Actress, writer, and mental health advocate Carrie Fisher, best known for playing Leia Organa in the Star Wars movies, has passed away at age 60 from a heart attack suffered while on a flight to Los Angeles on Friday. In addition to reprising her role as Leia in last year’s The Force Awakens and, in younger CGI form with her permission, this year’s Rogue One, Fisher recently saw her third memoir, The Princess Diarist, published in November.
Fisher, the daughter of the equally multi-talented Debbie Reynolds and the late singer Eddie Fisher, was launched into worldwide fame after her debut as Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. She reprised the role in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, the latter of which put her in the metal bikini that remains controversial to this day. While Fisher didn’t care for the outfit, she also didn’t care for the controversy it generated, saying of calls to end sales of merchandise with Leia in the bikini, “I think that’s stupid.” Later in that Wall Street Journal interview, she went on to say, “The father who flipped out about it, ‘What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?’ Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.”
Her role in The Force Awakens did more to put the metal bikini in the past, establishing the character as a general instead of a princess. Fisher was to continue in the role through episodes VIII and IX, which are due out in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Shooting for Episode VIII has already been completed, meaning it may be Fisher’s final appearance in film when it comes out next December. Fisher was also to star in a movie called Wonderwell, but it’s unclear whether or not she had filmed any scenes for the movie before her passing.
After her work in the original Star Wars trilogy, Fisher put more emphasis on her writing career. Fisher penned four novels, three memoirs, and three screenplays in her career. One of those screenplays was an adaptation of her first novel, Postcards From the Edge, in which Meryl Streep played an actress struggling with drug addiction and motherhood, a character based on Fisher herself. Fisher also adapted her first memoir, Wishful Drinking, into a stage production. Fisher was also highly regarded as a script editor in Hollywood, talents she also applied to the Star Wars trilogy.
In life and in her writing, Fisher was a passionate advocate of mental health. She was uncommonly frank about her struggles with substance abuse and bipolar disorder. In her memoirs and in interviews given over the decades, Fisher revealed that she had used cocaine during filming of The Empire Strikes Back, and had abused prescription pills to cope with bipolar disorder. Her unusual willingness to be open about her story as a famous woman made her an icon to millions of others suffering in silence because of the stigma around mental health disorders.
Fisher’s passing is the second massive loss in the Star Wars family this year. Kenny Baker, the actor who brought R2-D2 to life in the original trilogy, passed away in August at 81.
Fisher is survived by her mother Debbie Reynolds, her daughter Billie Lourd, her brother Todd, her half-sisters Joely and Trisha Leigh, and her equally famous French bulldog, Gary. As has been noted many times since Fisher’s passing, Carrie Fisher wrote in her memoir Wishful Drinking of a moment during the filming of Star Wars when George Lucas told her not to wear a bra while filming, because underwear would become constricting in space as the body expands due to weightlessness. Fisher mused that that would make a fine line in an obituary, writing, “I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”