Can you imagine “Laverne & Shirley” without Cindy Williams in the second role? If George Lucas went with the young woman who played Laurie HendersonSteve Bolander’s girlfriend of Ron Howard in “American Graffiti,” as Leia, Penny Marshall will make her way in Milwaukee with someone else.
You can watch Williams’ screen test on YouTube, and she’s pretty good! Why did Lucas go in a different direction?
Perhaps because there is an air of self-parody of Williams’ readings. She’s exchanging dialogue with an off-screen Han Solo, and she seems about to chuckle as she talks about the Death Star’s planetary-destroying powers. Maybe, after eight seasons of “Laverne & Shirley,” you’ll laugh at every word Williams says. This is not to say she can’t handle drama: her small but important performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” is astounding. She, “He’ll kill us if he gets the chance” lit the fuse that led to Gene Hackman’s explosion.
She can nail Leia. She could have done so much more. But she is our Shirley, and we will never stop loving her.