Carrie Fisher had no idea that Star Wars would become such a juggernaut of a movie franchise following it’s release in 1977. But then, as she described in her 2016 memoir The Princess Diarist, “this goofy little three-month hang-out with robots did something unexpected.” Star Wars became a cultural touchstone and not just a cinematic one. For good or bad, Carrie would forever be known as the princess with the iconic hairstyle and the gold bikini.
Carrie achieved worldwide recognition and adoration for her role as Princess Leia Organa. It was a role that came to her early in her career and for obvious reasons it overshadowed much of her later accomplishments, but in a career spanning more than forty years, Carrie Fisher should not solely be remembered for playing the intergalactic rebel princess.
Carrie Fisher was more than an actress. Born into Hollywood royalty, she was the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and the step-daughter of the legendary Elizabeth Taylor, all of whom had achieved glittering careers in the entertainment business. Carrie was raised in a world which would provide much fodder for her career as a writer. She brilliantly demonstrated this in the novel for which she is best known, Postcards from the Edge. It was a biting satire on the rivalry between a mother and daughter living and working in the acting industry, although Carrie denied that the plot was inspired by her relationship with her famous mother.
Postcards from the Edge was eventually turned into a movie, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Fisher penned the script. Directed by Mike Nichols, the film received critical acclaim for its darkly comic but redemptive look at addiction and recovery in Hollywood. It also gave the audience an insight into what it was like for a young woman trying to forge her own path in the shadow of a show business mother. Interestingly, in her memoir, Unsinkable, Debbie Reynolds talked about wanting to play the role of the mother in the film, but Mike Nichols apparently told her, “you’re not right for the part”.
Success as a novelist secured Carrie Fisher a respect few achieve in Hollywood. She followed up Postcards from the Edge with Surrender the Pink (1990), Delusions of Grandma (1993), and The Best Awful There Is (2004). Her talent as a writer was also much in demand as a script doctor. Fisher was often called upon to polish dialogue on various projects, such as Lethal Weapon 3 and some of the Star Wars prequels.
As well as writing, Carrie also continued to act throughout her career. Often taking on secondary roles in major films and well-known TV shows, she nonetheless brought a comedic intelligence to all the parts she played. Her other well-known films included Hannah and her Sisters (1986), directed by Woody Allen, and When Harry Met Sally… (1989), directed by Rob Reiner and based on a script by Nora Ephron.
But perhaps her most poignant piece of work came in the later 2000s when she wrote about her personal struggles with drug and alcohol addictions in a sardonic memoir Wishful Drinking (2008) and her last publication, The Princess Diarist (2016). In these books, Fisher explored herself as reflected by the dazzling lights of Hollywood — the good and bad. And she did it in a witty, unpretentious and unglamorous way. She was unflinchingly honest about her private demons, often writing about her flaws with brutal honesty. Not for Carrie Fisher the sanitised persona gifted by publicists and image-makers to adoring fans.
Carrie Fisher’s personal life might have at times been troubled, but she was more than a princess with problems. Carrie Fisher was a genuine talent, a writer whose voice will be sincerely missed.
[Featured Image by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival]