2016 has been a rough year in many ways, but especially so for celebrity-watchers, who have seen a number of high-profile stars pass away in the last twelve months. The most recent was the author, actress and Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher. Best known for her performance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, Fisher had a far more interesting career than a tough princess in a space soap opera would suggest.
In memory of her passing, we thought it would be timely to have a look at her life and career.
Growing up Fisher was a magical thing, at least from the outside: Carrie was born in Beverly Hills, California, to singer Eddie Fisher and hugely successful actress Debbie Reynolds (who died just one day after her daughter). Divorce was no stranger to her life – at the tender age of two her parents split in what at the time was called The Scandal of the Decade. Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds to marry the most beautiful woman in the world (and Reynolds’ friend), actress and femme fatale Elizabeth Taylor. Fisher later described Taylor as “every man’s dream. She had the face of an angel and the morals of a truck driver.” Debbie also remarried, to shoe magnate Harry Karl, who gambled away both of their fortunes. (Debbie later forgave Taylor her betrayal and rekindled their friendship).
As a child of Hollywood, it seemed inevitable that Carrie would go into acting. Her first stage role, at age fifteen, was in the play Irene, and her first film role was in the wry satire Shampoo. Nevertheless director George Lucas took a big chance casting a relatively inexperienced, nineteen-year-old Carrie in the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars in 1977. Star Wars promos at the time promised “the story of a boy, a girl and a universe.”
Leia’s role was central to the Star Wars saga. She was a strong female character (unusual in 1970’s cinema) but also a romantic lead, constantly sparring with Harrison Ford’s memorable rogue Han Solo. It wasn’t all snarky banter, however, as is revealed when Leia tells Han “You have your moments. Not many of them, but you do have them.”
Fisher too had her moments, many of which occurred after her Star Wars fame. In fact, she has 90 acting credits to her name, including memorable movies like The Blues Brothers, The Man with One Red Shoe, Hannah and her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally, Scream 3 and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Uncredited, she also had cameos in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Hook, and voiced the character “Angela” on multiple episodes of Family Guy.
Carrie was also a highly accomplished writer, of both books and scripts. Her books include the autobiographical Postcards from the Edge (also made into a movie starring Meryl Streep), Delusions of Grandma, Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist. She’s credited with writing 11 scripts, but was also known as a top script doctor, involved in fixing many more stories behind the scenes, including Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3, The Wedding Singer and the first three Star Wars movies.
Carrie Fisher was known for her acting, but her passion was in advocacy for mental health, something that she had first-hand knowledge of due to her own challenges with bipolar disorder and addiction throughout her life. As a strong female lead, many see Fisher as an early feminist, but her advocacy work might be her greatest legacy.
She passed away of complications associated with a heart attack on December 27th, 2016, at a hospital in Los Angeles, California.
As her character, General Leia Organa, said to a much older Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, “No matter how much we fought, I’ve always hated watching you leave.”.
Princess Leia, we hate watching you leave too.