Remembering Carrie Fisher beyond Star Wars
Talent and wit
This morning we woke up to sad news: 2016 claimed yet another star in Carrie Fisher. The actress was most well-known for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars film series, an association that started with the release of Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) in 1977, and now—we can't imagine anyone else playing the fearless princess and rebel leader. "She's me and I'm her and it's kind of a Möbius strip," said Fisher in an interview with USA Today. "I carry her around and I know her better than anybody else and we wear the same clothes a lot of times. She's mine."
But beyond that, Carrie Fisher has shown that she was very much more than just Leia from the popular franchise. Here, we remember Fisher—actress, best-selling author, and script doctor with a wicked sense of humour—and her life outside of Star Wars:
Born in the spotlight
Daughter to late pop singer Eddie Fisher and classic Hollywood star Debbie Reynolds, it seemed only inevitable that Carrie Fisher will take her rightful place in the spotlight when the time came. Sure enough, in 1975, the then 19-year-old actress makes her film debut in the satirical romantic comedy-drama Shampoo, followed by her iconic role in Star Wars two years later. Fame came fast, but Fisher, having grown up in Hollywood, has learned to raise a skeptical eyebrow at fame from a young age—while she basked in her fans' devotion that came with it, she never really bought into it either.
A well-established actress
Aside from Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher has brought countless other characters to life onscreen. In her acting career that spanned nearly four decades, she took on a string of notable roles in iconic 1980s films such as The Blue Brothers and When Harry Met Sally, and guest starred in a number of television series, in some of which her natural wit shone through, including 30 Rock.
Tina Fey reacted to Fisher's passing with the following statement: "Carrie Fisher meant a lot to me. Like many women my age, Princess Leia occupies about 60 percent of my brain at any given time. But Carrie's honest writing and her razor-sharp wit were an even greater gift. I feel so lucky that I got to meet her. I'm very sad she is gone."
A mental-health advocate
Offscreen, Carrie Fisher was open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She publicly discussed her struggle with the mental illness and drug addiction, and encouraged others to seek help. "We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. That's why it's important to find a community—however small—of other bipolar people to share experiences and find comfort in the similarities," she wrote in a column published by The Guardian.
Earlier this year, Harvard College gave Fisher the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, recognising "her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy."
A prolific writer
Her sharp wit translated into her writing. She has written eight books—the most recent one being The Princess Diarist, a memoir based on diaries she wrote around the time she starred in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope—and a number of screenplays. With a keen ear for dialogue, she was also known as one of Hollywood's best script doctors.
But her most notable work in writing is perhaps Postcards From the Edge, a semi-autobiographical novel in which she fictionalised and satirised real-life events. Published in 1987, it tells the story of a young actress struggling with both drugs and the shadow of her movie-star mother—just two years before that, she went to rehab after a nearly fatal drug overdose. The book was later made into a movie, which was directed by Mike Nichols with a screenplay by Fisher herself.
In her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, the sharp-tongued Fisher dictated what she wanted written in her eventual obituary. Here it is, along with the story behind it:
George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, "You can't wear a bra under that dress."
So, I say, "Okay, I'll bite. Why?"
And he says, "Because... there's no underwear in space."
He came backstage and explained why you can't wear your brassiere in other galaxies, and I have a sense you will be going to outer space very soon, so here's why you cannot wear your brassiere, per George. So, what happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn't - so you get strangled by your own bra. Now I think that this would make a fantastic obit - so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by own bra."
Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher.