Carrie Fisher, actress, author and screenwriter brought a rare combination of nerve, grit, and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, died on Tuesday morning. She was 60.
A family spokesman, Simon Halls, said Ms. Fisher died at 8:55 am. She had a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday and had been hospitalized in Los Angeles.
After her “Star Wars” success, Fisher, the daughter of the pop singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, went on to offer wry commentary on the paradoxes and absurdities of the entertainment industry in her books.
Fisher’s other film roles included Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The ‘Burbs (1989), and When Harry Met Sally… (1989). Fisher was also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show.
Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California, the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. Her mother was raised a Nazarene, and is of English and Scots-Irish ancestry. When Fisher was two, her parents divorced after her father left Reynolds for her mother’s close friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, the widow of her father’s best friend Mike Todd. The following year, her mother married Harry Karl, owner of a shoe-store chain, who secretly spent Reynolds’ life savings.
Fisher “hid in books” as a child, becoming known in her family as “the bookworm”. She spent her earliest years reading classic literature, and writing poetry. She attended Beverly Hills High School until, at the age of 15, she appeared as a debutante and singer in the hit Broadway revival Irene (1973), which starred her mother. This activity interfered with her education, and she never graduated from high school.
In 1973, Fisher enrolled at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, which she attended for 18 months, and in 1978, Fisher was accepted into Sarah Lawrence College, where she planned to study the arts. However, she left before graduating due to conflicts filming Star Wars.
Fisher made her film debut in the Columbia Pictures comedy Shampoo (1975) starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn, with Lee Grant and Jack Warden as her character’s parents.
In 1977, Fisher starred as Princess Leia in George Lucas’ science-fiction film Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) opposite Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. At the time, she believed the script for Star Wars was fantastic, but did not expect many people to agree with her, and though her fellow actors were not close at the time, they bonded after the commercial success of the film.
During filming, she had an affair with Ford (who was then married to Mary Marquardt), which she stated was “so intense … It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend.”
In April 1978, she appeared as the love interest in Ringo Starr’s 1978 TV special Ringo. The next month, she appeared alongside John Ritter (who had also appeared in Ringo) in the ABC-TV film Leave Yesterday Behind, as a horse trainer who helps Ritter’s character after an accident leaves him a paraplegic. At this time, Fisher appeared with Laurence Olivier and Joanne Woodward in the anthology series Laurence Olivier Presents in a television version of the William Inge play Come Back, Little Sheba. That November, she appeared as Princess Leia in the 1978 TV production Star Wars Holiday Special, and sang in the last scene.
Fisher appeared in The Blues Brothers film as Jake’s vengeful ex-lover; she is listed in the credits as “Mystery Woman”. While in Chicago filming the movie, her life was saved by Dan Aykroyd when she was choking on a Brussels sprout and he performed the Heimlich maneuver on her. She appeared on Broadway in Censored Scenes from King Kong in 1980. The same year, she reprised her role as Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and appeared as herself with her Star Wars costars on the cover of the July 12, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film. She also appeared in the Broadway production of Agnes of God in 1982.
In 1983, Fisher returned to the role of Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi, and posed in the Princess Leia metal bikini on the cover of the Summer 1983 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film. The iconic costume later achieved a following of its own.
Fisher is one of the few actors or actresses to star in films with both John and Jim Belushi, later appearing with the latter in the film The Man with One Red Shoe. She appeared in the Woody Allen film Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986.
In 1987, Fisher published her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. The book was semi-autobiographical in the sense that she fictionalized and satirized real-life events such as her drug addiction of the late 1970s and her relationship with her mother. It became a bestseller, and she received the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Also during 1987, she was in the Australian film The Time Guardian.
In 1989, Fisher played a major supporting role in When Harry Met Sally…, and in the same year, she appeared with Tom Hanks as his wife in The ‘Burbs.
In 1990, Columbia Pictures released a film version of Postcards from the Edge, adapted for the screen by Fisher and starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid. Fisher appeared in the fantasy comedy film Drop Dead Fred in 1991, and played a therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997).
During the 1990s, Fisher also published the novels Surrender the Pink (1990) and Delusions of Grandma (1993). Fisher also did uncredited script work for movies such as Lethal Weapon 3 (where she wrote some of Rene Russo’s dialogue), Outbreak and The Wedding Singer.
In the film Scream 3 (2000), Fisher played an actress mistaken for Carrie Fisher. In 2001, Fisher played a nun in the Kevin Smith comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. She also co-wrote the TV comedy film These Old Broads (2001), of which she was also co-executive producer. It starred her mother, Debbie Reynolds, as well as Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, and Shirley MacLaine. In this, Taylor’s character, an agent, explains to Reynolds’ character, an actress, that she was in an alcoholic blackout when she married the actress’ husband, “Freddy”.
Besides acting and writing original works, Fisher was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood, working on the screenplays of other writers. She did uncredited polishes on movies in a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2005, and was hired by the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, to polish scripts for his 1992 TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as well as the dialogue for the Star Wars prequel scripts. Her expertise in this area was the reason she was chosen as one of the interviewers for the screenwriting documentary Dreams on Spec in 2007.
