In just her second screen role, Carrie Fisher entered film folklore with her portrayal of Princess Leia in the 1977 blockbuster Star Wars.
Ms Fisher died on December 27th 2016 in Los Angeles, at age 60.
“I would never not be Princess Leia. ” she wrote in her 2016 novel The Princess Diarist.
Like her character in the trilogy, she was determined and fearless.
However, her personal life had been a constant battle with illness. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and addictions to prescription medications and cocaine.
But she channelled her personal issues, with acerbic wit and eccentricity, into best-selling novels. An overdose in 1985, after taking drugs for three months, and the subsequent attempt at recovery, became that basis for her first novel, Postcards from the Edge.
It was adapted, by Fisher herself, into a 1990 film starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep. Debbie Reynolds wanted to play the mother in the film. ‘You’re not right for the part’, she remembered director Mike Nichols saying.
And when Fisher was asked why she didn’t play the central character, she replied “I’ve already played Suzanne’”.
Wishful Drinking, released in 2008 was adapted from Fisher’s successful one-woman stage show. The book cover, depicting Princess Leia face down at a table, with an empty wine glass, and pills by her side, documented her lengthy battle with drugs and mental illness.
It included electroconvulsive therapy for depression (the shocking of the brain with electrical currents). The results successfully dimmed her thoughts of hopelessness, but also her memories.
Her answering machine voice mail at the time said,
“Hello and welcome to Carrie’s voice mail. Due to recent electroconvulsive therapy, please pay close attention to the following options. Leave your name, number, and a brief history as to how Carrie knows you, and she’ll get back to you if this jogs what’s left of her memory.”
The Star Wars universe aside, Fisher appeared in Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and The ‘Burbs (1989).
She was an uncredited script doctor (or ‘script nurse’ as she preferred), who tidied up Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), The Wedding Singer (1998), and The River Wild (1994).
She was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, the famous entertainer, humanitarian and film memorabilia collector.
Debbie was 19 years old when she co-starred in Singin’ In The Rain, the same age Carrie was when filming Star Wars.
Fisher’s father was the crooner Eddie Fisher, who left Debbie for the arms of Elizabeth Taylor (whom he was consoling after she lost her husband, Mike Todd, in a plane crash.)
Carrie herself got married in 1983 to Paul Simon, the musician whose music she admired growing up.
How could you not love someone who writes ‘medicine is magical/ and magical is art/ think of the boy in the bubble / and the baby with the baboon heart?’ she wrote.
Their marriage didn’t last a year.
And to top it off, we were the same size. I used to say to him, ‘’Don’t stand next to me at the party – people will think we’re salt and pepper shakers.”
Simon’s described their relationship in his 1983 song Hearts and Bones.
Fisher later had a daughter with her partner Bryan Lourd, a talent agent. But their four year relationship ended when he revealed he was bisexual. He later married Bruce Bozzi in 2016.
With the resurrection of the Star Wars franchise, Fisher reprised Princess Leia in The Force Awakens (2015), and appeared digitally de-aged in Rogue One (2016).
In an interview with The Guardian in 2015, she spoke of the journey of her Star Wars character across the decades.
“She lost her parents and her planet in the first film. In the second film, a very close friend loses his hand and her first boyfriend becomes frozen. By now Leia must be exhausted. She’s probably ready to say, ‘Hey guys, I can’t handle this any more. I’m going to get my hair done.’”
– Rhett Bartlett.