Actor who played Princess Leia in Star Wars was also known for her bristling intellect and writing that mixed candour, sweetness and wit Carrie Fisher, actor best known as Star Wars Princess Leia, dies aged 60
A less distinctive and eccentric performer than Carrie Fisher, who has died after a heart attack aged 60, might well have had an entire career eclipsed after playing one of the leads in the most successful movie franchise of all time. Fishers portrayal of the intergalactic rebel leader Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars series certainly made her a household name: In the street, they call out, Hey, Princess!, which makes me feel like a poodle. But the films never defined her as they did some of her co-stars.
If anything, her bristling humour and intellect made it seem in retrospect as though she had been rather slumming it in those trumped-up B-movies. Certainly the snappy writing in her autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge (1987) was light years ahead of anything she ever had to say on screen as Leia. She was unimpressed about her role in the first Star Wars (1977): A lot of it was just running down corridors.
It came as no surprise, then, that she enjoyed a successful writing career alongside her increasingly intermittent acting appearances, with other novels including Surrender the Pink (1990) and Delusions of Grandma (1993). Her most recent book, The Princess Diarist (2016), drew on diaries she wrote while shooting the first Star Wars film in 1976 and included the revelation that she and her married co-star Harrison Ford had been romantically involved.
Anyone lacking Fishers tenacity would surely have been capsized by a Hollywood childhood marked by turbulence and scandal. Her parents, the actors Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, divorced when she was 18 months old; her father ran off with Elizabeth Taylor while her mother turned to drink. Fisher grew up to have difficult relationships with each parent. As a child, she rarely saw her father; as an adult, they took cocaine together. Her arguments with her mother could be cataclysmic. As a teenager, Fisher once threw milk in Reynoldss lap; Reynolds responded by putting baked beans in Fishers hair.
If anything, Fishers difficult background made her seem impossibly savvy and whip-smart. I was going to be this nonchalant, seemingly tough kid, she wrote in 1991. I was going to handle it. I was going to put my head down and get through it as quickly as possible and get out.
She gave off the impression of having no illusions about love, family or fame, and yet she would always be charmingly frank and self-deprecating about why another of her relationships or marriages had run aground her marriages to the singer Paul Simon and the agent Bryan Lourd each ended in divorce or why she had fallen prey to extended bouts of drug addiction.
She spoke widely of her bipolar disorder, declared herself Joan of Narc, patron saint of addicts, claimed that therapy had been my only serious relationship and said of relationships: Sex is out of my element. Im much more successful during the cigarette.
It was this mix of candour, sweetness and wit that prevented her from appearing bitter. No matter how hard her life was, or how poor some of her personal choices had been, her wry observations always seemed suffused with hope. She was no cynic.
Fisher was born and raised in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and lived in the media glare from an early age. The first published photograph of her, in Life magazine, was taken when she was just two hours old. She was educated at Beverly Hills high school and began putting on razzle-dazzle performances at friends barmitzvahs at the age of 13. By 15, her mother had roped her into performing alongside her, first in her nightclub act and then in 1973 on Broadway in the musical Irene. Fisher then enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
She never played a grand game or pulled rank, her classmate, the actor and director Selina Cadell, told the Guardian in 2015. She was just a lovely person with this amazing sense of humour. We think of sharp, witty people as being very resilient but she had a striking softness and vulnerability.
In 1975, Fisher made a brief but memorable film debut propositioning Warren Beatty in the satire Shampoo, before landing her big break on Star Wars, where she sported a hairstyle she described as hairy earphones. She was already drinking heavily and taking drugs (cocaine, LSD, Percodan) and her addiction only intensified, along with her fame, following the colossal success of the movie and its immediate sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), in which there was less running along corridors and more sparkling banter, particularly between her and Ford.
She later explained that drugs managed something in me that I was too lazy to manage on my own, this thundering emotion and verbal excitement that would roar out of me. It still can: I can still take a dinner party hostage but I try not to.
Read more: www.theguardian.com