In an interview in 2004, Fisher said that she no longer did much script doctoring, but during the height of her career as a script doctor and re-writer, she worked on Hook (1991), Lethal Weapon 3 and Sister Act (1992), Made in America, Last Action Hero and So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), My Girl 2, Milk Money, The River Wild and Love Affair (1994), Outbreak (1995), The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), The Wedding Singer (1998), The Out-of-Towners and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Coyote Ugly and Scream 3 (2000), Kate & Leopold (2001), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Intolerable Cruelty (2003), which she had done a rewrite of in 1994 although it’s not known if any of her work remained after the Coen brothers rewrote it. Fisher also worked on Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).
In 2005, Women in Film & Video – DC recognized Fisher with the Women of Vision Award.
Fisher also voices Peter Griffin’s boss, Angela, on the animated sitcom Family Guy and appeared in a book of photographs titled Hollywood Moms (2001) for which she wrote the introduction. Fisher published a sequel to Postcards, The Best Awful There Is, in 2004. In August 2006, Fisher appeared prominently in the audience of the Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner. In 2007, she was a full-time judge on FOX’s filmmaking-competition reality television series On the Lot.
Fisher wrote and performed in her one-woman play Wishful Drinking at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from November 7, 2006, to January 14, 2007. Her show played at the Berkeley Repertory Theater through April 2008, followed by performances in San Jose, California, in July 2008, Hartford Stage in August 2008 before moving on to the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in September 2008 and Boston in October 2008.
Fisher published her autobiographical book, also titled Wishful Drinking, based on her successful play in December 2008 and embarked on a media tour. On April 2, 2009, Fisher returned to the stage with her play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre with performances through May 9, 2009. On October 4, 2009, Wishful Drinking then opened on Broadway in New York at Studio 54 and played an extended run until January 17, 2010.
In December 2009, Fisher’s audiobook recording of her best-selling memoir, Wishful Drinking, earned her a nomination for a 2009 Grammy Award in the Best Spoken Word Album category.
Fisher joined Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne on Saturday evenings for The Essentials with informative and entertaining conversation on Hollywood’s best films. She guest-starred in the episode titled “Sex and Another City” from season 3 of Sex and the City with Sarah Jessica Parker. This episode also featured Vince Vaughn, Hugh Hefner, and Sam Seder in guest roles.
On October 25, 2007, Fisher guest-starred as Rosemary Howard on the second-season episode of 30 Rock called “Rosemary’s Baby”, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Her last line in the show was a spoof from Star Wars: “Help me Liz Lemon, you’re my only hope!” On April 28, 2008, she was a guest on Deal or No Deal. In 2008, she also had a cameo as a doctor in the Star Wars-related comedy Fanboys.
In 2010, HBO aired a feature-length documentary based on a special live performance of Fisher’s Wishful Drinking stage production. Fisher also appeared on the seventh season of Entourage in the summer of 2010.
In August 2013, she was selected as a member of the main competition jury at the 2013 Venice Film Festival.
In June 2014, she filmed an appearance on the UK comedy panel show QI. It was broadcast on December 25, 2014.
In 2015 she starred alongside Sharon Horgan and American comedian Rob Delaney in Catastrophe, a six-part comedy series for the British Channel 4 that aired in the UK from January 19, 2015.
Fisher’s memoir, The Princess Diarist, was released in November 2016. The book is based on diaries she kept while filming the original Star Wars trilogy in the late 70s and early 80s.
Return to Star Wars
In an interview posted March 2013, confirming she would reprise her role as Princess Leia in Episode VII of the series, she claimed Leia was “Elderly. She’s in an intergalactic old folks’ home [laughs]. I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle.” After other media outlets reported this on March 6, 2013, her representative said the same day Fisher was joking and nothing was announced.
On January 21, 2014, in an interview with TV Guide, Carrie Fisher confirmed her involvement and the involvement of the original cast in the upcoming sequels by saying “as for the next Star Wars film, myself, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are expected to report to work in March or April. I’d like to wear my old cinnamon buns hairstyle again but with white hair. I think that would be funny.”
In March 2014, Fisher stated that she was moving to London for six months because that was where filming would take place.
On April 29, 2014, the cast for Star Wars Episode VII was officially announced, and Fisher, along with original trilogy castmates Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker, were all cast in their original roles for the film. New castmates include Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Max von Sydow. Star Wars Episode VII, subtitled The Force Awakens, was released worldwide on December 18, 2015. Fisher was nominated for a 2016 Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal.
Fisher had completed filming her role as General Leia Organa in Star Wars: Episode VIII shortly before her death. Fisher was expected to also reprise her role in Star Wars: Episode IX which was due to begin filming in the spring of 2017 however it is currently unknown what will happen with her iconic character.
In her 2016 autobiography, The Princess Diarist, Fisher alleged that she and Harrison Ford had a three-month affair during the filming of Star Wars in 1976.
