To people of my generation, Carrie Fisher was a little bit of everything to us. To most, she was a hero. To some, a surrogate older sister, a role model, an unrequited crush, an inspiration, Because Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia and that’s what Princess Leia meant to us. She meant all that and so much more. And now, our idol is gone and we are left to wander aimlessly.
But Carrie Fisher was far more than just Princess Leia or any role she played. She was the daughter of Hollywood legends who became a Hollywood legend herself. Fisher was born on October 21, 1956 to crooner Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, both at the time entertainment royalty. Less than twenty years later, Fisher would join the family business, starring as Lorna, the teenage daughter of Jack Warden’s character in the Warren Beatty-vehicle Shampoo.
Two years later, she would be beat out actresses such as Amy Irving, Teri Nunn, Cindy Williams and Karen Allen to earn the role that would define her for the rest of her life–Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars: A New Hope.
In hindsight, it is impossible to think of any of those actresses in the role. Fisher brought the right amount of toughness and vulnerability to the part. You believed her when she took a blaster and helped rescue her rescuers in A New Hope, but you also believed her heartbreak when she professes her love to the doomed Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. And you damn well knew that she was going to make Jabba pay in Return of the Jedi, even after he forced her to wear that metal bikini thing.
Without Carrie Fisher, Leia might not be as inspirational as she is. Here is a personal anecdote. In the past year, I showed A New Hope to my seven-year-old daughter for the first time. During the first half of the film, her favorite character was Chewbacca. That changed when we came to the rescue scene. After seeing Fisher’s Leia blasting Stormtroopers left and right, doing as much if not more than Luke and Han to get to safety, my daughter was on Team Leia from then on out. After the viewing, I noticed my daughter being a little less fearful of new challenges, a little more confident in her talents and abilities. I don’t know if Fisher realized back on that soundstage in England around 40 years ago that her role as Leia would have this effect on generations of little girls, but that will be the true legacy of her contributions to the Star Wars mythos. For as long as the original trilogy exists in any form of consumable media, Carrie Fisher will be inspiring little girls to be brave and that they can do whatever they want. And bless her for that.
While she did not have as successful a post-Star Wars acting career as her co-star Harrison Ford did, she worked consistently in character roles is films such as When Harry Met Sally, The ‘Burbs, Hannah and Her Sisters and the criminally underrated Soapdish. She also acquired a successful second career as a novelist with books like Postcards From the Edge (made into a film starring Shirley Maclaine and Meryl Streep) and Delusions of Grandma and as a script doctor on films like Sister Act, The Last Boy Scout, and The Wedding Singer.
Fisher is survived by her mother and her daughter, actress Billie Lourd.