Carrie Fisher, child of Hollywood who blazed a path as ‘Star Wars’ heroine, screenwriter and author, dies at 60
Though Carrie Fisher is best known as Princess Leia from Star Wars, she has performed in many other acting roles and has had a successful career as a book author and screenplay doctor.
Carrie Fisher never tired of poking fun at “Star Wars,” starting with the instantly iconic buns her character, Princess Leia, wore on the sides of her head, which she once called “a hair-don’t instead of a hairdo.”
It was just one example of the astringent and often self-directed wit that defined the star, who, at age 60, died Tuesday in Los Angeles four days after suffering a cardiac incident on a flight from London.
Although she achieved global stardom as the trailblazing space heroine, Fisher eventually became just as famous and beloved for simply being herself: an author, actor, activist and personality, armed with an acerbic comic flair and an admirable, if occasionally unnerving, tendency to tell the truth.
But while Fisher’s commentary could be brutally cutting, she never lost her affection for the blockbuster franchise that launched her to fame; she had, in fact, recently completed production for “Episode VIII.” “As much as I may have joked about ‘Star Wars’ over the years, I liked that I was in those films,” she wrote in her recently published memoir, “The Princess Diarist.” “Particularly as the only girl in an all-boy fantasy. They were fun to make. It was an anecdote of unimaginable standing.”
Carrie Fisher, in 2007.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher at the Farmers Market in 1987.(Ellen Jaskol / Los Angeles Times)
Three generations: Carrie Fisher, with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and daughter, Billie Lourd, in 1994.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher sits with her dog, Gary, at a panel at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim in 2015.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, 3, gives mother Debbie Reynolds a hug after her afternoon nap in their home in West Los Angeles, on Nov. 16, 1959.(Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher leafs through her novel “Delusions of Grandma” before speaking at the Los Angeles Times’ annual authors luncheon in 1994.(Karen Tapia / Los Angeles Times)
Singer-composer Paul Simon and actress Carrie Fisher leave the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, after a memorial service for comedian John Belushi.(Marty Lederhandler / Associated Press)
Carrie Fisher interviews Steve Martin in 1999.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher photographed in her house in Beverly Hills in 2004.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, in her bedroom in her Beverly Hils home.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher stars in her one-woman autobiographical show, “Wishful Drinking,” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood on Nov. 4, 2006.(Damon Winter / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, promoting her HBO special “Wishful Drinking,” in her home on Dec. 2, 2010.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, right, with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2015.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher autographs her book “The Best Awful” at a promotional event in London.(John D. McHugh / Associated Press)
Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford at the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” panel at San Diego Comic-Con on July 10, 2015.(Richard Shotwell / Associated Press)
Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher attend the Midnight Mission’s Golden Heart Gala at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.(Araya Diaz / Getty Images)
Carrie Fisher with her daughter, Billie Lourd, on the red carpet at the premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Hollywood on Dec. 14, 2015.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher’s most recent book is “The Princess Diarist,” a memoir based on the diaries she kept during the filming of the first “Star Wars” film.(Blue Rider Press / Associated Press)
From the moment she first stepped onto the screen in 1977’s “Star Wars,” the character of Leia Organa — whip-smart, wryly funny and fearless enough to stand up to the likes of Darth Vader without batting an eye— inspired generations of young girls to be bold and inspired crushes in generations of young boys.
Decades later, when Fisher returned to the role in last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” she reflected to The Times on her status as a new kind of role model in the pop culture landscape.
“I remember the first time it was weird to me was when someone wanted to thank me because they’d become a lawyer because of me,” Fisher said. “The main thing they said is that they identified with me. I felt like that was somebody that could be heroic without being a superhero and be relatable.”
If “Star Wars” was an unprecedented kind of movie phenomenon, Fisher was an unprecedented kind of movie star, a child of the old Hollywood system who, with her penchant for fearless self-exposure and her knowing, bemused detachment from the machinery of fame, charted a path toward the new one.
Leia was a fierce and regal warrior against the Empire, but Fisher’s offscreen life was marked by more personal battles, including bouts of drug abuse, a complicated family history and struggles with bipolar disorder — all of which she would use as material for lacerating comedy in her numerous works of fiction and nonfiction. Fisher would become an advocate on behalf of others coping with mental illness, helping defuse public stigma surrounding the issue through her own unflinching candor.
Fisher was born into Hollywood royalty on Oct. 21, 1956, to singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, who divorced when she was 2. But she rocketed to fame in her own right when director George Lucas cast her as Leia in his space opera while she was still a teenager. She reprised the role in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back” and 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”
In the wake of “Star Wars,” Fisher continued to act on occasion in films such as Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and the romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally…” But the shadow of “Star Wars” was not easy to escape, and it wasn’t until Fisher turned to writing with the semi-autobiographical 1987 novel “Postcards from the Edge” that she began to define herself outside of the role of Princess Leia.
In “Postcards from the Edge,” Fisher satirized her own acting career, her offscreen struggle with drug abuse and bipolar disorder and her sometimes stormy relationship with her mother. (The bond between Fisher and Reynolds is explored in an upcoming HBO documentary, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.”) “Postcards from the Edge” was adapted for the big screen by director Mike Nichols in 1990 and went on to launch an entirely new career for Fisher as a bestselling author and screenwriter.
Though Fisher’s facility as a writer may have surprised fans who only knew her from her work in the galaxy far, far away, it was hardly news to those who knew her best.
“I started reading really early — I wanted to impress my father, who is unimpressible” she told The Times in 2008. “My family called me ‘the bookworm’ and they didn’t say it in a nice way. I fell in love with words…. By about 16 I wanted to be Dorothy Parker.”
Fisher went on to write several more novels, including “Surrender the Pink” and “Delusions of Grandma,” and, again using her life as material, published a 2008 memoir called “Wishful Drinking,” based on a one-woman show she had performed on Broadway. Less publicly, she also earned steady work as one of the film industry’s most in-demand script doctors.
At the time of her death, Fisher was on tour promoting “The Princess Diarist.” A memoir based on diaries Fisher kept around the time she filmed the first “Star Wars,” the book revealed that the actress had carried on an affair with costar Harrison Ford, who played the roguish smuggler Han Solo, with whom Leia had an often tempestuous romantic relationship.
Indeed, Fisher — who was briefly married to singer Paul Simon in the early 1980s and had a daughter, Billie Catherine Lourd, from a later relationship with talent agent Bryan Lourd — was never one to shy away from uncomfortable or intimate subjects. On social media, she cultivated a brash, wise-cracking persona, whether posting droll one-liners or photos of her French bulldog, Gary.
When some moviegoers complained on social media about how much older she looked in “The Force Awakens” than when she had last played the character more than three decades earlier, she retorted on Twitter with her typical sharp, self-deprecating humor, “Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings.”
Fisher had been confirmed to return to the role of Leia in the next installment in the franchise, “Episode VIII,” due in theaters December 2017. The film finished shooting this summer, but plot details — including what part Leia plays in the next chapter of the saga — have been kept tightly under wraps.
Although some actors might bemoan being so closely associated with a single role for so many years, Fisher never seemed to resent being linked to Leia.
“It’s not always fun, but it’s certainly life-changing,” she told The Times last year. “I have been Princess Leia exclusively. It’s been a part of my life for 40 years…. I’m like the diplomat to a country that I haven’t been to yet. I am that country.”
