Sparky … Carrie Fisher. Photo: Instagram/@glamourofthepast Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in the original Star Wars. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Carrie Fisher on the set of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Photo: Sunset Boulevard
Carrie Fisher once wrote, in her novel Postcards from the Edge, that two of the saddest words in the English language were “what party?”
After the news broke, the saddest words in the English language for many were suddenly “Carrie Fisher has died”.
It seemed the actor and writer’s condition had stabilised after a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles two days before Christmas. But at the close of a year when way too many beloved entertainers have died – among them Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen and George Michael – there was one more famous name on the sombre list.
Once again, there was sadness among fans across generations, memories to be shared, collections to be rifled through for favourite moments.
Less than two weeks after Fisher had surprisingly reappeared as the spirited young Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, offering hope to the galaxy as dark forces massed, she was gone at 60.
While little consolation, it was at least a fitting showbiz exit: appearing in the biggest movie in the world over Christmas, just as she did with Star Wars: The Force Awakens last Christmas.
The daughter of actor Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Fisher was also a brilliant writer of sharp social comedy in both novels and memoirs, a scriptwriter whose movies include an adaptation of Postcards From The Edge with Meryl Streep and a Hollywood script doctor. In her private life, she won praise for her honesty about her struggle with drug addiction and mental health.
“I grew up on the back side of show business,” she told The New York Times in 2006. “So I had no desire to go into it. It had beat up my mother.”
But Fisher was still a teenager when she appeared alongside her mother in a Broadway revival of Irene (1973), then in the hit movie Shampoo (1975).
She might have gone into the first Star Wars (1977) as a 19-year-old with just one movie credit but she turned Leia into a feisty princess for changing times that appealed, for different reasons, to both young females and males. She more than held her own as a sparky freedom fighter alongside Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, saying many times how much she hated the “metal bikini” she had to wear in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
The sexual tension between Leia and Han resonated throughout the trilogy. Yet it was still a surprise when Fisher revealed in the memoir The Princess Diarist this year that she and Ford had a passionate three-month affair when she was 19 and he was a 33-year-old married father of two.
As well as Return of the Jedi (1983), Fisher’s other movies included The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah And Her Sisters (1986), The ‘burbs (1989), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (1993). There were also many little-seen films including an n sci-fi pic, The Time Guardian (1987).
Fisher’s writing revealed how charismatic, outspoken and witty she was. In 1987, the semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge was about an actor trying to put her life back together after a drug overdose. There was more candour in the memoir Wishful Drinking (2008), based on her one-woman stage show of the same name.
“You know how they say that religion is the opiate of the masses?” she wrote. “Well, I took masses of opiates religiously.”
In a tumultuous personal life, her 1983 marriage to musician Paul Simon lasted less than a year and she later had a daughter, Billie Lourd, with agent Bryan Lourd in 1992.
In The Princess Diarist, she wrote touchingly that she still wanted to grow old with Harrison Ford: “And if we’re going to get back together, we’re going to have to do it soon.”
With filming having wrapped in July, Fisher will appear in the next Star Wars movie at the end of next year. Given what digital artists did with the late Peter Cushing in Rogue One, it’s possible she could keep featuring as long as the sci-fi saga continues.
Almost 40 years ago, the very first instalment opened with the line: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” In this galaxy at least, Carrie Fisher will be remembered for a long time to come.