It was the role of a lifetime — the daughter of a Hollywood legend living life under a microscope, eclipsing her mother's own fame before going off the rails in a major way, and later channeling those experiences with brutal honesty into a highly unpredictable career. Carrie Fisher, though, never had the luxury of an audition. This was the role she was quite literally born to play, one she embodied with a sense of Princess Leia-esque fearlessness.
The legacy of this lifelong performance promises to live on not just in her daughter, the way her own mother's legacy lived on in Fisher, but in a body of work which doubles as a shockingly funny lived-in survival guide to modern-day celebrity.
Like so many children born to stars of the screen from Hollywood's golden age, Carrie Fisher always seemed destined for fame. When it came, though, she wasn't prepared for it, so she did what she knew best — she performed. If, as she claimed this year, she was "extremely insecure" about her relative inexperience with men at the time she began shooting Star Wars, age 20, Fisher countered that insecurity by striking up a sexual affair with Harrison Ford, married and 15 years her senior.
As with many of the experiences that would follow as the '70s rolled into the '80s and Fisher became familiar with the free flow of drugs on-set in Hollywood, the actress made the affair public knowledge in her later, biographical work, in this case the confessional memoir The Princess Diarist. If the decision to reveal something so private can be interpreted as a ploy to sell books, it's also entirely typical of the way in which Fisher frequently blurred the lines between public and private persona as a triumphant act of empowerment.
No, the biggest secret Carrie Fisher was sitting on was not the affair, or her dalliances with drugs, or her diagnosis with bipolar disorder, but the fact that she had a gift for turning turbulent experiences in her real life into wickedly funny entertainment on the page, the stage and the screen.
A near-miss with an overdose on meds and pills in 1985 turned into Postcards From The Edge, a book and later an Oscar-nominated movie in which Meryl Streep played a recovering drug addict trying to resurrect her acting career. It shouldn't have been so funny, but as Fisher said in her one-woman Broadway show Wishful Drinking, "if my life wasn't funny, it would just be true."
In Wishful Drinking, Fisher merrily roasted George Lucas for merchandising Leia's image to hell and back, but she had an excellent grip on satire which never descended into bitterness — and if she called Leia a "space slut" once or twice, she also made clear that she had endless appreciation for the saga, telling The Daily Beast last year that A New Hope "was a great script, just fuckin' brilliant, and that's so rare."
In recent years, Fisher continued to seek out projects which put those comedic skills to good use, inevitably being cast as exaggerated versions of herself — as the sex-starved Angela in Family Guy last year, roles in Weeds and Entourage, and in the uber-meta Season 2 episode of 30 Rock, 'Rosemary's Baby.' Her character in the latter, TV writer Rosemary Howard, is an idol of Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, as is Princess Leia. Needless to say, when Liz meets Rosemary and realizes she's a nightmare bitch, a million childhood and adulthood dreams are cruelly shattered.
Sharon Horgan, writer and star of the British sitcom Catastrophe, had been looking for someone to cast as Mia, her charmingly despicable mother-in-law. Sat in the audience as Fisher got major laughs presenting a gong at the Attitude Awards in London, Horgan had a light bulb moment and told co-star Rob Delaney, "That's your awful mother!" To her amazement, Fisher loved Mia's straight-talking (read: horrible) personality and agreed to join the cast. Season 3, which is done shooting and airs next year, will be her final television role.
But off-screen, she was only ever warm and lovably eccentric. As a writer, an actress, a comedienne, and mental health activist who liberated herself and countless others by speaking freely about her struggles, Fisher crossed paths with just about everyone in the entertainment industry at one time or another. The tributes which have engulfed social media in the hours after her death speak of what an enormously beloved and colorful character she was.
It was that range of talents — that unique ability to poke fun and self-deprecate while sharing genuine insight into what it means to be successful, or just to survive, in the era of celebrity, not the double-bun hairstyle she so loved to roast or that Slave Leia bikini — which cemented Carrie Fisher as an unparalleled, outspoken and decidedly irreplaceable icon of pop culture.
She is survived by her mother Debbie Reynolds, her daughter, the Scream Queens actress Billie Lourd, and Gary, the French Bulldog who went with her everywhere and became a minor social media star in his own right.
Such was Carrie's spirit that she'd no doubt be scornful of any obituary which ended on a morose note, so let's instead call this a celebration of her achievements and end by stating that Carrie Fisher was found on December 27, 2016, drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra — a glorious end to a wonderful life.
What do you consider the highlights of Carrie Fisher's incredible 40-year career in movies, TV, stage and comedy?