Wong’s masterly touch brought a poetic quality to Disney’s “Bambi” that has helped it endure as a classic of animation. The pioneering Chinese American artist influenced later generations of animators. Full obituary(Peter Brenner / Handout)
After bursting onto the scene opposite Gene Kelly in the classic 1952 musical “Singin’ in the Rain,” Reynolds became America’s Sweetheart and a potent box office star for years. Her passing came only one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died at the age of 60. Reynolds was 84. Full obituary(John Rooney / Associated Press)
George Michael, the English singer-songwriter who shot to stardom in the 1980s as half of the pop duo Wham!, went on to become one of the era’s biggest pop solo artists with hits such as “Faith” and “I Want Your Sex.” He was 53. Full obituary(Francois Mori / Associated Press)
The thoracic surgeon came up with an anti-choking technique in 1974. So simple it could be performed by children, the eponymous maneuver made Heimlich a household name. He was 96. Full obituary(Al Behrman / Associated Press)
The hugely popular south Indian actress later turned to politics and became the highest elected official in the state of Tamil Nadu. She was 68. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
Best known for her portrayal of Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” Henderson
portrayed an idealized mother figure for an entire generation. Her character was the center of the show, cheerfully mothering her brood in an era when divorce was becoming more common. She was 82. Full obituary
Dubbed “Dr. Wonderful” by the media, the Texas surgeon performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States and the world’s first implantation of a wholly artificial heart. He also founded the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. He was 96. Full obituary(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
The prominent Los Angeles attorney went from defending his father, a powerful mob boss, to representing celebrities, corrupt businessmen, drug kingpins and the so-called Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss. He was 70. Full obituary(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
The award-winning journalist wrote for the Washington Post and the New York Times before becoming an anchor of public television news programs “PBS NewsHour” and “Washington Week.” Her career also included moderating the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. She was 61. Full obituary(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)
Instantly recognizable for his long white mane and a rich, hearty voice, Russell sang, wrote and produced some of rock ‘n’ roll’s top records. His hits included “Delta Lady,” “Roll Away the Stone,” “A Song for You” and “Superstar.” He was 74. Full obituary(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
The singer-songwriter’s literary sensibility and elegant dissections of desire made him one of popular music’s most influential and admired figures for four decades. Cohen is best known for his songs such as “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne” and “Bird on the Wire.” He was 82. Full obituary(Joel Saget / AFP / Getty Images)
Reno was the first woman to serve as United States attorney general. Her unusually long tenure began with a disastrous assault on cultists in Texas and ended after the dramatic raid that returned Elian Gonzalez to his Cuban father. She was 78. Full obituary(Dennis Cook / Associated Press)
The 1960s radical was in the vanguard of the movement to stop the Vietnam War and became one of the nation’s best-known champions of liberal causes. He was 76. Full obituary(George Brich / Associated Press)
Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest in 1975. In 1992, she also became the first woman to complete the “Seven Summits,” reaching the highest peaks of the seven continents. She was 77. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
Nixon was the creative force behind the popular soap operas “One Life to Live” and “All My Children.” She was a pioneer in bringing serious social issues, like racism, AIDS and prostitution, to daytime television. She was 93. Full obituary(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)
The former Israeli president was one of the founding fathers of Israel. The Nobel peace prize laureate was an early advocate of the idea that Israel’s survival depended on territorial compromise with the Palestinians. He was 93. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
A seven-time professional major tournament champion, Palmer revolutionized sports marketing as it is known today, and his success contributed to increased incomes for athletes across the sporting spectrum. He was 87. Full obituary(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Known as the Vatican’s exorcist, Amorth, a Roman Catholic priest, helped promote the ritual of banishing the devil from people or places. He was 91. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
The American playwright was known for works such as “The Zoo Story,” “The Sandbox,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “A Delicate Balance.” He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama three times. He was 88. Full obituary(Jennifer S. Altman / For the Times)
The ska pioneer and Jamaican music legend recorded thousands of records, including such hits as “Al Capone” and “Judge Dread.” He helped ignite the ska movement in England, and later helped carry it into the rock-steady era in the mid-1960s. He was 78. Full obituary(Larry Ellis / Getty Images)
