RIP Carrie Fisher: From Princess Leia to Perfect Hollywood Wit

Rolling Stone – By Peter Travers – December 27, 2016

Photo: Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

Peter Travers pays tribute to the woman who would save the galaxy – and the showbiz royalty with a sharp tongue and talent to spare.

Carrie Fisher is dead. If I can’t get my head around that inconceivable fact, it’s because her voice is still in my head. Her smarts and her humor, both fueled by curiosity. Her laugh bubbling up like her honesty – both unfakable. Carrie, always the smartest person in the room. And the most fun. That could be intimidating. She knew it.

When we first met, she was already Princess Leia, Star Wars royalty even in that ridiculous bun. I made a joke about it, and Carrie looked disappointed. She wasn’t hurt; she just wished the joke was better. You could try to thrust and parry with her, and it was exhilarating trying to keep up with her quicksilver wit. But after a few minutes, you’d be panting. She’d still be raring to go.

Photo: Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

That’s why I find it so hard to believe that a heart attack, even a massive one, could silence her. Recently, in Rolling Stone, she informed the world that she was “not going to enjoy dying.” Then she added, “But if I was gonna do it, I’d like someone like me around.” Exactly – nothing like that Fisher spirit to ferry you through the void. But, at only 60, she left behind her daughter, Scream Queens actress Billie Lourd, 24; her Hollywood legend mother, Debbie Reynolds, 84; her actor-producer brother Todd Fisher, 58; her half-sisters Joely Fisher, 49, and Tricia Leigh Fisher, 48; and her French bulldog Gary, who visited her at the UCLA Medical Center after she went into cardiac arrest on a flight from London to LAX. Her condition appeared to be stable for awhile. At 8:55 on the morning of Dec, 27th, she was gone.

The obits hit all the standard beats: Her talents as an actress, author, screenwriter, producer and theatrical force. I saw her on Broadway in 2009 in Wishful Drinking, a one-woman show that saw the actress joke her way through her tumultuous childhood as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher; and later, the step-daughter of Elizabeth Taylor, the screen siren her dad famously left Reynolds to marry. Audiences laughed as the show toured before landing on HBO. But the pain showed through. Fisher was never one to soften the blow even when she was feeling her own punches. But no self-pity. Not ever.

Fisher’s bipolar disorder and addictions to cocaine and prescription drugs also made headlines, along with the electroshock treatments she took, in her words, “to blow apart the cement in her brain.” Again, Fisher got out in front of the tabloids, fictionalizing her own life in the bestselling Postcards From the Edge, which became a hit 1990 movie with Meryl Streep standing in as Fisher’s fictional avatar.

Her life often overshadowed her acting career, from her marriage to Paul Simon and their divorce to her affair with bisexual talent agent Bryan Lourd, which resulted in the birth of their daughter. And then there were her frequent hospitalizations and manic episodes. How could movie roles compete with that? The youngster had shown real promise in her debut film, 1975’s Shampoo, as a teen nymphet seducing Warren Beatty’s hairdresser on a tennis court. She’s a laugh riot in 1980’s The Blue Brothers, seeking machine-gun vengeance on John Belushi’s Jake Blues for loving and leaving her. And there’s a priceless bit in Scream 3 with Fisher playing an actress mistaken for … Carrie Fisher. “But come on,” Fisher told me once, grinning brightly, “I won’t be remembered for my acting.”

Except, of course, as Princess Leia, a role she played in the original Star Wars trilogy and last year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. George Lucas himself has admitted how much she improved her own dialogue; it’s hard to forget the sharpness with which she calls Han Solo, “a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder!” Her scenes with Harrison Ford nearly 40 years later in The Force Awakens take on a special resonance in the light of the affair Fisher recently revealed she had with the then-married actor in 1976, in her 2016 memoir The Princess Diarist.

Photo: Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Harrison Ford (Hans Solo) in Star Wars.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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