Carrie Fisher, the actor best known for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films and her unflinching self-honesty that contrasted with the artifice of Hollywood celebrity, has died in Los Angeles. She was 60 years old.
Her death came days after she was reported to have suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles last Friday. The news was confirmed in a statement released on behalf of her daughter, Billie Lourd, who said Fisher was “loved by the world” and “will be profoundly missed”.
Fisher’s career was characterized by her willingness to acknowledge, challenge and satirize the stereotypes of her upbringing and privilege. As the daughter of two Hollywood stars, Debbie Reynolds and the late singer Eddie Fisher, she brought awareness and humor to her work, whether in film or in numerous books that tracked and reviewed her fortunes in life – or what she herself had termed “what it’s like to live an all-too-exciting life”.
Paying tribute to her daughter, her mother described her as “amazing”. Reynolds, 84, wrote on Facebook: “Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter. I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carries Mother”.
Fisher’s Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, 74, said in a statement: “Carrie was one-of-a-kind … brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life, bravely. My thoughts are with her daughter Billie, her mother Debbie, her brother Todd and her many friends. We will all miss her.”
Among the first to react to her death was Mark Hamill, who starred as Luke Skywalker alongside Fisher in the Star Wars films. He tweeted “no words #Devastated” and a photograph of them together in character.
Earlier, announcing Fisher’s death in Los Angeles, Billie Lourd’s publicist said: “It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8.55 this morning. She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”
She had experienced medical trouble during a flight from London on Friday and was treated by paramedics immediately after the plane landed in Los Angeles, according to reports. The celebrity website TMZ, which first reported Fisher was unwell, had cited anonymous sources claiming the actor suffered a heart attack.
Todd Fisher, her brother, said over the weekend that many details about her condition or what caused the medical emergency were unknown.
“We have to wait and be patient,” he said. “We have so little information ourselves.”
Fisher had shot to stardom in 1977 upon the release of the original Star Wars, a movie that changed Hollywood and a franchise that continues to captivate new audiences around the world. She revisited the role as the leader of a galactic rebellion in sequels, including last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Fisher was also celebrated for her comedic accounts, sometimes semi-fictionalized, of life in the celebrity fishbowl of Hollywood and her personal struggles.
Her screenplay Postcards from the Edge, which dealt candidly with issues of mental health and addiction, was adapted into a 1990 film starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep.
More books followed, including Delusions of Grandma, Surrender the Pink, The Best Awful, Shockaholic and this year’s autobiography, The Princess Diarist.
Earlier this year, Fisher was honored by Harvard, which awarded her its annual outstanding lifetime achievement award in cultural humanism in recognition of her “bravely honest” literary career.
Ever ready to satirize herself, she has even played “Carrie Fisher” a few times, as in David Cronenberg’s dark Hollywood sendup Maps to the Stars and in an episode of Sex and the City.
In the past 15 years, Fisher also had a somewhat prolific career as a television guest star, recently in the Amazon show Catastrophe, as the mother of Rob Delaney’s lead, and perhaps most memorably as a has-been comedy legend on 30 Rock.
Her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, which she performed on and off across the country beginning in 2006, was turned into a book, made its way to Broadway in 2009 and was captured for HBO in 2010.
Little was off-limits in the show. She discussed the scandal that engulfed her superstar parents (her father ran off with film star Elizabeth Taylor); her brief marriage to the singer Paul Simon; the time the father of her daughter left her for a man; and the day she woke up next to the dead body of a platonic friend who had overdosed in her bed.
“I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result,” she said in the show. At another point, she cracked: “I don’t have a problem with drugs so much as I have a problem with sobriety.
“People relate to aspects of my stories, and that’s nice for me because then I’m not all alone with it,” she said. “Also, I do believe you’re only as sick as your secrets. If that’s true, I’m just really healthy.”
Fisher’s own romantic life was characterized by drama. Her marriage to Simon in the early 80s ended after 11 months. She later married the Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd. They had a daughter, Billie. That union ended with Lourd leaving Fisher for a man.
“I turn people gay. That’s what I do. It is an unusual superpower,” she told the Baltimore Sun in 2012.
Her latest book, The Princess Diarist, was well-received, and made news when she disclosed that she and her co-star Harrison Ford had had an affair on the set of Star Wars. She told People magazine: “It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend.”
Fisher had bipolar disorder for which she received electroshock therapy. She chain-smoked, confessed to a love of LSD and her compulsions led to addictions to cocaine and painkillers.
Fisher had also recently started writing an advice column published in the Guardian. One reader wrote to her seeking advice for dealing with bipolar disorder. Fisher commended the reader for asking for help and said: “You reached out to me – that took courage. Now build on that.”
Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California, in 1956, to her Hollywood royalty parents. When Fisher was two years old, her father left the family for Taylor, the widow of her father’s best friend, Mike Todd. The following year, her mfmanother married Harry Karl, owner of a shoe store chain.
Fisher made her film debut in the 1975 comedy Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn. Two years later she was picked to play Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Other roles followed, but none came close to matching the attention she received for the sci-fi series.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press