Known as “the first lady of anti-feminism,” Schlafly was a political activist who galvanized grass-roots conservatives to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment and, in ensuing decades, effectively push the Republican Party to the right. She was 92. Full obituary(Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times)
O'Brian helped tame the Wild West as the star of TV’s “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” and was the founder of a long-running youth leadership development organization. “Wyatt Earp” became a top 10-rated series and made O'Brian a household name. He was 91. Full obituary(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Jerry Heller, the early manager of N.W.A, was an important and colorful personality in the emerging West Coast rap scene in the 1980s. Heller was 75. Full obituary(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Two-time Oscar nominee Gene Wilder brought a unique blend of manic energy and world-weary melancholy to films as varied as 1971’s children’s movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and the 1980 comedy “Stir Crazy.” He was 83. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
The beloved top-selling Mexican singer wooed crowds on both sides of the border with ballads of love and heartbreak for more than four decades. He was 66. Full obituary(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)
Known as the “queen of knitwear,” Sonia Rykiel became a fixture of Paris’ fashion scene, starting in 1968. French President Francois Hollande praised her as “a pioneer” who “offered women freedom of movement.” She was 86. Full obituary(Thibault Camus / Associated Press)
The conservative political commentator hosted the long-running weekly public television show “The McLaughlin Group” that helped alter the shape of political discourse since its debut in 1982. He was 89. Full obituary(Kevin Wolf / Associated Press)
Best-known for his post-bop recordings for Blue Note Records in the 1960s and 1970s, the inventive jazz vibraphonist played with a litany of jazz greats as both bandleader and sideman during a career spanning more than 50 years. He was 75. Full obituary(Scott Chernis / Associated Press)
The British actor, who was 3-foot-8, gave life to the “Star Wars” droid R2-D2, one of the most beloved characters in the space-opera franchise and among the most iconic robots in pop culture history. He was 81. Full obituary(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
For many in L.A., Folsom was the face of the Parent Teacher Student Assn., better known as the PTSA or PTA. He served as the official and unofficial watchdog over the Los Angeles Unified School District and wrote about his experiences in his blog. He was 69. Full obituary(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Fountain combined the Swing Era sensibility of jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman with the down-home, freewheeling style characteristic of traditional New Orleans jazz to become a national star in the 1950s as a featured soloist on the “The Lawrence Welk Show.” He was 86. Full obituary(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lowery was a pioneer in efforts to help people suffering from poverty, addiction and mental illness move out of tents and cardboard boxes on Los Angeles’ sidewalks and into supportive housing. She was 70. Full obituary(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Nixon, a Hollywood voice double, can be heard in place of the leading actresses in such classic movie musicals as “West Side Story,” “The King and I” and “My Fair Lady.” She was 86. Full obituary(Rob Kim / AFP/Getty Images)
The department store heir’s widow was a socialite and philanthropist who hobnobbed with the world’s elite, epitomized high fashion and was best friends with former first lady Nancy Reagan. She was 93. Full obituary(Evan Agostini / Associated Press)
The author and teacher was long established as a leading literary figure of Southern California. Her works include “Golden Days,” “There Will Never Be Another You” and her memoir “Dreaming, Hard Luck and Good Times in America.” She was 82. Full obituary(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
The Nazi concentration camp survivor won the Nobel in 1986 for his message “of peace, atonement and human dignity.” “Night,” his account of his year in death camps, is regarded as one of the most powerful achievements in Holocaust literature. He was 87. Full obituary(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
One of the greatest basketball coaches of any gender or generation, Summitt spent 38 years as coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team before dementia forced her early retirement. She was 64. Full obituary(Wade Payne / Associated Press)
The iconic New York Times fashion photographer darted around New York on a humble bicycle to cover the style of high society grand dames and downtown punks with equal verve. He was 87. Full obituary(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
Aguirre was best known for his portrayal of the towering “Profesor Jirafales,” the likable and often disrespected giraffe teacher on the 1970s-era hit show “El Chavo del Ocho.” The screwball comedy helped usher in an era of edgier comedy in Mexico and elsewhere. Aguirre was 82. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
The three-time heavyweight boxing champion’s brilliance in the ring and bravado outside it made his face one of the most recognizable in the world. He was 74. Full obituary(John Rooney / Associated Press)
