For the last forty years, Princess Leia is a name that has been synonymous with the strength, capability and beauty that women bring to the Star Wars universe. From her epic hairstyles to her complicated family history, Leia Organa Solo has been one of the most human characters in the Star Wars saga. The daughter of both a tyrannical Dark Lord of the Sith and good hearted prince from a doomed planet, the role was at one time one of the most coveted in all of Hollywood. Princess Leia has been a senator, a military leader, and everything in between, becoming one of Star Wars’ most enduring characters. With her potential return in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, there’s never a better time to get to know the Alderaan royals’ deep history in Star Wars lore. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Princess Leia.
15. Hair to the Empire
From the moment audiences started getting a glimpse at Leia’s “cinnamon bun” hair, Carrie Fisher’s hairstyles in the Star Wars films have been some of the most talked about locks to ever hit the silver screen. George Lucas’ inspiration for Leia’s signature look came from Edward Curtis’ photos of native Mexicans. Working with Omen hairstylist Patricia McDermott, Lucas would try what Carrie Fisher would claim to be around 40 hairdos.
Leia’s second crowning achievement was lovingly dubbed “the hot plate special”. During the A New Hope‘s Medal Ceremony, Leia really classed up the affair with three braids wrapped around a bun – looking like a stack of pancakes. McDermott would go on to work on Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but ultimately return to create Leia’s hair for Return of the Jedi. No Slave Leia cosplay is complete without a Tatooinian hair clip and waist-length braid of hair.
Creating opposing looks that would show Leia combat ready on Hoth and then more subdued on Bespin, Barbara Ritchie would step in to braid Leia’s hair for The Empire Strikes Back. Adding in her Boushh disguise & Endor Special Forces’ helmet hair as well as her styles in A Force Awakens, Leia has had ten live-action hairstyles for people to mimic and mock in equal measure.
14. Leia’nnie Oakley
In the Star Wars parody Spaceballs, Daphne Zuniga’s Princess Vespa is drawn into a gunfight after her hair is singed by laser fire. Unloading on the Spaceball troopers, Vespa takes out a squad of soldiers alone. Bill Pullman’s Lonestar and John Candy’s Barf comment that she’s “not bad… for a girl,” forcing Joan Rivers’ golden droid Dot Matrix to respond, “That was pretty good for Rambo!” Mel Brooks is, of course, poking fun at the high accuracy with which Princess Leia handles her weapon in the detention center of the Death Star, but the numbers add up.
While it’s incredibly clear Stormtroopers have terrible accuracy, what hasn’t always been clear was just how accurate Leia really was. One intrepid Reddit user discovered that amongst the original trilogy characters Leia reigns supreme with a 66% hit ratio. Who was the worst shot? Well, now we’re wondering if anyone bothered to sober him up outside of the Mos Eisley Cantina, because Han Solo had an unimpressive 57%. Though, to be fair, Solo did fire the most shots.
13. The Legend of Leia’s Casting
The audition process for Star Wars wasn’t exactly traditional, as George Lucas partnered with his colleague Brian DePalma to conduct joint auditions for A New Hope and Carrie. Both projects were looked at as hot properties for young unknown actors, but many of the faces that came through would go on to have careers and fame of their own.
Of the actresses Carrie Fisher beat out for the role, some of the most famous names that have been mentioned like Karen Allen, Meryl Streep, and Sigourney Weaver have been added to the legend through fan daydreams. While Sissy Spacek did technically audition for Star Wars, she had always been brought in under the presumption she was reading for Carrie. Throughout the auditions the only actress that the two directors would both want to cast was Amy Irving, who went on to play Sue in Carrie.
Though future Laverne & Shirley star, Cindy Williams, and Terri Nunn, the onetime singer for New Wave band Berlin, would audition to be a certain senator from Alderaan, the only other serious contender for the part of Princess Leia was Jodie Foster.
12. Vader’s Legacy
After the fall of Palpatine, Leia would take a place in the New Republic Senate, laboring for years to prevent the rise of the Empire’s remnants in the government. As far as the galaxy knew, her father, Bail Organa, had died nobly on Alderaan – a tragic loss for the Republic.
