RIP Carrie Fisher: A hero off-screen and on
James R | On 28, Dec 2016
Carrie Fisher passed away yesterday. Aged just 60, she was know to Star Wars fans around the world as Princess Leia, icon of the Rebel Alliance. Her first appearance in George Lucas’ saga saw her stand up to Darth Vader – a telltale sign of just how few F’s she had to give. That was true behind the camera too, as Fisher proved herself time and again a candid, honest and inspiring figure. She put the sass in princess, and couldn’t care less if the word was spelled wrong.
That streak started early, with her at the age of 19 on the Star Wars set (via @SPBowley):
There was, of course, more to Fisher than that princess role, and that only seemed to get the full media spotlight in the last year: the release of The Force Awakens revealed not just a host of old, familiar faces, but a woman who was increasingly confident in who she was – a woman who was unafraid to tell it like it us, correct other people and be herself. Even the way she brought her French bulldog Gary, Gary, to every event, occasion and interview – and frequently gave all the attention to him – was a rebellious bucking of convention.
On the NBC Today Show, she said:
To Stephen Colbert, she said of weight loss: “They want to hire a part of me, not all of me. They want to hire about three-fourths, and I so I have to get rid of the fourth. The fourth can’t be with me. I made a joke! The fourth can’t be with me. And I made it up just then. Just for you.”
Earlier this year, she was still bringing that sass to her screen presence, playing the part of Mia, the hilarious mother to Rob Delaney’s Rob in Sharon Horgan and Delaney’s comedy series, Catastrophe. It’s the kind of brilliant supporting turn that instantly reminds you of her scene-stealing turns as April in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters and as best friend to Meg Ryan’s Sally in When Harry Met Sally. Without her single New Yorker sleeping with a married man, the whole film wouldn’t have worked.
“The right man for you might be out there right now and if you don’t grab him, someone else will,” she advised. “And you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that someone else is married to your husband.”
When Harry Met Sally’s Marie, in some ways, was her defining role. Like a supportive, outspoken best friend, she continued to impart such witty wisdom for years. That wasn’t just in her spoken answers in interviews, but also in her writing. It’s no wonder that she was an uncredited script doctor on tons of Hollywood productions, ranking alongside such figures as Aaron Sorkin and Tom Stoppard. From changing dialogue in Star Wars to polishing lines for Hook, she also worked on Lethal Weapon 3 and Sister Act. She was as diverse in fixing other people’s work as she was in performing her own. (Read more about that here.)
As an author, her semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge (adapted for the screen with Meryl Streep in the lead) talked about drug addiction and rehabilitation, a topic tackled again in her memoir Wishful Drinking, which also covered her mental illness. This year, she released The Princess Diarist, which confirmed the rumoured affair she had with Harrison Ford on the set of A New Hope.
Have I read all of those books yet? No, but I’m glad I’ve still got more of her writing to savour. They’ve been on my to-read list ever since she started doing the PR circuit for The Force Awakens – and jumped to top of it when The Princess Diarist was published. And, through her inspiring destigmatisation of mental illness, that unabashed intelligence, that refusal to be just the young Princess Leia once etched into fans’ minds, it’s been a joy to discover more and more about Carrie Fisher in her older years than her younger ones; it feels only fitting that her awesomeness should become so blindingly apparent at the same time that Princess Leia reappeared as General Organa in Episode VII – an iconic figure with the sage compassion of a mother and the kick-ass authority of a rebellion leader. And, of course, the same wicked sense of humour that led to such behind-the-scenes photos as this:
Acerbic, clever, affectionate, talented, crass and encouraging, she was a gossipy sister, a laugh-out-loud grandma, a woman who stuck her fingers up at the men around her, who told walking carpets to get out of her way. Oh, and space royalty to boot. She was a true hero both off-screen and on, a star we’ll still be talking about in a galaxy far, far away from now.
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) December 27, 2016