Iconic actress Carrie Fisher (better known as Princess Leia Organa of Star Wars) passed away this morning after going into cardiac arrest on December 23rd. She died at 60 years old, in the hospital where she was being treated for a heart attack. With a profound and uniform sense of grief, we say goodbye to a woman who affected not only cinema and pop culture, but history itself.
“Truly a product of Hollywood inbreeding” (as Fisher wrote in her autobiography, Wishful Drinking), Carrie Fisher was the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. Spending her childhood in California, Fisher became known as somewhat of a “bookworm.” In 1973, however, she did a Broadway show, Irene, with her mother. It interfered quite a bit with her schoolwork, so she dropped out of high school and never got her diploma.
After studying acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama (London) in 1973, Fisher made her film debut in Shampoo (1975). Just two years later, her timeless role as Princess Leia in Star Wars was filmed. She was a mere 19 years old. She went on to act in multiple Star Wars films as well as others, including The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally,The ‘Burbs, Under the Rainbow, Drop Dead Fred, Hannah and Her Sisters, and many more.
During the ‘80s, when she starred in a lot of these films, Fisher went through a severe substance abuse problem. Starting at age 13, she began smoking marijuana, leading to cocaine, LSD, prescription medication abuse, and more. Her addiction made its way into Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge. Later on, it was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep.
Along with addiction, Fisher suffered from Bipolar Disorder, a mood disorder categorized by alternating episodes of mania and extreme depression. In her own words, “drugs made [her] feel normal.” It’s not uncommon for someone with a disorder like this to turn to substance abuse for solace. Bipolar Disorder is one of the most difficult mental illnesses to deal with, but Carrie freaking Fisher took it in stride. Not only did she get her disorder under control, but she also became an advocate for mental health and awareness therein. In fact, earlier this year, Harvard College gave Fisher its Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism because of her work regarding her addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism.
In the ‘90s, Fisher focused a lot on writing, publishing works like Surrender the Pink and Delusions of Grandma. She also helped write some screenplays (that she never got credit for).
In the early 2000s, Fisher won the Women of Vision Award by the Women in Film & Video (DC). Later on, her autobiography was adapted into a stage show and documentary.
As we all know, Fisher returned to the Star Wars franchise for The Force Awakens. She earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress from the film.
In more ways than one, I could tell you how Carrie Fisher has affected my life and the lives of my friends. I could tell you about every way that she made me want to be like her, as proud as her, successful, strong-willed, and monumental. But if I did, this piece would go on for days. In short, I am distraught, but not hopeless. Fisher will live on through her mother, Debbie Reynolds, her daughter, Billie Lourd, her French Bulldog, Gary, and us—her loving, devoted fans; us—the ones who looked up to her as an idol, a friend, a role model, and an entertainer. Carrie Fisher is gone, but far from forgotten.