Carrie Fisher, who will forever be identified with her portrayal of Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” series, died Tuesday at the age of 60 following a massive heart attack on a flight to Los Angeles last week.
“It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” Simon Halls, a spokesperson for Fisher’s family, said in a statement. “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly.”
Fisher suffered a heart attack last week aboard a Los Angeles-bound flight 15 minutes prior to landing. A medic onboard performed CPR on the actress until paramedics arrived to take her to UCLA Medical Center, where she was placed on a ventilator.
She was the daughter of screen legend Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher who worked on Broadway as a teenager in “Irene,” which starred her mother. She made her screen debut in 1975’s “Shampoo.” She had enrolled London’s Central School of Speech and Drama and then St. Lawrence College before dropping out at the age of 19 after landing the iconic role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’ 1977 space epic “Star Wars.”
“She has no friends, no family; her planet was blown up in seconds – along with her hairdresser – so all she has is a cause,” Fisher told Rolling Stone in 1983 of the role. “From the first film [‘A New Hope’], she was just a soldier, front line and center. The only way they knew to make the character strong was to make her angry. In ‘Return of the Jedi,’ she gets to be more feminine, more supportive, more affectionate. But let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies. So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.”
Fisher once joked: “Lucas always had to remind me to ‘Stand up! Be a princess!’ And I would act like a Jewish princess and lean forward, slouching, chewing gum.”
Fisher also saw parallels between Princess Leia, the lost daughter of the series’ villain Darth Vader, and her own unique childhood as the daughter of two 1950s superstars. Fisher endured both her mother’s highly publicized divorces as well as her father’s own issues with substance abuse
“He’s a little shellshocked from thirteen years of doing speed, but he’s real friendly,” she said in 1980 of Eddie Fisher, who died in 2010.
She expanded on the parallels between her own life and her most famous character.
“Leia’s real father left her mother when she was pregnant, so her mother married this King Organa,” Fisher recalled. “I was adopted and grew up set apart from other people because I was a princess. A lot of parallels, me and Leia. Dad goes off to the dark side, and Mom marries a millionaire. My brother and I went in different directions on the Debbie and Eddie issue. He’s gotten involved with Jesus, and I do active work on myself, trying to make myself better and better. It’s funny.”
Throughout her career, Fisher was open about her struggles with mental illness – the actress was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – and drug use, admitting that she had abused cocaine throughout the filming of “The Empire Strikes Back,” as well as prescription drugs.
There was more to Carrie Fisher than Princess Leia, however. She was a novelist and memoirist, penning books such as ‘Postcards from the Edge,” “Wishful Drinking” and “The Princess Diarist,” for which Fisher just finished touring for. In the book, she detailed her 1977 affair with Harrison Ford while filming “A New Hope.” At the time, Fisher was 19 and Ford was 33 and married.
In addition to playing Leia in the original ‘Star Wars” trilogy and 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Fisher also appeared in films like “The Blues Brothers,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The ‘Burbs” and Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters.”
Fisher was also slated to reprise the role in Star Wars’ upcoming Episode VIII and Episode IX.
Fisher was also the writer of four novels and the ex-wife of singer-songwriter Paul Simon, who she was married to for a year in 1983. Fisher was also in a longterm relationship with talent agent Bryan Lourd, with whom she had her only child, Billie Lourd.
Actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, tweeted following news of Fisher’s heart attack, “as if 2016 couldn’t get any worse … sending all our love to Carrie Fisher.” And Peter Mayhew, who plays Chewbacca, wrote, “Thoughts and prayers for our friend and everyone’s favorite princess right now.”
Fisher was also regarded as one of the industry’s best script doctors, helping polish up screenplays, working on productions such as “Hook,” “Lethal Weapon 3,” “Sister Act,” “Outbreak,” “The Wedding Singer,” the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy and numerous other film projects.