The first line of Carrie Fisher’s obit was always going to be about Princess (now General Leia, if you happened to see “The Force Awakens”) Leia. And everyone just sort of assumed that obit was a good 20 years away.
Carrie Fisher — Hollywood royalty, science-fiction icon, outspoken mental health advocate and perhaps one of Hollywood’s most underrated comic minds — died Dec. 27, four days after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.
Fisher was famous from the moment she was born.
The daughter of Hollywood stars Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Fisher was raised in Beverly Hills. She made her film debut in “Shampoo” (1975) as the daughter of one of Warren Beatty’s hairdressing-with-benefits clients. She offers him lox, chopped liver and a baked apple, asks him if he is gay and reads him like a book, and it is just an insanely good performance from a 17-year-old.
Fisher attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, which explains her really weird accent — part L.A. debutante, part Debbie Reynolds and part British radio announcer — in “Star Wars,” the 1977 movie that would both define and derail her career.
Complete with almost-diaphanous white dress, a really large blaster and very odd hair, her Princess Leia in “Star Wars” was brash, take-no-prisoners and knew exactly who was running this show, a quality that was dialed down a bit in “Empire” and all but absent in “Jedi,” a movie in which everyone in the main cast looks vaguely miserable.
Very few people have ingrained themselves into popular culture the way Fisher’s Leia did. Her face and body were on everything from toys to lunchboxes to bedsheets. Role model and sex object in equal measure (a titration that is incredibly hard to pull off) Leia turned Fisher into an icon when she was all of 20 years old.
Fisher’s career and her life were never the same.
In 2015, she reprised her role as Resistance leader General Leia Organa in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” She was not on screen for all that long but fans certainly enjoyed seeing here there, odd hair and all.
By any reasonable standard, Fisher had a big, messy, epic Hollywood life.
In her most recent book, “The Princess Diarist,” she revealed that she and Harrison Ford had an affair on the set of “Star Wars.”
“I told (Harrison) I found the diaries and that I was gonna publish them,” Fisher told Rolling Stone this month. “He just said, ‘Lawyer.’ I told him he could take out anything he didn’t like. I sent it to him, but he never commented. I guess he didn’t loathe anything.”
From 1977 to 1984, she dated, was married to and divorced Paul Simon. Then they dated some more. She served as muse to songs on both “Hearts and Bones,” an album almost nobody remembers outside of hardcore Simon fans, and the Grammy-winning “Graceland,” an album everyone in the world has heard something from.
But more than anything else, Carrie Fisher was incredibly funny. This was known to Hollywood insiders — she was close friends with comedian Albert Brooks and there are marked similarities in their senses of humor — but largely unknown to the public until her best-selling, semi-autobiographical first novel, “Postcards from the Edge.”
About a drug-addicted actress with mom issues, “Postcards” was made by Mike Nichols, directing from a script by Fisher, into a very funny 1990 movie starring Meryl Streep.
As comedian Billy Eichner put it on Twitter, “U know ur special when Meryl Streep plays YOU in a movie.”
(I would also submit that it took the combined talents of Fisher and Nichols to make Streep funny, not something for which she was known before”Postcards.”)
Fisher wrote three more semi-autobiographical, comic novels, “Surrender the Pink,” Delusions of Grandma” and “The Best Awful There Is,” as well as three memoirs, “Wishful Drinking” (later turned into a one-woman show), “Shockaholic” and this year’s “The Princess Diarist.”
She also became known as a script doctor, quietly known for work on “Hook,” “Lethal Weapon 3,” “Sister Act,” and “The Wedding Singer.” It was also her idea for Debbie Reynolds to play Albert Brooks’s mother in his 1996 film “Mother,” in which Reynolds was hilarious.
Fisher appeared in movies here and there, sometimes as a weird little character (hello, “Blues Brothers”) and sometimes as a riff on herself, a role she was (eventually) happy to play.
Fisher was terrific as the best friend in “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) and impossible to forget in 2007 as Rosemary Howard, the comedy writer-whom-time-has-passed-by in what was perhaps the single best episode of “30 Rock.”
Fisher also became outspoken about her struggles with mental illness, drug addiction and the nasty, ouroboros-like relationship between the two. Eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Fisher was candid in interviews about her successful use of electroconvulsive therapy, self-medication-via-cocaine-and-Percodan and the 1985 overdose on prescription meds and sleeping pills that ultimately inspired “Postcards.”
This year, she received the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from Harvard for her “forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism that have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”
Check out the internet today or tomorrow or a few years from now and you will see all sorts of folks talking about how Fisher’s writing and talking about how her brain worked helped them feel better about their own.
This amazingly funny, inspirational woman is survived by her daughter Billie Lourd, her brother Todd, her French bull dog Gary and about a billion or so fans. Her mother died Dec. 28.
Let us once again enjoy this 2015 Good Morning America interview which manages to capture a tremendous amount of what made Fisher unique.