Fisher dated musician Paul Simon from 1977 until 1983. In 1980, she was briefly engaged to Canadian actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd, who proposed on the set of their film The Blues Brothers. She said: “We had rings, we got blood tests, the whole shot. But then I got back together with Paul Simon.” Fisher was married to Simon from August 1983 to July 1984, and they dated again for a time after their divorce. During their marriage, she appeared in Simon’s music video for the song “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War“. Simon’s song “Hearts and Bones” is about their relationship.
Subsequently, she had a relationship with Creative Artists Agency principal and talent agent Bryan Lourd. They had one child together, Billie Catherine Lourd (born July 17, 1992). Eddie Fisher states in his autobiography (Been There Done That) his granddaughter’s name is Catherine Fisher Lourd and her nickname is “Billy”. The couple’s relationship ended when Lourd left to be in a relationship with a man. Though Fisher described Lourd as her second husband in interviews, according to a 2004 profile of the actress and writer, she and Lourd were never legally married.
Fisher also had a close relationship with James Blunt. While working on his album Back to Bedlam in 2003, Blunt spent much of his time at Fisher’s residence. When Vanity Fair’s George Wayne asked Fisher if their relationship was sexual, she replied: “Absolutely not, but I did become his therapist. He was a soldier. This boy has seen awful stuff. Every time James hears fireworks or anything like that, his heart beats faster, and he gets ‘fight or flight.’ You know, he comes from a long line of soldiers dating back to the 10th century. He would tell me these horrible stories. He was a captain, a reconnaissance soldier. I became James’ therapist. So it would have been unethical to sleep with my patient.”
On February 26, 2005, R. Gregory “Greg” Stevens, a lobbyist, was found dead in Fisher’s California home. The final autopsy report lists the cause of death as “cocaine and oxycodone use” but adds chronic, and apparently previously undiagnosed, heart disease as contributing factors. Media coverage of an initial autopsy report used the word “overdose,” but that wording is not in the final report. In an interview, Fisher claimed that Stevens’ ghost haunted her mansion, which unsettled her: “I was a nut for a year”, she explained, “and in that year I took drugs again.”
Fisher described herself as an “enthusiastic agnostic who would be happy to be shown that there is a God”. She was raised Protestant, but often attended Jewish services, the faith of her father, with Orthodox friends. She was a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, Inc. weight loss television ads that aired in January 2011.
Fisher publicly discussed her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and her addictions to cocaine and prescription medication, including an appearance on ABC’s 20/20 and The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive with Stephen Fry for the BBC. She said that her drug use was a form of self-medication, using pain medication such as Percodan to “dial down” the manic aspect of her bipolar disorder. “Drugs made me feel normal,” she explained to Psychology Today in 2001. “They contained me.” She discussed her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking and various topics in it with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today that same year, and also revealed that she would have turned down the role of Princess Leia had she realized it would give her the celebrity status that made her parents’ lives difficult. This interview was followed by a similar appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on December 12, 2008, where she discussed her electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments. At one point, she received ECT every six weeks to “blow apart the cement” in her brain. In 2014, she told The Telegraph that she was no longer receiving the treatment.
Fisher revealed in another interview that she took cocaine during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back. “Slowly, I realized I was doing a bit more drugs than other people and losing my choice in the matter,” she noted.
In 1985, after months of sobriety, she accidentally overdosed on a combination of prescription medication and sleeping pills. She was rushed to the hospital, creating the turn of events that led to much of the material in her novel and screenplay, Postcards from the Edge. Asked why she did not take on the role of her story’s protagonist, named Suzanne, in the film version, Fisher remarked, “I’ve already played Suzanne.”
In 2016, Harvard College gave Fisher its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, noting that “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”
DeathOn December 23, 2016, Fisher went into cardiac arrest while on a flight from London to Los Angeles; a fellow actor seated near Fisher reported that she had stopped breathing. A passenger performed CPR on Fisher until paramedics arrived. After being taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center by ambulance, she was placed on a ventilator. Fisher was reported to have been stabilized while in the hospital, but Todd Fisher later said he could not classify his sister’s condition, and that she was still in the intensive care unit. On December 25, Debbie Reynolds said her daughter was stable, and that any updates would be shared by the family.
Fisher died at age 60 on December 27, 2016, at 8:55 am local time in Los Angeles. Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, confirmed the actress’ death in a statement given to the press shortly afterward by family spokesperson, Simon Halls. At the time of her death, Fisher was survived by her daughter, her mother Debbie Reynolds, her brother Todd Fisher and her half-sisters Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.
Now, watch The Star Wars Holiday Special (In it’s entirity) The program also features many other Star Wars characters, including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader and Princess Leia (who sings the film’s “theme song”, set to the music of John Williams’ Star Wars theme, near the end). The program includes stock footage from Star Wars, and also features a cartoon produced by Toronto-based Nelvana that officially introduces the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Scenes also take place in outer space and in spacecraft including the Millennium Falcon and an Imperial Star Destroyer. The variety-show segments and cartoon also take place in a few other locales, such as a Mos Eisley cantina on the desert planet of Tatooine and a newly introduced red ocean planet known as Panna.
The special is notorious for its extremely negative reception and has never been rebroadcast or officially released on home video.