Describing the relationship and marriage of Carrie Fisher and Paul Simon as on-again, off-again, on-again, would be a massive understatement. Across 12 years, the pair dated, split, became engaged to another, dated again and then decided rather than split they should wed. After the marriage ended they continued to date for another 10 years.
“Years ago there were tribes that roamed the earth, and every tribe had a magic person,” Fisher writes in her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking. “Well, now, as you know, all the tribes have dispersed, but every so often you meet a magic person, and every so often, you meet someone from your tribe. Which is how I felt when I met Paul Simon.”
The pair met when Fisher was still an up-and-coming actress
The couple initially met in 1977 when Fisher was filming the first of the Star Wars movies. Simon was internationally recognized for his musical work with Art Garfunkel, Fisher was an up-and-coming actress about to become a household name due to her participation in George Lucas’ blockbuster space opera. They reunited the following year when Fisher was appearing on Saturday Night Live and were soon living together on New York’s Central Park West.
“Once they saw each other, no one else mattered to either of them,” author Peter Ames Carlin wrote in Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon. “Carrie added velocity to [Paul’s] life, a kind of wild energy that often set him alight and sometimes made him scream.” According to the 2017 biography, Fisher’s drug use and mental health issues became a major factor of their frequent fights and breakups, with Simon not wanting to deal with her intense highs and crashing lows.
It was during one period apart from Simon when Fisher fell for and agreed to marry her Blues Brother co-star Dan Aykroyd, after the actor saved her from a choking on a piece of food. “He proposed in the trailer on set,” Fisher told the Chicago Tribune in 2008. “He was forcing me to eat because I was very thin in those days — no longer — and I inhaled a brussels sprout, and I started choking. He thought I was laughing, and then he saw that I was dying, and he did the Heimlich maneuver, and then like 10 minutes later he asked me to marry him, and I thought, ‘I better marry him. What if that happens again?’ We had rings, we got blood tests, the whole shot. But then I got back together with Paul Simon.”
Thinking a break-up would be too sad, the couple married instead
Fisher grew up with firsthand knowledge of dysfunctional relationships as the daughter of Hollywood stars Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher — her father left her mother for Reynold’s best friend, Elizabeth Taylor, when Fisher and her brother Todd were still in diapers. Uncertainty was par for the course, in stark contrast to Simon’s quotidian upbringing in Forest Hills, New York.
The couple continued dating through the early 1980s and were at the point of splitting once more when, according to Homeward Bound, they thought breaking up would be too sad, so they may as well get married. Carlin writes the marriage was “such a happy prospect they fell in love all over again.”
Fisher and Simon wed at his NYC apartment with a guest list that reportedly included Lucas, Lorne Michaels, Kevin Kline, Teri Garr and Billy Joel, with celebrations continuing in the months after as Simon toured. But the issues that plagued the relationship prior to the wedding returned, and the couple was soon fighting once more.
“We once had a fight (on our honeymoon) where I said, ‘Not only do I not like you, I don’t like you personally!’” Fisher wrote in Wishful Drinking of the time. “We tried to keep the argument going after that but we were laughing too hard.”
Though laughter helped overcome many of their disagreements, it wasn’t enough to sustain a marriage. After 11 months they split, but the connection remained and the couple began dating again roughly a year later. “There had always been something perfect about them when they were getting along: the way they huddled together, the way he grounded her, the way she could make him laugh so easily,” Carlin wrote in Homeward Bound of the renewed relationship. “And he loved her, with a desperation that could frighten him.”
Simon and Fisher started dating again after getting divorced
Dating post-divorce worked for Fisher and Simon, for a time. They continued to see each other throughout the remainder of the 1980s, with Fisher helping Simon raise his son Harper (b. 1972), from his first marriage to Peggy Harper.
“Paul and I dated for six years, were married for two, divorced for one, and then we had good memories of each other and so what do you think we did?” Fisher wrote in Wishful Drinking. They split once again, but this time for good.
A trip to a spiritual healer in Brazil, where Simon was writing new songs, brought the relationship to an end, according to Homeward Bound. Having consumed psychedelic tea during a spirit cleansing ceremony, in Homeward Bound Carlin explained that Fisher said she had a vision in which she felt “pinned beneath Paul’s ever-spinning, ever-controlling brain.” Once they returned from Brazil, Fisher exited the relationship permanently.
“It was very painful to not be able to make it work…. We had a good time together when we did. We had a similar sense of humor, and our fights were sometimes hilarious,” Fisher told The New York Times in 2012.
“I’m not good at relationships,” she said to Rolling Stone in a 2016 interview. “I’m not cooperative enough. I couldn’t give [Paul] the peace that he needed. Also, it’s interesting when you are with another celebrity. The issue of celebrity becomes neutralized and you can get onto your bigger problems. … It’s all a shame, because he and I were very good together in ways that were good.”
They eventually separated for good and both moved onto other relationships
Simon would write about the relationship often in his music, perhaps most notably with “She Moves On,” from his Rhythm of the Saints album. Fisher mined the relationship for inspiration for her writing, both fictional and autobiographical. “She’s entitled to her life and to write about it as she wishes,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 2011, assuring he would not be doing the same. “I don’t want to talk about Carrie. I don’t mean I dislike her. I don’t dislike Carrie Fisher. I just don’t want to get into it.” He wed his third wife, singer Edie Brickell, in 1992 and has three children with her.
Fisher dated CAA agent Bryan Lourd with whom she had a daughter, actress Billie Lourd, in 1992. Fisher died age 60 on December 27, 2016, after going into cardiac arrest during a flight from London to Los Angeles. The day after she passed away, Simon tweeted, “Yesterday was a horrible day. Carrie was a special, wonderful girl. It’s too soon.”