One of the biggest cinema franchises of all time, Star Wars, has won the hearts of generations since 1977. One of the biggest questions asked among fans is why does Princess Leia’s accent change in Star Wars: A New Hope?
Why does Princess Leia’s accent change? The answer is quite simple. Fisher and the filmmakers chose to see if the accent worked, and were unable to shoot the scene over due to time and budget constraints. Carrie also stated in an interview with New York Daily News that she was influenced by Peter Cushing’s character, Grand Moff Tarkin.
With one of the greatest questions of the Star Wars franchise solved, is there more to the reasoning behind her accent change? Let’s talk about it!
Why Does Princess Leia’s Accent Change?
One of the biggest stars in history, Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. Over the past four decades, ’ fans of the movies have always wondered why Princess Leia had a British accent in a scene in A New Hope. Luckily, we finally have solid answers to that question.
The scene in question is when Princess Leia meets Grand Moff Tarkin. While he is trying to get the Rebels’ location from Leia, Leia snaps back with a subpar British accent “…I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board…”. This happened on Fisher’s first day on set!
Leia changes her accent when she finds out that her planet is in danger. This occurs just before the Death Star blows up Aldaraan. As the movie progresses on, Leia loses the accent not only in A New Hope specifically but for the remainder of the franchise as well.
There are two popular reasons as to why her accent changes. One is the influence of her education, and the other is that she meant to do it.
Before she became the infamous heroine of science fiction, Fisher had been studying at London’s Central School of Speech and drama. This may be partially to blame for her odd British accent in the 1977 film. While she was there, she had to learn a specific way of speaking that included a British accent.
The truth is that Fisher and the producers chose to use the accent to see how it would sound. After realizing that it was not ideal for the role, they chose not to continue using the accent. Sadly, to the tight budget and schedule of the film, they were unable to reshoot the scene.
Carrie Fisher said in an interview with New York Daily News that she was very influenced by Peter Cushing, who played the role of Grand Moff Tarkin. Carrie has even said that she regrets the accent because it made her seem pretentious to use the accent. Fisher has laughed at her poor accent numerous times during interviews.
Many people viewed this as a sign of inexperience. In the same New York Daily News interview, Carrie Fisher said if anyone could say that line in the movie with an American accent that she would pay them. If you are interested, you can read the full article from New York Daily News with Carrie Fisher here!
A new Novel called Bloodlines has been recognized as canon in the Star Wars Universe, which makes it official. The novel claims that her accent was a way of mocking Grand Moff Tarkin. Since Leia grew up in a political environment, she has likely had training to speak with a Coruscanti accent, which is seen from both sides in the films.
It is important to note that this idea has never been confirmed by Fisher, Lucas, or anyone else who has been part of the films. For true fans of the franchise, this idea not only fits into her origin but also her personality as well.
Let’s talk more about both of these reasons for Princess Leia’s accent change and why it may more important to her character than you may think.
Explaining Princess Leia’s Accent
Fisher was born in Burbank, California, to Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Fisher enrolled at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama in 1973. The time she spent there she learned the Received Pronunciation idea, which has been popular through media and politics for decades. In her early work, this accent breaks through more than you would imagine.
George Lucas reached out to Fisher for his upcoming film. One of the greatest heroine roles of all time, Princess Leia launched Carrie Fisher into the spotlight practically overnight. Known for her sass throughout the movies, Fisher played the role perfectly, except for one little scene.
The accent thrown on during the scene with Grand Moff Tarkin was an in-the-moment choice which Carrie Fisher regretted for years. Peter Cushing, a British actor, was infamous for his role in early horror movies and was a great influence on Fisher. She said in an interview with NPR that she did not mean for her delivery to come off British.
This accent appears only in that scene and never shows up again. Some critics have said this may have been Fisher’s attempt to sound posher than she was. Carrie also said in her show Wishful Drinking that she thought she may have been influenced by the accent she picked up during her time attending school in London.
After receiving some negative reviews about her accent faux-pas, Fisher assured fans of the series that she would continue to play Princess Leia in a “less British” way. A promise that she held until her untimely death in 2016.
She has stated that the accent slipped out from hearing Cushing perform his lines. A new novel written by Claudia Gray called Bloodline. The book is based around Leia and aims to explain why she changed her accent during that particular scene, along with background information that the average fan may not know about Fisher’s character.
Gray took inspiration straight from interviews of Carrie Fisher when she was asked about the accent. Gray concluded that in her novel, Leia would use the accent to mock Grand Moff Tarkin to show that she was not intimidated by him.
There is another novel called Backlashby Aaron Allston that has a mention of the accent from Princess Leia. They mention a language called Coruscanti, which seemed to be a voice of authority. This is considered Received Pronunciation and is still utilized in various forms of media, and even in modern politics.
Since both of these are considered canon, part of the official universe, the argument of Leia was, in fact just making fun of Grand Moff Tarkin. Since Leia is known for her sass, Gray has made it seem like Leia was making fun of him, or was she attempting to stay undercover?
Is George Lucas to Blame?
On the Graham Norton Show, Fisher explains that during the filming of the scene, Lucas was not getting what he wanted from Fisher. She was not understanding the scene’s importance, and how crucial the situation was for her home planet of Alderaan. He thought she was not taking the scene seriously and stopped rolling to let her know what he wanted from her.
