The Woman Behind Princess Leia: Carrie Fisher
Since the Star Wars series first appeared in theaters in 1977, strong female characters have appeared more and more prominently in each film. But the OG woman of Star Wars was Princess Leia in Episode IV.
Of course, we all know her as the woman who transformed the scripted character of Princess Leia into one of the most memorable female figures that had ever appeared in a film. Fisher became a fantasy to men and an icon to women – that’s a tough balance to achieve. She was an impressive force to be reckoned with.
Fisher beat out some big names for the role of Leia in Episode IV, including Jodie Foster. The movie served to be her big break as an actress and altered her career forever.
She was born into a famous family – her parents were acclaimed actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, and she grew up in Beverly Hills. It’s a lesser known fact that her father Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds just two years after Carrie’s birth for another famous actress, Elizabeth Taylor.
Fisher left high school at age 15 for a role in the Broadway production of Irene, which her mother was starring in. She continued to snag roles during the years that followed, pushing education further and further down the road. She was just 19 years old when auditioning for the part in Star Wars. Ultimately, she never completed high school or college, regardless of back and forth attempts. Her career in Film came first.
By the end of Fisher’s tenure with the Star Wars series, she had six of the films under her belt and an incredible name built for herself. However, behind the scenes in her personal life, there were struggles.
Personal Health Struggles
Fisher openly admitted to having struggled with drugs and alcohol use as well as bipolar disorder. Even as recently as 2010 during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back she admitted to using cocaine. Her battle with addiction began in the 70’s. She said,
“Slowly, I realised I was doing a bit more drugs than other people and losing my choice in the matter.“
Although her personal battles with addiction and mental illness were open to the public, they shouldn’t distract from the depth of Carrie Fisher. Fisher was heroically outspoken about her personal struggles, and for many, served as an honest beacon of hope for those who felt shame in light of the same afflictions.
Harvard College presented Fisher with its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism in 2016, focusing on “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.” When she accepted the award, Fisher spoke to the audience:
“I’ve never been ashamed of my mental illness; it never occurred to me. Many people thank me for talking about it, and mothers can tell their kids when they are upset with the diagnosis that Princess Leia is bipolar too.”
There Was More to Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher wasn’t just a pop icon, she was also an accomplished author and a screenwriter, a mother, and an actress with real dimension. She won a Grammy in 2016 for her memoir based on diary entries written during the filming of the original Star Wars trilogy, The Princess Diarist. She also published a well-received memoir called Wishful Drinking in 2008.
As a screenwriter, she played a part in an array of big screen scripts, including Sister Act (1992), Outbreak (1995) and The Wedding Singer (1998), among many others.
A Life Cut Short
When Carrie Fisher suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at the age of 60 in Dec. 2017, the world mourned the loss of not only a beloved Star Wars icon. We lost a wonderfully talented writer and an unforgettable spirit.
Her mother, the legendary actress Debbie Reynolds, was said to have been extremely close with her daughter. Just one day after Carrie Fisher passed away, Reynolds died and went to be with her daughter. According to a TMZ interview with Reynolds’ son, on her way to the hospital on the day she died, she said, “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie.“