“While the place I’ve arrived at isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of heavenly, I could swear sometimes, if I’m quiet enough, I can hear the angels sing. Either that or I fucked up my medication”.
Taken from her one woman show Wishful Drinking, this perfectly sums up the late, great Carrie Fisher and her attitudes towards addiction, mental health, and life in general. Always unashamed to admit it, she struggled for years with bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Her self-deprecating and consistently funny demeanour about these issues made her a leading figure in the fight against the stigma surrounding mental health; a star who put her status as such to good use.
“remembered most for her performance as princess leia, but her career extended far beyond this character”
On the 27th December 2016, Carrie Fisher sadly passed away, drowning in moonlight and strangled to death by her own bra. Now some people will try to tell you that this is ‘physically impossible’ or that she had a ‘heart attack’ but they are, sadly, wrong. Hollywood, and indeed all of us, have lost a great talent, remembered most for her performance as Princess Leia, but her career extended far beyond this character and the silver screen itself.
It is impossible to pay tribute to Carrie Fisher without addressing the elephant in the room. Despite appearing in Shampoo two years earlier opposite Warren Beatty, her launch to stardom was due to her appearance in George Lucas’ space opera Star Wars, in 1977, at the age of only 19. Her powerful performance captured the attention of millions, and her iconic look only made her more memorable. The famous side-buns hairstyle, now instantly recognised and much replicated, did nothing but ‘widen her already wide face’, according to her. She exposed the insidious sexism in Hollywood by revealing that she was asked to lose 10 lbs before shooting the film, something which was repeated before she reprised the role in 2015’s The Force Awakens. “They didn’t hire me, they hired me minus 35 lbs”, she was quoted in an interview prior to the film’s release.
“she was always a joy to watch”
Star Wars aside, I will always remember her short but always memorable appearances in such films as The Blues Brothers, playing Jake’s bazooka-wielding spurned ex-lover, or as Sally’s straight-talking best friend Marie in When Harry Met Sally. She also guest starred in an episode of Tina Fey’s sitcom 30 Rock as the foul-mouthed Rosemary. Her numerous cameo appearances were littered with self-aware references to her Star Wars character, and however brief they were, she was always a joy to watch.
Carrie Fisher was a princess in more ways than one. While her best known role was as Leia in the Star Wars films, she was also Hollywood royalty, being the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and Singing in the Rain actress Debbie Reynolds, who sadly passed away only a day after her daughter. Her childhood in the limelight and her tempestuous relationship with her mother were subjects that she wrote about at length in her various published works; the most famous of these, Postcards From the Edge, loosely based on the mother/daughter relationship and her own struggle with addiction, was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. She was also famously married to Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel fame, stating (humorously) her distaste for the lyrics of his song Allergies, written about her: “But my heart is allergic to the women I love / and it’s changing the shape of my face”.
“we lost in carrie fisher a talented actress, an engaging spokesperson, and a true icon”
It is a shame that only when famous people sadly die do we truly appreciate the impact that they had on us personally and as a society. If the deaths of Jo Cox, George Michael, and so many others tell us anything, it is that good is being done whether we see it or not; Carrie Fisher was always ‘Princess Leia’, but now she will be remembered for so much more. She said what she meant; she didn’t mince her words; she was totally unashamed and unabashed. As well as making her an absolute joy to watch and listen to, both in character and out of it, this made her a voice that carried when it came to the important matters that she spoke about so freely. We lost in Carrie Fisher a talented actress, an engaging spokesperson, and a true icon.