The untold truth of Princess Leia

Leia Organa's journey from orphaned prisoner of the Empire into a kickass space general has been nothing short of stellar to watch over the decades, but the history behind the Star Wars character portrayed by Carrie Fisher is a fascinating galaxy unto itself. Here's the untold truth of Princess Leia.

Yes, even her name is a symbol of hope

Star Wars creator George Lucas developed many of the franchise characters' names based on their phonetic pleasantry and a determination to steer clear from some of the more common sci-fi naming conventions used in the genre's classic stories. But for Leia, he took things a step further: as detailed by The New York Times, her name is a play on Princess Dejah Thoris from Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars stories, combined with Lady Galadriel from J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. So, essentially, Galadriel + Dejah = Leia. You just can't unhear it. Meanwhile, Organa comes from a more obvious source, as it's meant to sound like the word "organic," as a nod to the fact that Leia and her rebels represent a more natural, life-loving side of things than the Death Star-wielding Empire.

It's more than just a weird hairstyle

Few have ever been able to lay claim to a fashion moment as their own forevermore, but that's exactly what happened with Leia and the cinnamon bun-style hairdo she sported during A New Hope. (Decades later, Fisher's own daughter Billie Lourd wore earmuffs on Scream Queens as a subtle tribute.) Interestingly enough, though, that hemispherical hair almost didn't make it into the movie in the first place.

Per the BBC, the original concept artwork for Leia had no such hairstyle drawn in, but Lucas landed on the look as an homage to 20th century Mexican revolutionary women. He told Time he wanted to capture "a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look … the buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico." Unfortunately, historians have since stepped forward to dispute this, but there was reportedly an Arizonian tribe of women called the Hopi who wore their hair in a similar fashion around the 1920s. Perhaps not coincidentally, the cultural adoption of the Hopis' "squash blossom" style by non-tribal women of the era was seen as an act of rebellion and feminism for splitting from the mainstream style.

Luke and Leia weren't supposed to be siblings

Some Star Wars fans still have trouble watching the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Leia plants a too-long-lasting smackeroo on her secret brother Luke Skywalker. Even though the two didn't know they were even related until Return of the Jedi, it still doesn't sit very well knowing what we know from later in the series, and Mark Hamill himself has said it had a lasting impact on the character.

This has, naturally, drummed up some questions about whether the two characters were originally intended to be sister and brother in the first films. Comic Book Resources waded through the original draft for Empire and discovered that Luke's sister was originally named Nellith—and there was almost a second kiss between Leia and Luke in the movie.

Interestingly enough, Hamill has also revealed that Luke and Leia's first kiss—a light smooch "for luck" before they made a death-defying swing across a chasm in A New Hope—was originally on Lucas' chopping block before his then-wife, Academy Award-winning film editor Marcia Lucas, insisted it remain in the film. According to Hamill, "Marcia Lucas was responsible for convincing him to keep that [line] in the first film" because, after audiences giggled at the scene during screenings, she told him "they're laughing because it's so sweet and unexpected."

Leia bested the boys in merchandising

When Star Wars first dropped in 1977, it was Princess Leia that the kiddos first got to place on their shelves. As detailed by The Hollywood Reporter, the company that made the original dolls for the series released a set of four figurines: Luke, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia, who wielded her own blaster to boot. That meant that Leia figurines predated both Han Solo and Darth Vader in collectability and that she she was recognized as more than just some damsel in distress from the get-go.

Carrie's costume cacophonies

Carrie Fisher was undoubtedly the lifeblood that made Leia so special on-screen, so it should come as little surprise that, like her counterpart, Fisher became known as being a bit rebellious. Her wit and resistance to being dubbed a sexpot was also a mainstay of her post-Star Wars fame, and she was particularly outspoken about the challenges of some of Leia's costumes.

For example, Fisher revealed in her comedic stand-up special-turned-memoir Wishful Drinking that Lucas instructed her not to wear a bra under her infamous white dress because, to his mind, women in space wouldn't wear underwear for fear that they'd be strangled in zero gravity situations. "I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra," she joked of the odd logic.

The infamous gold bikini Leia wore while imprisoned by Jabba the Hutt during Return of the Jedi was also a subject of some discord with Fisher, who kindly advised The Force Awakens actress Daisy Ridley to resist a similar fate. However, Fisher ultimately made peace with the costume by creating her own backstory for the look; in response to a citizen movement to have "slave Leia" removed from Star Wars merchandise, she told The Wall Street Journal, "[to] the father who flipped out about it, 'What am I going to tell my kid about why she's in that outfit?' Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn't like it. And then I took it off. Backstage."

Art imitated life for Leia

In Fisher's final memoir, 2016's The Princess Diarist, she revealed the affair she and Han Solo actor Harrison Ford engaged in during filming—and how it bled into the movie itself. In a promotional chat with The Daily Beast in support of the book, she explained that the pair had a wild night out with the cast of Monty Python and the Rolling Stones that included a spirits concoction called the "Tunisian Death Drink" and kept them up all night until their call time the next day.

"I remember that we never went to sleep, so we weren't hungover—we were still drunk when we arrived in Cloud City the next day," she said. "We don't really smile a lot in the movie, but there we're smiling." For those who noticed Leia's smile and thought it seemed out of character, there's why.

As for the accent changes…

For some Star Wars fans, Leia's evolving accent throughout A New Hope has been confusing, but according to Fisher, it was just a case of coming into a true understanding of the character's purpose. In the film, her voice has a British tone while speaking to Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) that seems to fade away after the first act, and Fisher told New York Daily News that she tried it differently at first, but "George [Lucas] directed me, he said, 'this is really serious, your planet is about to get blown up, you're losing everything … I understood then what he needed that character to be, which was hard for me, because it was going to take away anything ironic that I would bring."

She added that it wasn't just the gravity of the character dynamic that played into her split accent, either. "I had a British accent. Who could say those lines? 'I thought I recognized your foul stench when I was brought aboard.' What?"

A deleted scene from The Force Awakens showed Leia's true spirit

Shortly after Fisher's unexpected passing in late 2016, a deleted scene from The Force Awakens went viral due to its epic display of the character's grit and wit in the matter of just a few sentences. In the scene, Leia approaches a Resistance soldier and instructs her, "I need you to go see the Senate right away. Tell them I insist the Republic take action against the First Order." Over the soldier's objection that the Republic might not listen to her, Leia retorts, "Not all the Senators think I'm insane. Or maybe they do. I don't care." For many, the moment was a perfect example of the character's growth and tenacity throughout the series, bookending her unending willingness to fight for the Republic.

She's one with the Force?

Another question that's long irked audiences of the Star Wars series is why Leia, who was not only Force-sensitive but strong, never became a Jedi herself. According to The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, though, it was a mere matter of the character's own "choice." He explained that it was a topic of conversation between himself, Lucas, and Fisher during the development of Episode VII and that they all decided that while there was no age limit at which a person could be trained as a Jedi Knight, "it was simply a choice [Leia] made, that her decision to run the Rebellion, and ultimately this resistance, and consider herself a General as opposed to a Jedi, was simply a choice that she took … she's still Force-strong. And it's something that I think is an intrisic piece of her character." Making it her call all along certainly seems fitting for the Princess—nay, General.