Carrie Fisher, 1956 - 2016
The actress best known as Princess Leia in STAR WARS was 60.
"Ms. Fisher established Princess Leia as a damsel who could very much deal with her own distress, whether facing down the villainy of the dreaded Darth Vader or the romantic interests of the roguish smuggler Han Solo," writes Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times. "Offscreen, Ms. Fisher was open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She gave her dueling dispositions the nicknames Roy ('the wild ride of a mood,' she said) and Pam ('who stands on the shore and sobs'). She channeled her struggles with depression and substance abuse into fiercely comic works, including the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge and the one-woman show Wishful Drinking, which she turned into a memoir."
In November, Fresh Air's Terry Gross spoke with Fisher about her most recent memoir, The Princess Diarist, comprised for the most part from a diary she kept during the shoot of the first Star Wars—when she was all of 19. It's in this one that Fisher went public regarding her affair with Harrison Ford. "'I think I do overshare,' Fisher says. 'It's my way of trying to understand myself.... It creates community when you talk about private things.'"
"While she is best known for her role as the get-things-done princess in Star Wars, Fisher had many other roles on both the big screen and the small screen," writes Kenneth Bachor for Time, presenting a sampler ranging "from 1975’s turn in Shampoo to a 2014 cameo as herself in The Big Bang Theory."
"Any fans of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s hit TV show Catastrophe—in which Fisher played Delaney’s crotchety mum, who somehow didn’t know about Star Wars—might struggle to connect Fisher’s witty, acid, cantankerous, grandmotherly figure with the dewy-eyed Leia of the Star Wars movies in the 70s and 80s," suggests the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "And her performance as General Leia Organa in The Force Awakens, the seventh in the Star Wars series, was in its way quite as stately, though her appearance opposite the now venerable Ford was gloriously romantic."
"She was certainly the dream interviewee," adds Hadley Freeman. "[T]o promote her return to Star Wars in The Force Awakens, she rocked up to Good Morning America, a popular US breakfast TV show, and brought along her dog, Gary, whose opinion she sought in answer to various questions. Was she wacky? She was often described as such, and if wacky means, as I suspect it does, a woman who doesn’t give a stuff about the rules of the game, then, yes, she was probably wacky. In that same interview, when the journalist mentioned that Fisher lost weight to get back on screen, Fisher replied, with a wry smile, 'Yes, and I think that’s a stupid conversation.' And guess what? She was right."
"To Fisher's credit," writes Sheila O'Malley at RogerEbert.com, "she did not show resentment towards the films that made her an icon, although she was not above poking fun at how ridiculous the entire experience could be at times. In a recent interview with CBC News, she scoffed at the idea that the Star Wars films were somehow a drag for her or a drag on her career, saying, 'I got to be the only girl in an all-boy fantasy, and it’s a great role for women. She’s a very proactive character and gets the job done. So if you’re going to get typecast as something, that might as well be it for me.'"
At Vulture, Devon Ivie is gathering tweeted tributes from Mark Hamill, William Shatner and many others who knew and worked with Fisher.
Updates, 12/28: "Princess Leia—now General Organa of the Rebel Alliance—will always define her as an actress, something she claimed, in a recent Rolling Stone interview, not to mind," notes A.O. Scott in the NYT. "'I like Princess Leia,' she said. 'I like how she was feisty. I like how she killed Jabba the Hutt.' That feistiness has been Leia’s principal legacy, the early sign of a shift in the understanding of female heroism—and the meanings of the word princess—that has rippled through popular culture in the past 40 years. Leia is a foremother of Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen and of countless latter-day Disney princesses. She also foretold the recent, somewhat belated feminist turn in the Star Wars cycle itself. All of a sudden, and at long last, Leia is not the only battle-ready heroine in the galaxy, having been joined by Rey in The Force Awakens and Jyn in Rogue One."
Time's Stephanie Zacharek adds that "even though the medieval Cinnabon coif has always been an easy target for jokes, the astonishing thing is how well Fisher carried it off. That hair was meant to be an exaggeration, a silhouette straight of old-school movie-matinee serials and Sunday funnies. Its crazy excessiveness wasn’t a 1970s-era lapse in taste; like the horned headdress of Wagner’s Brünnhilde, it was the whole point. No wonder Fisher’s Leia—with that bisque complexion, those tender-soft yet sparkling eyes, and yes, that earmuff hair—is one of the most enduring images of 1970s and 1980s pop culture. She was the diva of one of the grandest space operas of all time, and she owned it." More from Eliana Dockterman.
New York's David Edelstein on Fisher's memoirs: "At last she could tell us all about growing up with a narcissistic mother with finer features and more show-biz talent—a mother whose star was fading but who still managed by force of will to overshadow her daughter. At last she could reveal the final years of the first man who left her, the father whose corrosive addictions to booze, drugs, and sex required her—at the end of his life—to function for him as the parent he never could have been. At last she could play parts that captured aspects of her own personality, among them the pioneering, iconoclastic comedy writer idolized by Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Fisher’s character’s final line as Fey stumbles out of the raging alcoholic’s hellhole apartment is 'Help me, Liz Lemon! You’re my only hope!'—a joke on Star Wars that’s also a joke on how Fisher might have turned out if she hadn’t been able to look so successfully inward."
"Carrie Fisher was always smarter than the words and roles written for her, smarter than what Hollywood thought it wanted out of a princess," writes the Voice's Alan Scherstuhl. "On Christmas Eve of the all-devouring Sarlacc that is 2016, after word had spread that Fisher had suffered a heart attack, a page from her original The Empire Strikes Back script turned up on Twitter, courtesy of Will McCrabb. You could guide a bantha herd through the gulf between the words as written and Fisher's revisions."
