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Fisher, the Star Wars icon who died Tuesday at age 60 after suffering a heart attack on Dec. 23, thought funny and wrote funny about seemingly everything: her life growing up the daughter of two Hollywood stars whose marriage imploded; the clunky dialogue and cheesy wardrobe from the sci-fi franchise that made her a star in her own right; the marriage to the pop icon that fizzled fast; the relationship with the father of her child that ended when he came out; the mental hospital stays and the drugs.
“If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true, and that’s unacceptable,” Fisher quipped.
Fisher’s story began in a fashion that some would view as a fairytale: She was the first child of Debbie Reynolds, the beloved musical star of Singin’ in the Rain, and Eddie Fisher, the handsome, chart-topping crooner. But when Carrie Fisher was about 4, her father left Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor, the widow of his deceased best friend, who in turn dumped Eddie Fisher about a year later for her Cleopatra co-star, Richard Burton.
It was all a mess — and an endless source of material. Fisher’s riff on her family tree was one of the funniest bits of her very funny one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, that later became a 2008 memoir of the same name.
Fisher also frequently turned her wry eye to the Star Wars universe. She was a teenager and drama-school kid with one notable credit (she was the ingénue who tried to seduce Warren Beatty’s George in 1975’s Shampoo) when she was cast by George Lucas to play Princess Leia in his outer-space adventure. Leia was too handy with the blaster and too good at commanding air forces to be a princess-y princess, but still, Fisher coveted another Star Wars role.
Fisher said she suspected Ford wasn’t thrilled with her taking their history public.
“I think I do overshare,” Fisher said. “It’s my way of trying to understand myself. … It creates community when you talk about private things.”
True to form, Fisher didn’t hold back when it came to her opinion of George Lucas’ dialogue in the original Star Wars (literally unspeakable), her touch-and-go British accent in the same 1977 movie (“Say [those lines] like an American and I’ll pay you”) and her space bikini in Return of the Jedi (not a fan).
Though Fisher knew that Princess Leia “will be on my tombstone,” as she put it, she said she saw herself primarily as a writer who grew into being a performer.
After the original Star Wars trilogy wrapped in 1983, Fisher became a character actor, usually in comedies and with notable, spirited work in 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters and 1989’s When Harry Met Sally… She also became a novelist, a good one. Her 1987 debut, Postcards from the Edge, was the not-exactly version of Fisher’s struggles with rehab and a Hollywood legend of a mother; her 1990 followup, Surrender the Pink, was the not-exactly version of Fisher’s 11-month marriage to singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Both were well-regarded and, of course, funny. Postcards from the Edge was made into the 1990 Meryl Streep-Shirley MacLaine comedy-drama of the same name.
Fisher would go onto work regularly in film and TV — a 30 Rock guest-star bit as a radical TV writer from the 1970s was a standout — and became an in-demand script doctor, punching up dialogue for the likes of Hook and The Wedding Singer. She returned to the Star Wars saga for the 2015 sequel, The Force Awakens, and rated a thank-you in the end credits for the 2016 prequel, Rogue One. Her life’s work, however, remained her life — or, more to the point, how she viewed her life, and all the messiness it entailed.
“Chaos is sort of my ongoing currency,” Fisher said in 2010, “but it has mellowed out a bit as I’ve gotten older. I don’t go out looking for trouble much, and I’ve learned to head myself off at the pass. If I see myself going potentially in a wrong direction, I know what to do.”