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"When you start your career by becoming a star in the most successful movie of all time," Carrie Fisher worried, "there's no place to go but down." Don't sweat it, Carrie. The Force may always be with us. After all, a long time from now, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars will seem less like a movie than a showbiz—and merchandising—supernova. Incredibly, more earthlings have bought tickets to the film in San Francisco than live in San Francisco. It's grossed a quarter of a billion in North America, and even bubblegum royalties have passed $1 million. The proof of the pulling is that when Star Wars was rereleased last month for a final mop-up, it outgrossed both Grease and Jaws 2 in its first weekend.

By now Carrie and the rest of the swashbuckling young Star Wars trio—Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford—are paper millionaires. Though they signed for peanuts, the movie's cosmic creator, George Lucas, 34, played Santa last Christmas and doled out one-quarter of a percentage point of the profits to each. That largesse is part of Lucas' celestial master plan. Like Disney before him, he is spinning his fantasy into an industry. There will be nothing tackily called Star Wars II, but no less than 11 sequels are on the drawing boards. The first is already in progress under the working title of The Empire Strikes Back. "I sort of made the prototype," figures Lucas, who will be executive producer but will turn over the direction to Irvin (Eyes of Laura Mars) Kershner. Having scouted locations from Norway (the ice planet) to Africa (the jungle planet), Kershner is now pointing to release of the picture in early 1980. The plot, in which the malevolent Galactic Empire fights to regain its power, will be "completely different," Kershner vows, "except that it will have some of the well-loved characters."

That includes droids R2-D2 and C-3PO (whose robot prints are in cement in front of Mann's Chinese Theater), Chewbacca the Wookie, Darth Vader and a host of new (and merchandisable) extraterrestrial beings. Of the major humanoids, only Sir Alec Guinness will be missing—actually, seer Obi-Wan Kenobi dueled to the death with Darth Vader in the original, but he may be revived in the second sequel. There is to be a romantic entanglement this time, though the scenario is the most closely guarded in recent movie history. But since Hamill is contracted for two sequels and Ford for only one, the likelihood is that Luke Skywalker will ace out Han Solo for the affections of Princess Leia.

When they begin shooting in London next February it will be like a family reunion. Their close relationship—Mark and Harrison visit Carrie when in New York—dates to the original filming in London, where the three were comparative unknowns. "It was like summer camp," recalls Fisher. "But instead of arts and crafts, we had sets being blown up." Carrie, 21, is the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but her only previous showbiz experience was a three-day role (and one ineffable four-letter word) in Shampoo. Hamill, 26, had dozens of TV series shots, while Ford, 36, had already acted for Lucas in American Graffiti. "He was the adult," Carrie says, "Mark and I were the kids." She and Mark called Harrison "Dad" on the promo tour, while he put her down affectionately as "Sister." The friendship was bonded during that tour which, Carrie says, "we all found unnatural and embarrassing. We went wild in amusement parks every night to get away." Their last hurrah came when "we had a huge food fight in my suite at the Sherry Netherland in New York. It was terrific: spinach in my hair, beer down shirts. We tried to clean up before George and Marcia Lucas came in—like Mom and Dad—but there was still a piece of spinach on the mantel."

They still horse around even in their more mature tax bracket. At a recent Equal Rights Amendment fund raiser in L.A., Mark sidled up to Carrie and whispered, "Don't worry. I pledged your quarter point." (She did, in fact, kick in $1,000.) Hamill claims he's yet to see much of his share of the loot. "Where is it?" he quips. "Is somebody going to rent a dump truck and deliver it to me?" His final rhetorical question to PEOPLE'S Lois Armstrong: "Could you lend me $2 until Thursday?"

