Who Was Carrie Fisher?
Actress Carrie Fisher shot to stardom with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars and its sequels made her famous. She struggled with alcohol and drug abuse in the 1980s, but came back in 1987 with her hit book Postcards from the Edge, which she adapted into a movie starring Meryl Streep. She went on to play supporting roles in films and was a prolific author and screenwriter. Fisher reprised her role of Leia for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens in 2015. Fisher died on December 27, 2016, just days after suffering a major heart attack. She was 60 years old.
Early Life and 'Star Wars'
Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, in Burbank, Los Angeles County, California. Her father was singer Eddie Fisher and her mother was actress Debbie Reynolds. In one of Hollywood's scandals, Fisher left Reynolds when Carrie was two years old for actress Elizabeth Taylor.
At an early age, Fisher showed an interest in books and writing poetry. She eventually followed her famous parents into show business, first appearing at the age of 15 in Irene, a Broadway show starring her mother. In 1975, she made her film debut in Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn. But her big breakthrough came playing Princess Leia in George Lucas's blockbuster Star Wars (1977), opposite Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. Her role as the smart and wisecracking princess made Fisher a pop culture icon, and she reprised the role in the film's sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983).
In 1980, she appeared in The Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. She returned to Broadway that year in Censored Scenes from King Kong, and two years later starred in the Broadway production of Agnes of God.
Around the early to mid-1980s, Fisher struggled with alcohol, drugs and depression while appearing in a series of largely forgettable films, including Under the Rainbow (1981) and Hollywood Vice Squad (1986).
But as the decade drew to a close, Fisher again came into her own, both on- and off-screen. In 1987, she published her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, a successful semi-autobiographical tale of a show business mother and daughter. She later adapted the novel into a screenplay that was made into a 1990 film featuring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine directed by Mike Nichols.
In-Demand Screenwriter and Later Acting Career
Fisher also turned in a series of solid supporting roles in films such as Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Soap Dish (1991), in which she took a comic turn as a bawdy casting director. She later landed her own interview show called Conversations From the Edge With Carrie Fisher (2002-2003). Other television appearances included voicing the character of Angela on Family Guy, and making guest appearances on Sex and the City, Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock and Entourage. She also had a recurring role playing Rob's mother on the British sitcom Catastrophe (2015).
A talented screenwriter, Fisher helped revise many Hollywood scripts, including Sister Act (1992), Outbreak (1995) and The Wedding Singer (1998), among many others. She has also mined her own life experiences to create such bestselling books as The Best Awful There Is (2004), Wishful Drinking (2009) and Shockaholic (2012).
Fisher also returned to the film franchise that made her famous, appearing in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, along with Ford and Hamill. The film, directed by J.J. Abrams, opened in the United States on December 18, 2015, and broke an array of box office records, earning more than $247 million domestically in its opening weekend. Fisher also completed filming the eighth episode of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, which hit theaters in December 2017.
In November 2016, she released The Princess Diarist, a memoir based on the diaries she wrote while filming the original Star Wars trilogy. In the book, Fisher reveals that she had an affair with co-star Ford in 1976 during the filming of the first movie. She later won a posthumous Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album category for her reading of the book.
Death and Legacy
The outspoken author and actress remained busy with multiple projects until she suffered a massive heart attack while on a flight traveling from London to California on December 23, 2016. She was administered CPR and rushed to a hospital upon landing in Los Angeles where she was reported to be in critical condition. Fans around the world sent their support to Fisher on social media using the hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithHer.
Four days later, on December 27, 2016, Fisher died at the hospital at the age of 60. A spokesman for Fisher’s family released a statement on behalf of her daughter Billie Lourd: “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”
Her mother, screen legend Debbie Reynolds, also posted a message on Facebook: “Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter. I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop.”
A day after Fisher's death, Reynolds died. Reynolds had been making funeral arrangements for Fisher with her son Todd Fisher and reportedly suffered a possible stroke. According to TMZ, her son said hours before Reynolds was rushed to the hospital she told him: “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie."
“She’s now with Carrie and we’re all heartbroken,” Todd said from the hospital after Reynolds's death.
A private memorial was held for Fisher’s family and friends at Fisher’s Beverly Hills home, which is located on a property she shared with Reynolds, on January 5, 2017. In addition to Fisher’s daughter Billie, brother Todd, half-sisters Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher and her beloved French bull dog Gary, celebrity friends in attendance included Penny Marshall, Meg Ryan, Richard Dreyfuss, Buck Henry, Candice Bergen, George Lucas, Ellen Barkin, Ed Begley Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Actresses Meryl Streep, Tracey Ullman, author Bruce Wagner and comedian Stephen Fry were among those who eulogized Fisher. Streep also performed one of Fisher’s favorite song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” according to People magazine.
Fisher was cremated and her ashes were placed in an urn shaped like a Prozac pill. Reynolds was laid to rest the following day at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, where she was buried with some of Fisher’s ashes.
"Carrie's favorite possession was a giant Prozac pill that she bought many years ago. A big pill,” Todd Fisher told Entertainment Tonight. “She loved it, and it was in her house, and Billie and I felt it was where she'd want to be. We couldn't find anything appropriate. Carrie would like that. It was her favorite thing, and so that's how you do it. And so they're together, and they will be together here and in heaven, and we're okay with that."
After Fisher and Reynolds’ memorials, Bright Lights, a documentary about their relationship aired on January 7, 2017. The film, which was directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in May.
In June 2017, a coroner's report was released which revealed that Fisher had a mixture of drugs in her system, including evidence of cocaine, methadone, MDMA (also known as ecstasy), alcohol and opiates, when she suffered cardiac arrest. The report noted that "sleep apnea and other undetermined factors" contributed to Fisher's death. Her daughter Billie addressed the findings and her mother’s open struggles with addiction. ”My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life," she said. "She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.
"I know my Mom, she'd want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles," she added. "Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you Momby,"
Fisher had one child, daughter Billie Catherine Lourd, from her relationship with agent Bryan Lourd. She was also briefly married to singer/songwriter Paul Simon in the 1980s.
Fisher was open about discussing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and struggles with drug addiction. In 2016, Harvard College presented Fisher with its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, highlighting that "her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy."
When accepting the honor, Fisher told the audience: “I’ve never been ashamed of my mental illness; it never occurred to me. Many people thank me for talking about it, and mothers can tell their kids when they are upset with the diagnosis that Princess Leia is bipolar too.”
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