She will never be forgotten…
by Maureen Shelley
Staff Actor Appreciator
On December 27, 2016, actress, author, and screenwriter, Carrie Fisher, died tragically of a heart attack whilst on board a transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles after having been hospitalized in LA upon landing. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, starlet of Singin’ in the Rain, died the following day upon hearing of the loss of her daughter. As Fisher’s brother and Reynold’s son, Todd Fisher, put it, “She wanted to be with Carrie.”
Fisher and Reynolds relationship was unique, akin to that of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore for any Gilmore Girls fans out there who need a point of reference. The two lived next door to one another for decades and frequently appeared on the red carpet and onstage together. In early January 2017, a documentary was released on HBO about their relationship entitled, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; it features home video footage from their days of youth as well as recent unseen footage. Fisher and Reynolds lived somewhat tumultuous and definitively interesting lives alongside one another; from the estrangement of Fisher’s father and Reynold’s husband, Eddie, who infamously left the family to marry Elizabeth Taylor in 1959, to Fisher’s own divorces, the first from singer-songwriter Paul Simon to whom she was married for less than a year, and the second from Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd who left her for a man after the two had one daughter, Billie, together.
Despite the struggles endured by Fisher, she was fiercely determined to not let life get the best of her. From a young age she learned to laugh at every turn in order to prevent herself from succumbing to the tragedies and heartaches that seemed to follow her. Such a skill was necessary when she battled drug addiction during the 1980s, and following a self-admission to a 30 day rehabilitation center, Fisher put her feelings to the page and began a career as a screenwriter and author. Among her written works is the semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, which she later adapted into a screenplay by the same title about a young actress who tries to rebuild her life after a drug overdose.
Fisher’s engagement with the arts began at a young age as the daughter of two stars, some of her first appearances being alongside her mother on Broadway before her breakout in 1976 when she beat out the likes of Sissy Spacek and Jodie Foster to the role of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Princess (now General) Leia Organa is by far Fisher’s most iconic role, and sparked her career as well as the fantasies of a generation that became enthralled with not only her beauty but her brawn. Fisher easily quipped one-liners, “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”, and brandished laser firing weapons all while managing to stay upright with two giant cinnamon bun shaped braids attached to the side of her head (a look she deeply resented). As Leia, Fisher exemplified the kind of rich characterization that Hollywood cinema seemed to lack for women at times, asserting that she could take care of herself, but was not above admitting her feelings when the time presented itself.
While Fisher certainly pulled off playing the role of a leader in the fictional rebellion which transpired onscreen, she was also actively involved in many causes in real life. Fisher was among the famous Hollywood individuals that opened up about their struggles with mental illness; she never shied away from talking about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder. Fisher was a leading figure in the opening of a public dialogue about addressing mental illnesses as valid diseases, and served as an inspirational figure to people across the globe afflicted with mental illness.
Recently, Fisher’s visage and inspiring fight for human rights has been seen at the center of another movement, that of the Women’s March which transpired this past weekend day after the presidential inauguration of the controversial reality TV star and businessman, Donald Trump. Posters brandishing her likeness and quotes by her or the characters she portrayed seemed to be in abundance at marches. Some of the most memorable posters were adorned with Fisher’s Star Wars character, Leia, and read, “A woman’s place is in the resistance,” a clear homage to the character’s role in the cinematic universe, and to Fisher’s role as an advocate for human rights.
Fans will get the opportunity to see Fisher onscreen one final time as she once again takes on the role of General Leia Organa in the next installment of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, set to premiere December 2017, which she completed filming for before her death. In the meantime, if one wishes to get a true feel of who Carrie Fisher was as a person, take a few minutes to watch her roast of Star Wars creator, George Lucas, at the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award from 2009. She roasts as she lived her life, brilliantly and unapologetically.