Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in the third Star Wars film, "Return of the Jedi." (Lucasfilm Ltd.courtesy Everett)

Carrie Fisher has reigned over an empire for more than three decades.

As a 19-year-old, she rocketed to fame playing Princess Leia, a regal rebel spy with a distinctive hairstyle, in the original "Star Wars" film of 1977. Two sequels and one shiny bikini later, Fisher was cemented into pop-culture icon status.

Her "Star Wars" appearances have continued into the 21st century, including Star Wars Celebration VI, an extensive, four-day fan gathering that begins today at the Orange County Convention Center.

Other celebrities scheduled to attend include Mark Hamill, who played her on-screen brother, Luke Skywalker; Anthony Daniels of C-3P0 fame; Dave Feloni, director of the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"; and dozens of actors, technicians and artists involved with the sci-fi franchise.

"Sometimes I like seeing all the old gang ... and sometimes not," says Fisher, 55, who will appear onstage Saturday night and sign autographs on Saturday and Sunday.

"You know what, I've had fun doing it," she says. "I call it celebrity lap dancing, except they don't put the money in our tops or our bikinis — although that would be interesting."

She credits creator George Lucas with the long-lasting popularity of all things Star Wars, which has expanded into books, toys, costuming and fan fiction worldwide.

"I think it came out as a kind of fairy tale at a time when there weren't any sort of modern fairy tales," Fisher says. "It was very creative in everything that it made up — the Force, the dark side and all this stuff. It's gone into the vernacular. It's bizarre, but it's not bizarre because … what's the competition? George really created his own sort of niche."

She enjoys looking at the merchandise at fan events.

"I like the different Princess Leia dolls they've come up with over the years … perfume, underwear," she says. "I'm a type of marijuana now, apparently."

She doesn't own any Leia gear.

"George gave me a painting of Princess Leia in the metal bikini, and I have it hidden in a back room of mine," she says. "I'm pretty sure that it's something that he's regifted."

There have been periods of self-imposed "Star Wars" blackouts.

"It's not a long thing. It's just that every so often you go, 'Come on, it's been 35 years.' "

She doesn't stay up-to-date with Star Wars lore, including the "Clone Wars" series seen on Cartoon Network.

"There's a level at which I'm not going to be involved," Fisher says. "People would worry about me if I was."

It has been years since she has watched her "Star Wars" appearances, she says, although she did see herself recently on TV in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."

"I wasn't very good. I'm not in it that much," Fisher says. "I never liked looking at myself. I guess it's easier to do it on television than on the giant screen. But these are high-class problems. I never wanted to look at myself that large."

Her career after "Star Wars" included more movie and TV roles plus notoriety as a novelist and screenwriter. One work morphed into her one-woman, autobiographical show called "Wishful Drinking," which had a three-month run on Broadway.