Like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, the CBS newsman became part of a group of journalists who set the tone for storytelling on television. He was on “60 Minutes” for 46 years, holding the longest tenure on prime-time television of anyone in history. He was 84. Full obituary(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The first African American chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Williams steadied the agency in the tumultuous wake of the 1992 riots but was distrusted as an outsider by many officers and politicians. He was 72. Full obituary(Nick Ut / Associated Press)
Best known for her role as Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Roberts won four Emmys for her work on that show and one for her work on “St. Elsewhere.” She was 90. Full obituary(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
The country music legend sang of his law-breaking Bakersfield youth and penned a stream of No. 1 hits. He owed some of his fame to conservative anthems, including the combative 1969 release “Okie from Muskogee,” which seemed to mock San Francisco’s anti-war hippies. He was 79. Full obituary(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
The acclaimed Native American historian was the last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He was 102. Full obituary(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Germany’s longest-serving foreign minister brokered an end to the painful 40-year division of his homeland in 1990, but only after persevering for decades through the most tragic and destructive phases of Germany’s 20th century history. He was 89. Full obituary(Martin Meissner / Associated Press)
The Iraqi-born British architect was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor. She made her mark with buildings such as the London Aquatics Centre, the MAXXI museum for contemporary art in Rome and the innovative Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. She was 65. Full obituary(Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)
The former television talk show host became the first openly gay man to serve on the Los Angeles City Council. He advocated for the homeless, gays and lesbians and other liberal causes. He was 70. Full obituary(Christina House / For The Times)
Garry Shandling’s comedic career spanned decades, but he is best known for his role as Larry Sanders, the host of a fictional talk show. His sitcom pushed the boundaries of TV, influencing shows such as “The Office” and “Modern Family.” He was 66. Full obituary.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ken Howard was president of SAG-AFTRA and an actor known for his role on TV’s ‘The White Shadow.’ He championed the merger of Hollywood’s two largest actors unions, which had a history of sparring. He was 71. Full obituary(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The longtime Los Angeles radio disc jockey, whose real name was Art Ferguson, hosted the morning radio show for popular and influential station KHJ-AM in the late 1960s and went on to be a key player in the launch of latter-day powerhouses KROQ-AM and KIIS-FM. He was 71. Full obituary(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
The veteran actor built his early career playing heavies and won an Academy Award in 1968 for his supporting role as the tough Southern prison-camp convict who grew to hero-worship Paul Newman’s defiant title character in “Cool Hand Luke.” He was 91. Full obituary(Warner Bros. / Getty Images)
A prolific entrepreneur, Mann over the course of seven decades founded 17 companies in fields ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals to medical devices. He was 90. Full obituary(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
The Egyptian diplomat helped negotiate his country’s landmark peace deal with Israel but then clashed with the United States when he served a single term as U.N. secretary-general. He was 93. Full obituary(Marty Lederhandler / Associated Press)
Pro-BMX biker Dave Mirra was one of the most decorated athletes in X Games history. He held the record for the most medals in history with 24. He was 41. Full obituary(Ed Reinke / Associated Press)
Maurice White, co-founder and leader of the groundbreaking ensemble Earth, Wind & Fire, was the source for a wealth of euphoric hits in the 1970s and early ‘80s, including ‘Shining Star,’ ‘September,’ and ‘Boogie Wonderland.’ He was 74. Full obituary(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
In a career that encompassed everything from big-budget Hollywood movies to classical theater, Rickman made bad behavior fascinating to watch from “Die Hard” to the “Harry Potter” movies. He was 69. Full obituary
The composer and former principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic was known for pushing music lovers and the music establishment to let go of the past and embrace new sounds, structures and textures. He was 90. Full obituary(Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
The Academy Award winner was revered as one of the most influential cinematographers in film history for his work on classics including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “The Deer Hunter.” He was 85. Full obituary(Tamas Kovacs / EPA)
Gordon helped revolutionize surfing with the creation of the foam surfboard. His polyurethane boards were lighter and easier to ride, making surfing accessible -- which helped popularize the sport globally. He was in his 70s. Full obituary(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune/ZUMA Press)
The attorney and almond farmer was known for his battle to stop the $68-billion California bullet train project from slicing up his almond orchards -- part of a deeply emotional land war that has drawn in hundreds of farming families from Merced to Bakersfield. He was 92. Full obituary
3:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional details and reaction.
This article was originally published at 10:06 a.m.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.