Daughter, actress, author, princess
“I was born famous,” Carrie Fisher said.
The daughter of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars of the 1950s — actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher — she would lead a life of inescapable fame, and the privilege and chaos that came with it.
She became a celebrity in her own right, playing the heroic Princess Leia in the blockbuster 1977 film “Star Wars” and two sequels in the 1980s, in what was the role of a lifetime.
What proved more difficult was playing the role of Carrie Fisher.
By design or necessity, she was constantly reinventing herself, first as a versatile character actress and later as a best-selling writer and raconteur, telling confessional tales about her parents and her troubled life amid Tinseltown’s glamour and grit.
Seldom far from a spotlight or the paparazzi, Fisher returned to the head-
lines in November, when she revealed in interviews and in a newly published memoir that she had an affair with co-star Harrison Ford while filming “Star Wars” in the 1970s.
She was on a promotion tour for her new book, “The Princess Diarist,” when she suffered an apparent heart attack Friday on an airline flight from London to Los Angeles. She was rushed to the UCLA medical center and put in intensive care. She died Tuesday at the hospital, daughter Billie Lourd told People magazine. She was 60.
Already a celebrity from “Star Wars,” Fisher won a different kind of acclaim in her 30s, as she launched an unexpected second career as an acerbic, self-lacerating chronicler of Hollywood excess — or “what it’s like to live an all-too-exciting life for all too long.”
In her first book, the best-selling semi-autobiographical 1987 novel “Postcards From the Edge,” Fisher wrote of life inside drugrehabilitation clinics, of bedroom couplings and uncouplings and especially about the doubts, fears and resentments of a daughter who always seemed to stand in the shadow of her glamorous mother.
The book’s opening line could stand in as a nutshell summary of Fisher’s problems — and humor: “Maybe I shouldn’t have given the guy who pumped my stomach my phone number, but who cares? My life is over anyway.”
She later wrote the screenplay for “Postcards,” which became a 1990 boxoffice hit directed by Mike Nichols. Meryl Streep received an Oscar nomination for playing Suzanne Vale, an aspiring actress whose life lurched from emergency to emergency. (Fisher wasn’t interested in the role, she said, because “I already did that.”)
Shirley MacLaine portrayed Doris, the lead character’s vain, overbearing mother, but Fisher reserved her harshest words in her script for Suzanne, the stand-in for herself.
“I came from nowhere and made something out of my life,” Doris tells her daughter. “You came from somewhere and are making nothing out of yours.”
Despite the big-screen airing of family dysfunction, Fisher and Reynolds stayed on remarkably good terms — and ended up living next door to each other in Beverly Hills.
Reviewers linked the verbal agility of Fisher’s script to a comic Hollywood tradition that was virtually part of her DNA.
“In this era of postverbal cinema,” Time critic Richard Corliss wrote, “‘Postcards’ proves that movie dialogue can still carry the sting, heft and meaning of the finest old romantic comedy.”
The movie led Fisher to yet another career as one of Hollywood’s top script doctors. Over a period of more than 15 years, she sharpened the dialogue of dozens of films, from “Sister Act” (1992) and “So I Married an Axe Murderer” (1993) to various “Star Wars” sequels.
She wrote three more novels, “Surrender the Pink,” “The Best Awful There Is” and “Delusions of Grandma,” before abandoning the pretense of fiction altogether in favor of unvarnished memoir, with “Shockaholic” (2011) and “Wishful Drinking” (2008).
She was, by her own admission, an enfant terrible who never learned how to grow up. She had bipolar disorder, for which she received electroshock therapy. She loved LSD, rummaged through bathroom medicine cabinets and became addicted to cocaine, Percodan and booze.
Among other romantic attachments, she had a seven-year relationship with singer-songwriter Paul Simon before they were married in 1983. After 11 months, they were divorced.
Actors Mark Hamill, left, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford visit Denver on June 15, 1977, to promote “Star Wars.” Fisher, 60, died Tuesday in Los Angeles after an apparent heart attack Friday. Steve Larson, Denver Post file
Fans check out the Princess Leia slave costume Tuesday while touring the “Star Wars” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. John Leyba, The Denver Post