Carrie Fisher, a daughter of Hollywood royalty who gained pop-culture fame as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars and turned her struggles with addiction and mental illness into wickedly funny books, a hit film and a one-woman stage show, died Tuesday after falling ill aboard a flight last week. She was 60.
“Carrie was one of a kind … brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life, bravely,” co-star Harrison Ford said in a statement.
Fisher, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, had been hospitalised since Friday, when paramedics responded to a report of a patient in distress at Los Angeles airport. Her family gave no details on the emergency, but media reports said she had suffered a heart attack.
“Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter,” Reynolds wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. “I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carries Mother.”
Fisher made her feature film debut opposite Warren Beatty in the 1975 hit Shampoo. She also appeared in Austin Powers, The Blues Brothers, Charlie’s Angels, and When Harry Met Sally.
But Fisher is best remembered as the headstrong Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” in 1977, her hair styled in futuristic braided buns. She uttered the immortal phrase “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
She reprised the role in Episode VII of the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, and her digitally rendered image appears in the newest installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
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“She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colourful personality that everyone loved,” the movie’s creator George Lucas said in a statement.
“In Star Wars she was our great and powerful princess – feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think.”
Fisher long battled drug addiction and mental illness. She said she smoked pot at 13, used LSD by 21 and was diagnosed as bipolar at 24. She was treated with electroshock therapy and medication.
In 1987, her thinly veiled autobiography Postcards From the Edge became a best-seller. It was adapted into a 1990 movie starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep.
More books followed: Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Shockaholic, and this year’s autobiography, The Princess Diarist, in which she revealed that she and Ford had an affair on the Star Wars set.
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Fisher’s one-woman show, “Wishful Drinking,” which she had performed across the country since 2006, was turned into a book, made its way to Broadway in 2009 and was filmed for HBO in 2010.
Little was off-limits in the show. She discussed the scandal that engulfed her superstar parents (Fisher ran off with Elizabeth Taylor); her brief marriage to 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.”
Ever ready to satirise herself, she 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 appeared as a television guest star, perhaps most memorably as a has-been comedy legend on 30 Rock. She also supplied the voice of a recurring character on the animated Family Guy for the past decade.
“Carrie Fisher was smart, funny, talented, surprising and always a hell of a fun time to be around. Family Guy will miss her immensely,” show creator Seth MacFarlane tweeted.
Fisher starred with her mother in a documentary set to air on HBO in 2017. “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
She endeared herself to the social-media generation with her quirky tweets, laden with crazy keyboard symbols and colorful typefaces.
Her ever-present bulldog, Gary Fisher, had his own Twitter and Instagram account. (“Saddest tweets to tweet. Mommy is gone. I love you (at)carrieffisher,” the dog’s Twitter feed read.)
Besides her mother, Fisher is survived by her brother, Todd Fisher, and her daughter, Billie Lourd.
In a 2009 interview with The Associated Press, Fisher wasn’t coy about revealing details about her life. She hoped to remove the stigma from mental illness.
“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.”