"Afflicted with bipolar disorder, she educated the public about the condition as if she were on a mission," writes Sally Satel for Slate. "Brutally funny and honest in equal measure, Ms. Fisher did not play the victim. 'Well, I am hoping to get the centerfold in Psychology Today,' she once told WebMD. 'I define [bipolar illness], rather than it defining me.' As a psychiatrist, I can’t think of a healthier attitude. Fisher spoke publicly and truthfully about her condition and in doing so, offered many lessons from which we can all learn."
"Fisher's life was always her richest material," writes the Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney, "not in the way a standup comic draws on personal experience for laughs, but in the manner of a survivor who, by hanging out the good and the bad of her existence for public inspection with a sardonic spin, succeeded in neutralizing the hurt. Or at the very least, in masking the vulnerability. Watching Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher earlier this year, the terrific documentary by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens that will air on HBO in 2017, cemented the impression that Fisher's enduring closeness with her famous mother was perhaps the central relationship of her life."
Deadline's Nellie Andreeva posts a remembrance from Catastrophe co-creator and star Sharon Horgan; Season 3, featuring Fisher, has wrapped and will air next year. Fisher also wrapped her work on Star Wars: Episode VIII, directed by Rian Johnson, report Brent Lang and Cynthia Littleton for Variety. But at least one project will go unrealized. "Fisher was preparing to create a sequel to her Wishful Drinking one-woman show, titled Wishful Drinking Strikes Back: From Star Wars to, uh, Star Wars!," reports IndieWire's Dana Harris. "Geffen Playhouse commissioned the work last Thursday, the day before Fisher suffered a heart attack on a London-Los Angeles flight."
Updates, 12/29: Rolling Stone's posted Fisher's rollicking 1991 interview with Madonna.
Catastrophe's other co-creator, Rob Delaney, in the Guardian: "Carrie was the only cast member Sharon and I would let improvise. (I say 'let'; as if we could stop her. She let us put her in our show.) We’re a bit despotic and inflexible with our dialogue because we’re insane, but Carrie was more insane and would always, always make it funnier and better."
"When Debbie Reynolds wanted someone to counsel teenage-daughter Carrie about her drug use, former LSD user Cary Grant was called in as counselor," notes Eileen Jones, writing for Jacobin. "When Fisher was choking on a Brussels sprout, it was Dan Ackroyd who gave her the Heimlich maneuver. Meryl Streep played her alter ego Suzanne in the film adaptation of Fisher’s first book, Postcards From the Edge, but people frequently asked her why she didn’t play the character herself. 'I already played Suzanne,' she said, referring to her own life as one long performance. The fact that Fisher knew all this was weird, and seemed compelled to share the weirdness with us, the public, made her seem almost like one of us, an honorary regular person."
In the NYT, Lawrence Downes argues that "there is a better way to honor her than by revisiting Star Wars. Read her books. They are works where misery and brilliance commingle with wit, the creations of an actual person who had many layers and is worth getting to know, as opposed to Princess Leia, who has none and is not."
"It is her writing that should be a lasting memorial," agrees James Cooray Smith, writing for the New Statesman. He's also got an anecdote: "On the London leg of her tour, a friend of mine found himself roughly in the middle of the long, long queue of people wanting a few moments with her. As his turn approached, she shot him a wicked look: 'I’ll do you before my break,' she said. 'And then during my break, I’ll do you. A girl has to relax somehow.' My friend—not easily embarrassed and far from a blushing novitiate—turned crimson and was reduced to monosyllables, to Fisher’s great, cackling delight. She then posed with him for a picture in which both are beaming. Like a Colette or even an Anaïs Nin, her public life had become as much her art form as her performances and writing."
Gwen Ihnat at the AV Club: "Fisher is being described across social media as a woman 'who gave no fucks' as she gleefully poked fun at the movie that made her famous at 19, while chiding those who despaired that she had aged in the almost four decades since Star Wars premiered. But she long had (the past tense is paining me here) a musical gift for rearranging familiar words and phrases into something else entirely: She was funny and sharp and witty even as she was laying her soul wide open."
"For me," writes Jared Cowan for the LA Weekly, "Carol Peterson from The ‘Burbs is essential Carrie Fisher viewing. Joe Dante’s 1989 comedy, centering around the odd and mysterious family living next door to Tom Hanks in his quiet neighborhood, would mark the second time Fisher would star alongside Hanks after 1985’s The Man with One Red Shoe. Though Fisher’s Carol Peterson was the quintessential suburban mom—something of a departure from previous roles that were either set in a galaxy far, far away or in cultural centers like L.A., New York or Chicago—in some ways, Carol was very much like Princess Leia: the voice of reason and sanity in the middle of a trio of boyish ne’er-do-wells." And he talks to Dante about working with Fisher.
Updates, 1/1: A good chunk of "Guilty Pleasures," a column Fisher wrote for the November/December 2011 issue of Film Comment is online.
Todd Fisher has announced that his sister and mother, Debbie Reynolds, will share a funeral, reports Karen Brill for Vulture.
Updates, 1/4: "Carrie and I occupied a unique area in each other’s lives," writes Mark Hamill. "It was like we were in a garage band together that somehow hit it huge…. Making her laugh was always a badge of honor…. When you were in her good graces, you couldn’t have more fun with any person on the planet."
The Hollywood Reporter's also posted a tribute from Fisher's sister, Joely: "Talking to Carrie always made me feel more interesting by osmosis. She expressed her amazement and pride regarding the anniversary of my marriage—20 years this past New Year’s Eve—and compared my two-decade commitment to her own somewhat less steady love life. She threw in the word 'crickets.' Quintessentially Carrie. My sister would have wanted a dramatic exit; she just might have wished for another couple of decades before making one."