Carrie Fisher found best material in her own troubles
In this Nov. 13, 1978 file photo, Harrison Ford talks with Carrie Fisher during a break in the filming of the CBS-TV special "The Star Wars Holiday" in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/George Brich, File)
Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, December 28, 2016 9:10AM EST
LOS ANGELES -- Carrie Fisher, a princess onscreen and off, played both roles in her own gutsy way.
As Leia of the "Star Wars" franchise, she commanded the troops, enjoyed a fling with Han Solo -- and, in real life, co-star Harrison Ford -- and showed fledgling 1970s feminists what life as a liberated woman might be like in a galaxy far, far away.
As the offspring of Hollywood royals Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she drew on her painful family history and personal demons to forge a distinctively tart, unsettlingly funny style as a bestselling writer.
Fisher's throaty voice and inviting delivery also told the tale: She'd lived through much and wanted to -- needed to -- share her journey that included drug addiction, mental illness and electroshock treatment.
"People relate to aspects of my stories and that's nice for me because then I'm not all alone with it," she told The Associated Press in 2009. "Also, I do believe you're only as sick as your secrets. If that's true, I'm just really healthy."
Fisher, who died Tuesday at age 60, revealed her struggles before such confessionals became routine. Her vehicles included a 1987 semi-autobiographical novel, "Postcards from the Edge," and a one-woman show, "Wishful Drinking," that went to Broadway and TV.
She avoided few topics in the piece, including the scandal that engulfed her superstar parents (singer Fisher ran off with Elizabeth Taylor); her brief marriage to pop star Paul Simon; the time the father of her daughter left her for a man, and waking 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 joked in the show. And there was this wisecrack: "I don't have a problem with drugs so much as I have a problem with sobriety."
Fisher had been hospitalized since Friday, after falling ill aboard a flight and being treated by paramedics at the Los Angeles airport. Her family gave no details on the emergency, while media reports said she had suffered a heart attack.
Her feature film debut was opposite Warren Beatty in the 1975 hit "Shampoo." She also appeared in "Austin Powers," "The Blues Brothers," "Charlie's Angels," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Scream 3" and "When Harry Met Sally ..."
But she is best remembered as the tough, feisty and powerful Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" films, making a statement with her character and no-nonsense braided buns.
She famously despised the latter, and even had mixed feelings about her famous character. She knew it then and audiences later figured it out: Playing Han Solo would have suited her better.
"When I first read the script I thought that's the part to be, always wry and sardonic," Fisher told a gathering in England in 2015. "He's always that. I feel like a lot of the time Leia's either worried or pissed or, thank God, sort of snarky."
She reprised the role of Leia 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."
Fisher kept telling her own story after "Postcards From the Edge" became a bestseller and was adapted into a 1990 movie starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep.
Other books included "Delusions of Grandma," "Surrender the Pink," "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.
Ever ready to satirize 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."
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.
Besides her mother, she is survived by her brother, Todd Fisher, and her daughter, Billie Lourd.
Someone made sure Fisher would be thought of with a wistful smile: Her bulldog, Gary Fisher, had his own Twitter account that offered this message Tuesday: "Saddest tweets to tweet. Mommy is gone. I love you @carrieffisher."
AP writers Lindsey Bahr and Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles and Mark Kennedy and Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.