In the novel Star Wars: Bloodlines, the memories of the atrocities of the Galactic Civil War have begun to fade from the minds of everyday citizens. New elements of the government that fetishize the Empire have begun to take hold. During this period of suspicion, Leia’s true parentage is revealed to the galaxy: she is the daughter of Darth Vader.
The secret that Queen Amidala of Naboo and Anakin Skywalker had twin children had been recorded by Bail Organa so that Leia could know her true heritage. The recording would be discovered by Leia’s political rivals and released on the floor of the Senate, just as she was being nominated to lead as First Senator, thus proving that even a galaxy far, far away has glass ceilings. Bloodlines would also reveal that this is how Ben Solo learns of his biological grandfather’s legacy. Leia writes the future Kylo Ren a letter to apologize for keeping the full story from him while listening to her adopted father’s final message to her.
11. An Orchestral Presence
The Star Wars films were a feast for the eyes, but John Williams’ epic score would leave an indelible impression in our consciousness. In much the same way that George Lucas honored the B-movie greats that he was raised on with the visuals, John Williams was asked to use the music as an accessibility device, grounding the music in the classical styles of Strauss. The scores of Max Steiner would also be cited as an influence.
From the “Main Theme” to the “Imperial March” that would come in the Empire Strikes Back, Williams’ used a musical structure of the leitmotif to craft theme’s that the orchestra would come back to whenever a character would appear on screen. “Leia’s Theme” is a leitmotif that John Williams created for the Alderaanian Princess. The theme has gained a little notoriety over other pieces in the score, due to Williams and Lucas’ choice to use it as Ben Kenobi is struck down by Vader. According to the liner notes of the soundtrack release, this was done for the effectiveness of the melody, even though it does reinforce the original plot device of the entire saga – Leia’s holographic message to General Obi Wan Kenobi.
10. She Was a Work In Progress
The character that would become Leia Organa would go through many different iterations as George Lucas went through draft after draft of The Star Wars. At first a proper princess, Leia was set to be the spoiled member of a royal family that included a brother named Biggs. Biggs would be cut, but eventually return in the shooting script as a childhood friend of Luke’s. In another draft, Leia was set to be the daughter of Beru and Owen with Luke being established as her cousin. Other passes at the character had her strictly as a military leader and at least one iteration of the character was the lead role on an adventure with an old general. Early designs for Leia’s more military look would go on to be the model for the animated series Rebels’ appearance of the character.
Once the Leia we all know and love was settled on, she still had some issues. Her original introduction to her rescuers did not contain any wit on her part, as drafts of the script up until production had Leia unconscious when Luke and Han free her from the cell block. Apparently no one was interested in Leia being carried around over Chewbacca’s shoulder, especially Carrie Fisher. Audiences would love the gimmick when it was resuscitated for Empire Strike Back, with Threepio as the less cringe-inducing victim.
9. On the Cover of Rolling Stone
The band Dr. Hook sang of having all kind of thrills, but the thrill they’d never known was being on the cover of the Rolling Stone. One actress who knows that thrill all too well is Carrie Fisher. The three original Star Wars films would be featured as a cover story for Rolling Stone, but only Fisher’s Princess Leia would be invited to appear on the front of all three. The first cover featured a glorified publicity still of the cast with Chewbacca. The Empire Strikes Back issue of the magazine would feature a much more professional set of photographs to go with its feature. Famed photographer Annie Liebovitz would shoot Star Wars subjects for the first time for the 1980 issue. Liebovitz would go on to take photos on the set of every other Star Wars film since the franchise’s return in 1999.
The third time Princess Leia would grace the cover of the magazine, she would take center stage as the only cast member featured in an oddly themed Slave Leia beach-party photo shoot. Photographer Aaron Rapaport clearly was not informed of the film’s revelation that Darth Vader was Leia’s dad as his set up featured the reveal of Leia’s metal bikini, a Gamorrean guard, an ewok and the Dark Lord of the Sith orchestrating a strange playdate at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. While fulfilling the daydreams of adolescent boys everywhere, the out of context photo shoot just looks strange. Gorgeous, but strange.
