HOLLYWOOD -- Carrie Fisher is one Hollywood offspring who has been through the fire and emerged relatively unscarred, if not a little strange.
The glare of publicity that surrounded her as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, the scandal that involved her parents and Elizabeth Taylor and problems with her stepfather were part of her growing-up years.
Carrie touched all the wrong bases for a typical American childhood. At 13 she was singing with her mother in Las Vegas and at 15 she dropped out of high school to study drama in London.
There was her own failed marriage, drug problems and a see-saw career.
But Fisher has triumphed and has become a straight-talking -- albeit off-the-wall -- writer-actress who is a complete contrast to Princess Leia, the goody-two-shoes role she played in the 'Star Wars' trilogy.
She apparently carries the right genes that made both her parents stars, and while she may never achieve their stature, she has surpassed them in terms of audience exposure via her appearances in the 'Star Wars' films.
Fisher is undoubtedly a free spirit, and perhaps the best expression of that is her home, which roosts at the top of a crag in the hills surrounding Benedict Caynon above Beverly Hills.
Her cottage, almost hidden from sight on the narrow, twisting road, is protected by an electrically controlled metal gate. Nearby, an official-looking highway sign reads: 'Frilled Neck Lizard Next 7 KM.'
The house appears to be a log cabin with a wide veranda running around its perimeter. The windows look out across deep green canyons with neighboring houses dotted here and there.
Fisher's sitting room is a collection of artifacts from near and far with absolutely no relationship to style, form, an interior decorator's pretentious eye or efforts at garage sale chic.
A wooden airplane propeller dominates one wall. There is a collection of doll houses converted into lamps, a string of Christmas lights near the fireplace. A miniature log cabin sits near the hearth beside ceramic reproductions of the seven dwarfs from 'Snow White,' a gift from Walt Disney when she was a child.
Her eclectic tastes include an imposing set of moose antlers, some delicate Chinese figurines, a rather scruffy wooden Indian and a miniature railroad car.
Various signs, carved in wood, woven into cloth, etched in metal or neatly painted can be found throughout the house. One particularly large admonition in the kitchen reads: 'NO SPITTING.'
Overall, the decor reflects a child's delight in toys and a sophisticate's sense of humor.
She giggled at a photograph of her mother and father taken when Debbie and Eddie, a happily married young couple, posed beside Elizabeth Taylor, and ventured that her mother was none too pleased by its prominent place.
At the moment, Fisher is having her garage wallpapered and partly furnished with bedroom pieces to give the impression to people driving into the garage that they have pulled into the wrong part of the house.
Dressed in a short, black crepe dress, the dark-haired, brown-eyed Fisher curled up on a couch, tucked her bare feet beneath her and spoke of her career as an actress and novelist.
'I'll probably never break away from the image of Princess Leia,' she said, then waved her hand at her living room decor. 'It's not really Leia's style.
'I guess if I want to get away from her I'll have to do 'Laverne and Shirley' and play both parts for a couple of years.
'But I'm doing what I can to break away from that image. I just finished co-starring with Patrick Dempsy in 'Loverboy.' They bleached my hair blonde. I play a neglected wife, but nobody will see it until next year.
'Right now I'm playing the wife of Tom Hanks in 'The Burbs' - which is shorthand for suburbs -- and I'm playing the mother of a 9-year-old son. Yea! My first part as a mom.
'There's a lot of firsts coming up for me. After this I'll be working for (director) Rob Reiner with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in 'Changes.' And for the first time I'll be getting married on the screen.
'Playing a wife and a mother should help make people forget my association with Princess Leia.'
Divorced from musician-composer Paul Simon, she smiled at the suggestion that she and her former husband resemble one another.
'That's been remarked on before,' she said. 'I guess a lot of people begin to look alike when they've lived together for a long time. Only Paul and I weren't married that long -- two years.'
Her best-selling, highly regarded novel 'Postcards from the Edge' - 70,000 sales in hard cover -- is now available in paperback and she is involved in promoting the current edition.
She continues to deny that the critically praised novel is autobiographical, yet she purposely seems to hint that it well might be.
'Certain parts of it are autobiographical because all writers use their own personal experiences when they write a novel,' she said with a grin, 'but my book isn't a roman a clef. I really made the people up.
'To be honest, I never expected to write a book. It wasn't my idea. I was approached, but I had written all my life, putting down on paper things that happened to me in private journals.
'Every time I was upset or in some kind of vivid state I would sit down and write. It was a great outlet for me. I still have all those journals although they're not in any special order.
'It's hard to explain. I wrote them just for myself but with the idea that if somebody else read them, it might be of some help to them. Some of the journals are just typical teenage stuff, but some of the others have really good material in them.
'They won't be published in the near future. My mother has been urging me to put them together and have them published along with some of my poems. Maybe someday when I'm too old to care, I will.
'In the meantime my mother has written her own book. Wow! It doesn't pull any punches. I'm sure it will become a big best-seller.'
Fisher suffered from drug addiction for several years and experienced personal traumas common to many children of Hollywood stars, but she refuses to blame her parents or the Hollywood lifestyle for her past problems.
She and Debbie are close. They see one another frequently and talk on the telephone every day, conversations that usually have Debbie offering gratuitous but humorous advice on everything from Carrie's diet to her career.
'I really love my mother,' Carrie said. 'She's my best friend. And I'm close to Dad, too. He is a sweet, loving and gentle man.'
So far, her movies have been a mixed bag. Some were outstanding hits. In addition to the 'Star Wars' epics, there was 'Shampoo' and 'Hannah and Her Sisters.' Less successful were 'Under the Rainbow' and 'Garbo Talks.' One, 'Amazon Women on the Moon,' was dreadful.
'You can't really help what happens in a movie,' she said. 'In writing you accept more responsibility. There are a lot of people who make you look good in pictures, but when you write there is no one to help. You feed off the horrible occurrences of your own experience.
'I'm still vulturing off my life when I write. I'm in the middle of a second book, 'Surrender the Pink.' It's about obsessive love and relationships.'
Fisher combines her writing and acting careers by carrying a portable word processor to the movie set and cadges some writing time between scenes.
'I love the combination of working at two careers simultaneously,' she said. 'Believe me, acting is a lot easier than writing. There's a contrast. In movies you work with the people process, but the feeling of accomplishment is much greater with writing, which is quite lonely.
'Writing is like going to a gym. You don't like the workout but you love the results.'
She has lived alone for the past two years and says she is not involved with anyone at the moment but for now, that's fine.
'I have a good balance in my life right now with acting and writing,' she said. 'I enjoy them both. My careers give me something nice. Men look to their careers for their identity. Women look to their men for their identity. And until now that has been my personal tragedy.'