spray healthy look of most Los Angeleans. She doesn’t know anyone, but is straight and funny at the same time, and we have a mutual line of chat belonging to the select band of Saturday night Live hosts. She is currently ‘going with’ Paul Simon…”

Carrie "going with" Paul.

Carrie “going with” Paul.

 

“The two heroes of Star Wars are also there – Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.

Hamill is chirpy and is dressed like a delivery boy. Harrison for looks young and alienated. he would look over his glasses at us if he had any. As it is he moves broodingly around – like a a famous man might do if he knew how famous he is.”

UPDATE: Eric Idle – the man himself – just replied to my tweet in which I asked him “how well do you remember that night?”:

UPDATE: It suddenly occurred to me today to check in Alan Arnold’s brilliant book, Once Upon A Galaxy – A journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes back. On that day, 6th June 1979 the whole crew were in shock as Second Unit Director John Barry had suddenly died. There is no record for that following morning.

The Beatle(s) connection is separate from the above, but just as surprising. In fact before today I didn’t even know it existed. In 1978, with the Star Wars cast at the top of their powers, Carrie Fisher appeared on “Ringo”, a TV Special starring Ringo Starr “as a both fictionalised version of himself, and as his fictional half-brother “Ognir Rrats” (Wikipedia). In in the sequence they sing a duet – “You’re Sixteen” in what has to be a special brand of awkwardness previously reserved only for “The Star Wars Holiday Special” of the same year. The “music video” even contains some Terry Gilliam-esque animation (by Linda Taylor), almost bringing us full circle back to Eric Idle.

 

Sources
The above quotes from Carrie are culled from the following three articles –
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/star-wars/11546311/Carrie-Fisher-I-was-quite-the-space-slut.html http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/carrie-fisher-in-1999-star-wars-taught-me-everything/ http://www.nickiswift.com/31349/heres-happened-carrie-fisher-harrison-ford/?utm_campaign=clip
Michael Palin’s Diaries 1969-1979 – ISBN-10: 0312369352

Author: filmumentaries

Creator of the Filmumentary (TM) format.

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