Daugh­ter, ac­tress, author, princess

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Schudel

“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

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