Fisher reverted to her training with the London Central School, and it came out as a faux-British accent. They figured that it was not the best choice for them, but they were unable to go back and make any changes to the film. You can watch the full interview with Carrie Fisher and Star Wars actors right here!
While she may have been mocking Grand Moff Tarkin, once Leia knows that her planet is in danger, she goes back to an American sounding accent. Which supports the idea of her potentially using the voice to mock Tarkin even more credible.
It has also been said that some of the dialog had to be re-recorded because of additional noises from the set. If this is the case, then why did Lucas not correct Leia’s odd accent?
Fisher mentioned in an interview in 2015 that she felt the part was to be “wry and sardonic.” She admitted to having some problems constantly portraying being “worried and pissed” because it made her job not as enjoyable as she wanted it to be.
She has also said that she felt the script seemed odd and not like something with a typical American accent would say. She thought that her lines sounded off, which made her feel she could do something unique with them.
Should Princess Leia Have Had a British Accent?
Many diehard Star Wars fans have argued a few different reasons for her potentially having a British accent. One of the major reasons is that everyone who belongs to the Empire seems to have a British-sounding accent. Leia theoretically could have put on the accent to stay undercover since many of the Rebels had an accent that sounded more American.
Leia grew up in Alderaan, which is known to have a British-sounding accent. Some fans say that once the planet was blown up, Leia allegedly lost the accent as the storyline progressed. If this is the case, then her America accent she uses would be her character having an accent.
There is also the idea that Leia should have a different accent when she is speaking to characters of higher authority. This is also seen with Natalie Portman’s character, Padmé Amidala in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. She uses the accent to speak to the Trade Federation as well as the Senate in the film. When she is Padamé, she has an American accent.
The Accent Could Be from Her Origin
Leia is the daughter of Padamé Amidala, but her mother passes after giving birth. She was then raised by Senator Bail and Queen Breha Organa of Alderaan. It is possible she learned some tips from her mother or adopted parents on how to speak in certain settings.
With her past, it is likely that she was surrounded by senators and politics on a very regular basis. While she most likely was not having classes in dancing and courtship, she was more than likely having real-life lessons to learn how to keep her cool in intense situations that she would eventually face.
Accents Play a Large Role in The Star Wars Universe
One of the main reasons people believe this was not as much of an accident as Fisher and Lucas have made it seem is the importance of accents throughout the films. The Rebels spoke with America accents while the Imperials spoke with a British-sounding accent. You may see this referred to as Galactic Basic.
Someone watching the films can determine where a character is from. Both in where they live as well as their origin. Characters who were born on one of the main plants of the galaxy, The Core, have a far more British-sounding accent than those who were born on the outside of the galaxy such as Han, Anakin, and Luke.
Fans believe that the difference in accent is meant to represent how “refined” an individual may be. What it really boils down to is if they are from the core or not. Since Leia is from Alderaan, she should have the Coruscanti accent, especially being raised by a queen and a senator.
The most talked-about accent is the Coruscanti, which is the origin for the human species in the galactic world. This eventually shifted to the Empire which explains why so many members of the Empire have this British-sounding accent. People with this accent were often representative of the elite.
Carrie Is Not the Only One with An Accent Problem
With the new movies coming out, the Star Wars franchise is introducing new characters with unique accents. While some characters such as Daisy Ridley and Gwendoline Christie keeping their original accents, John Boyega, who plays Finn must switch to an American accent even though we see him start out on the side of the Empire.
This can either show that he was always meant to be on the side of the Rebels or maybe we do not know the full story of his character yet. In the same interview on Graham Norton, John Boyega talks about how they tried the character with his original accent, and Lucas said it just did not work for his character.
David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original trilogy, also had an accent issue. Lucas had used James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader, and Prowse did not find out until after A New Hope had been released. He then went on to purposefully mess up his lines in The Empire Strikes Back.
Similar to how Fisher flipped accents due to her political status, Anakin Skywalker had a similar transition when he became Darth Vader. In the prequel, we see Anakin having an America accent, but it becomes the Coruscanti accent, both Queen Amidala and Princess Leia used in situations with higher-ranked individuals. This could also be due to his vocal cords being damaged, and this is the voice programmed for him to speak with.
Lastly, there is the discussion of Daisy Ridley’s character Rey. Until The Last Jedi comes to theaters, it is difficult to say, but her accent has given rise to many questions about her origin as well. Rey is from Jakku, which is not part of the Core. Basing this off other characters, she should have an accent that sounds more American.
Was the Accent Change Due to An Accident or a Storyline?
Although it is great to make her accent change part of her legacy, Fisher has adamantly said that it was just a choice she made and was more an accident. She has mentioned it on a ton of interviews as well as in her own publications. If we look at the reasons why it was most likely an accident, they seem to make a lot more sense than trying to push a bunch of theories into one claim.
Fisher had studied drama in London, which caused her to pick up a certain accent along the way. She was also surrounded by actors who were performing with British accents. She has stated that she was influenced by Peter Cushing’s character who was performing in the scene with her as well.
On the flip side, her accent could have been just part of her character. Even though Fisher has repeatedly said it wasn’t, there are a lot of interesting points that make perfect sense. In the universe, there is the Coruscanti accent, which has been popular through all films.
Leia has an interesting back story. With novels like Bloodline and Backlash, there are theories as to why her voice may have changed. It is up to you to decide what you want to believe. Now that we know these new novels are canon in the Star Wars Universe, the argument can go either way. May the force be with you.
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