8. Battle Braids Are Go
When the House of Mouse announced a return to the galaxy far, far away, elation was felt across fandom. Not only would we be getting more Star Wars movies, but they would be continuing the stories of the characters we had all come to know and love. JJ Abrams then made it clear he was bringing back the original actors, placing the action 30 years after the Battle of Endor. Among the returning performers would be Carrie Fisher, reprising her role as Princess Leia – though the film would find her with a new moniker.
General Leia Organa is now the head of the Resistance, a military fleet that operates independently of the Republic in its quest to stop The First Order from gaining power in the galaxy. The crawl of the film replaced several Leia focused scenes explaining the conflict in greater detail. The deleted scenes were released online relatively quickly after the release of the film. The end of the Star Wars novel Bloodlines ties directly into the these events, wherein Leia forms the Resistance with Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb (he is not to be confused with the Ewok battle cry, “Yub nub!”)
7. Force Sensitivity Training
As the daughter of arguably the most powerful force wielder in history, Senator Organa’s potential in the ways of the force would go largely untapped. In the original trilogy, she is seen receiving a force call from her secret sibling Luke in Cloud City, but it’s never explained if it’s Luke using the Force to communicate telepathically or if Leia can “hear” him because of her own link with the invisible energy field.
In recent Marvel Comics, Leia is seen tuning into the past through the force; able to sense events that have occurred when she is in the physical presence of the area She has even wielded a lightsaber in the pages of the eponymous Star Wars comic book. The abandoned Legends stories would basically tread the same territory, with Leia never reaching her full potential as a member of the Skywalker line. Her granddad were midichlorians after all.
6. Help Me Obi Wan Kenobi, You’re My Only Hope
Alec Guinness’ relationship with Star Wars was acrimonious, yet affectionate. His own personal experience on the set was a mix of happy to be working and at odds with the younger cast. More than anything, Alec Guinness would grow weary of only being associated with Star Wars later in life when he had a career he was quite proud of, deservedly so – the actor had won an Academy award for his work in Bridge Over the River Kwai. The classically trained thespian clearly wasn’t in-the-know on the recently revealed affair between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. The actor would write in his diary about the disconnect between he and his cast mates. Considering Guinness thought Ford’s first name was Ellison for a time, the disconnect wasn’t necessarily the younger cast’s fault.
Even though his character would technically save Leia’s life twice throughout the saga, the princess and the former padawan don’t share any scenes together. While the message she would record into R2-D2 would drag the Jedi Master into the fray for a short period, Princess Leia would only catch a glimpse of him as they ran for the Millennium Falcon. In Return of the Jedi, the Force ghost of Obi Wan would
retcon reveal to Luke that Leia was actually his sister. Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda could have stopped all the “Star Wars” before they happened, but figured, “Nah, let’s be ghosts first.”
5. Would a Hologram by Any Other Name Look as Great?
Audience’s first glimpse of Princess Leia is seen through the perspective of C-3PO as he searches for his counterpart R2-D2. The Rebel leader is seen recording her infamous holographic call for help in the belly of her blockade runner. Upon seeing Artoo’s projection of the Alderaanian emissary play out in front of an amazed Luke and curious Obi Wan, engineers for generations to come would rise to the challenge of creating holographic displays in real life.
Holographic achievements like the return of Tupac Shakur at Coachella have captured the internet’s imagination, but the technology isn’t that far off from the reflective trickery Walt Disney created with rides like The Haunted Mansion. There are two companies named after the female protagonist of the Skywalker Saga developing modern 3D holograms. The first, Leia 3D, is creating tech for mobile devices that gives a 3D effect akin to the impressed sculptures in the Haunted Mansion.
Leia Display Systems (LDS, though that acronym is already in use) is pursuing advances in water vapor displays. It’s the same principle as a show like “World of Color” at Disneyland, except instead of projecting into a sheet of spraying water, projected images are displayed in a cloud of vapor. Whatever technology ends up dominating the hologram wars, we’ll at least know who inspired it.
4. The Princess Was a Two-Faced Teenager
The Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels focuses on a cell of insurgents on the Planet Lothal 15 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before the Battle of Yavin. Because of the shows placement in the time period, fans immediately began to ask if we would meet a teenage Leia Organa. Early in the series we find that Ezra Bridger, the Force-adept protagonist of the show, is only two days older than Leia – his birthday landing on Empire Day, a celebration of Palpatine’s ascension to Emperor.
