Carrie Fisher, the widely beloved actress and author born into Hollywood royalty who later became an icon for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, has died. She was admitted to intensive care on December 23 at a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a heart attack while aboard a United Airlines flight from London to L.A. Fisher’s family issued a statement that she died Tuesday morning, Deadline reports. She was 60 years old.
Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. Her first role was as a Girl Scout alongside her mother and “hundreds of children” in the TV movie Debbie Reynolds And The Sound Of Children (1969); six years later, she played a small role in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo (1975) before landing the role that would come to define her career, as the defiant, fiery Princess (and later General) Leia Organa in Star Wars. Unlike many of her co-stars, Fisher, who was 19 when she took the role of Princess Leia, knew that Star Wars was going to be something special; as she told People in 2015, “I knew that something enormous was likely going to impact my life from this film, and that there was absolutely no way of understanding what that was or was likely to be.” As she wrote in 2011, “this goofy, little three-month hang-out with robots did something unexpected. It exploded across the firmament of pop culture, taking all of us along with it.”
Fisher’s role as Leia in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return Of The Jedi (1983), and The Force Awakens (2015)—and various TV specials and video games—made her a worldwide megastar, leading to fame, fortune, and, as she later revealed, lots of trouble. Fisher’s drug- and-alcohol-fueled partying in the ’70s and ’80s has become the stuff of legend—one particularly wild night with the Rolling Stones led to her showing up drunk to the set of The Empire Strikes Back the next morning—thanks in no small part to the ever-witty actress’ gleeful recounting of her youthful exploits. (Of a persistent rumor that she had a “coke nail” in Jedi, Fisher wrote on Twitter, “I never used my fingernail for drugs. I used dollars or tiny spoons like any other respectable former drug addict.”) As late as 2016, she was still lighting up gossip columns by detailing her long-rumored affair with co-star (and onscreen love interest) Harrison Ford.
Of course, Fisher didn’t limit her onscreen appearances to Star Wars. She also made memorable appearances as jilted lover “Mystery Woman” in The Blues Brothers (1980), Dianne Weist’s co-worker and rival April in Woody Allen’s Hannah And Her Sisters (1986), Tom Hanks’ wife Carol in The ‘Burbs (1989), and best friend Marie in When Harry Met Sally… (1989), among many other roles. She went on to appear in smaller roles in a number of films—most recently, she lent her voice to Family Guy and co-starred in the Amazon original series Catastrophe—although her acting career slowed down as her career as a writer began to take off.
That career began with her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From The Edge in 1987. The novel, about an actress struggling to maintain her sobriety after leaving rehab and moving in with her mother, was made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in 1990, with the screenplay written by Fisher as well. Postcards was the first of a series of semi-autobiographical novels Fisher published throughout the ’80s and ’90s, including Surrender The Pink (1990), Delusions Of Grandma (1993), Hollywood Moms (2001), and The Best Awful There Is (2004). (She also worked as a script doctor in Hollywood around this time, punching up the scripts for films like Hook, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer.) Eventually, she would lend her distinctive wit to a series of three memoirs, Wishful Drinking (2008) (which she also performed as a one-woman show), Shockaholic (2011), and The Princess Diarist (2016).
In the process of talking about her life, Fisher made another revealing, and ultimately liberating, confession: That she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1985, and hospitalized after a psychotic break in 1997. She did so in a televised interview with Diane Sawyer, where Fisher said, “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.” With characteristic candor, Fisher went on to become an acclaimed advocate for people living with the disorder, dispelling myths and encouraging those suffering to get help for their symptoms. “Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill,” she wrote in Wishful Drinking. “I’m apparently very good at it.”
In keeping with her independent lifestyle, Fisher had several high-profile relationships throughout her life—first with musician Paul Simon, who she dated for several years (with a brief break during which she was engaged to her Blues Brothers co-star Dan Aykroyd) both before and after their brief marriage in 1983, then with talent agent Brian Lourd. She and Lourd had a daughter, Billie, in 1992. She is survived by her daughter, mother, brother, two-half sisters, and her beloved French bulldog Gary, a therapy dog who frequently accompanied her to interviews and on the red carpet.