"It's a strange kind of success," says Carrie. "I don't feel famous." She still lives in her old $500-a-month pad on Central Park West. "I do my own laundry. I don't have a maid. I cook. I wash my own dishes." She visits a shrink three times a week ("I go at 1 p.m., when my personality is almost developed") and takes private acting lessons with Diane Keaton's coach, Marilyn Fried. Rattled by heavies like Truman Capote and Louis (Pretty Baby) Malle at literati parties (she never finished Beverly Hills High), Carrie at one "smoked about nine million cigarettes and got drunk," and still feels, she confesses, "like a Little Leaguer at the World Series." Diagnosed last year as hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar), Fisher subsists on vegetables, salads and protein-laced beverages. Now 99 pounds and 5'1", she says, "I've always wanted to be gaunt, but I inherited my mother's lack of cheekbones."

Carrie has given up answering fan mail but admits, "I don't mind the attention. I grew up on a movie star map, so it's not like I would have a strong sense of being private." When Debbie presented her daughter with a navy-blue Mercedes for her 21st birthday, Carrie retaliated by spending her fee for a TV movie (with John Ritter) on a green Seville for Mom. "The first thing she said was, 'You can't afford this. I know how much you have.' " Eddie visits too, but Carrie's only other regular overnight guest is pal Teri Garr, who played Richard Dreyfuss' wife in Close Encounters. Now she's rehearsing a musical, Sleeparound Town, for Joe Papp's Public Theater. "People are going to be astounded," says her cheerleader, Hamill. "Carrie has the best voice in her family." "Star Wars didn't show that any of us can act," observes Fisher. "We just became celebrities. I still have to prove myself."

"Of the three of us," figures Mark Hamill, "I've probably been most affected by the movie." He's referring partially to the aftermath of the near-fatal car accident early last year, which required three operations to repair the damage to his farm-boyish face. "It was the lowest point of my life," Hamill remembers. "In one year I'd had the biggest breaks I'd ever had, then that. I started thinking I'd never work again." He was inspired to return to movies in part by his actress friend Diana Hyland—he was supposed to have played her son on ABC's Eight Is Enough. Diana visited him in the hospital just three weeks before she died of cancer.

At home north of Malibu, the affable Hamill ("Motor-Mouth" to friends) is a beach bum whose pleasures include marathon Monopoly and baking cakes. "I'm still waiting for my body to catch up with my age," he says. "Alec Guinness told me it was only a matter of time before I became secure enough to believe in myself."

Harrison Ford, says Mark, "is the rock, an anchor. He helps my peace of mind." That may be so, but Ford's a loner and a bit adrift himself. Recently separated from his wife of 14 years, he lives quietly in a rented place in West Hollywood, close enough to visit his sons Benjamin, 11, and Willard, 9. "All I've ever wanted from this business is to make a living as an actor," he says. Those years when he couldn't, he was successful enough as a carpenter to craft a $100,000 studio for musician Sergio Mendez, and even since the breach has been remodeling his wife's house. "I don't have to take anything that comes along now," Ford growls. He almost stole Heroes from Henry Winkler last year. Recently he's been shooting Force Ten from Navarone with Robert Shaw. "I don't want to be a movie star," he maintains. "I just want to be in movies that are the star."

The latest Star Wars battle is not over outer space but counter space, and the featured players are lawyers. The distributor, 20th Century-Fox, is suing Arco Industries for supposedly knocking off trademarked Star Wars toys and is exchanging suits with Universal over the not dissimilar Battlestar Galactica series scheduled for ABC next month. With the back-to-school and Christmas selling seasons coming up, the action can only get hotter over licensing of everything from Star Wars sleeping bags to digital watches. So far the products have grossed more than $200 million—not counting such nixed gimmicks as R2-D2 whiskey bottles. "It would have meant $750,000 in royalties," sighs Fox VP Marc Pevers, "but it would cheapen the image. We have the potential to be another Mickey Mouse. Every time I make a deal, I have to ask myself, 'Would this be right for Mickey Mouse?' " In its own way, then, Star Wars and George Lucas may be to the latter part of the 20th century what Walt Disney was to the first—if the Force stays with them.