Leia would appear on the show giving us a solid impression of what her daily, duplicitous life in the Imperial Senate had to have been like. Leia and her father, though viewed as outspoken defenders of freedom in the Galactic Empire, had been careful to cover their tracks when it came to their involvement in the Rebel Alliance. On a mission to “deliver” three Alderaanian cruisers to the Rebel Fleet, Leia must make the Imperials on Lothal believe they are being stolen on their watch to keep Alderaan blameless and out of the Empire’s crosshairs. Along the way, Leia would meet the similarly aged Ezra and commiserate over the loss of his parents to the struggle against Emperor Palpatine’s occupation of Lothal.
3. A Princess Story
Starting with Attack of the Clones, Jimmy Smits would portray the oft-discussed Bail Organa; a Republic Senator, Prince of Alderaan and founding member of the Rebel Alliance. While we’ll meet him again in Rogue One, last we saw him he was adopting baby Leia at the end of Revenge of the Sith, a move that ensured that even though Queen Amidala was dead, Leia would still be raised as royalty.
The prequels had established a loose connection between royalty of a planet and serving in the Galactic Republic Senate. Leia’s Mother Padme Amidala was “elected” Queen of Naboo, though her male counterpart Senator Palpatine had no such royal title. Possibly a sign he had to rise through a similar system to the House of Commons instead of the Galactic equivalent of the House of Lords. Leia would serve in the Senate as well before Palpatine disbands the body in A New Hope.
Receiving an education in diplomacy and governance, Leia was also trained in the ways of warfare. Based on her accuracy with a blaster, assassination of Jabba the Hutt and ability to withstand interrogation at the hands of Darth Vader, fans have a clear picture of a woman who was born and raised to lead a Rebellion.
2. From Fanboy Daydream to Feminist Hero
Leia’s legacy as a breakthrough female protagonist has made the character symbolic to generations of women looking for representation in film. When the first pictures of Carrie Fisher’s metal bikini from Return of the Jedi hit Rolling Stone in 1983 though, that legacy would be put in jeopardy before it could even launch. Elegantly stated in a 2015 Washington Post article, “the costume has become culturally iconic in a way that has slipped loose from the context of the scenes in which Leia wore it and the things she does after she is forced into the outfit.”
While thousands of cosplayers wear the costume because of their love for the character, the sexualization of the outfit has often invited a debate into the nerd community about its use as a storytelling device versus the fetishization of the female slave by people who can’t read subtext. Luckily, such a small part of the character’s identity hasn’t hampered the appreciation many fans have for a female character that in the words of Diana Dominguez is “a hero without losing her gendered status; she does not have to play the cute, helpless sex kitten or become sexless and androgynous to get what she wants. She can be strong, sassy, outspoken, bossy, and bitchy, and still be respected and seen as feminine”
1. Holiday Heiress to the Empire
After its vocabulary-creating, blockbuster turn in theaters, most of America couldn’t get enough of Star Wars. George Lucas was happy to fulfill the demand for his product, after all, he had negotiated to keep all of the profits from the merchandising rights in his distribution deal with Fox. Essentially rebuilding how modern movies would be marketed, the Star Wars brand became the standard for how to present your product to an audience.
One of the projects given the greenlight in the space-opera splurge of the late 70’s was the disastrous Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978. Somehow reuniting most of the cast of the film, the special goes to the planet Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld that George Lucas had to cut from the original Star Wars for budget. Centered around the planet’s annual Life Day celebration, the special would feature a new song from Jefferson Starship, Bea Arthur as a singing Mos Eisely bartender, an animated introduction to bounty hunter Boba Fett, and the last time you would see a pre-car accident Mark Hamill in the role of Luke Skywalker. The specials rousing finale would feature Carrie Fisher’s return as Princess Leia and the performance of “Life Day”; an attempt to give lyrics to the Star Wars “Main Theme”. Thank you for the effort Leia, but Bill Murray can handle the awkward Star Wars songs from here.
What is your favorite Princess Leia moment from the Star Wars Saga? Let us know in the comments below!