Star Wars actress, bestselling author Carrie Fisher dead at 60

Carrie Fisher, the Hollywood actress who portrayed the fearless Princess Leia in the Star Wars film franchise and later penned award-winning books that included touching on her battles with addiction, has died at age 60.

As 'the only girl in an all-boy fantasy,' Fisher’s role as the iconic Princess Leia was revolutionary

Carrie Fisher dead at 60

7 years ago
Duration 2:02
Featured VideoCBC's Kim Brunhuber looks at the life and career of the actress best known for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films

Carrie Fisher, the Hollywood actress who portrayed the fearless Princess Leia in the Star Wars film franchise and later penned award-winning books that included touching on her battles with addiction, has died at age 60. 

Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, released a statement through the family spokesman saying that Fisher died Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. She suffered a cardiac episode on Friday during a flight from London to L.A. where she was rushed to a hospital after landing, and had been in critical condition.

The bestselling author, sought-after screenwriter and outspoken mental-health advocate was as fearsome and fearless a woman as the iconic character who defined her career.

Born in Beverly Hills, Calif., to actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, she made her show-business debut at age 12 in her mother's Las Vegas nightclub act, and her film debut at the age of 17 in 1975's Shampoo.

Her film credits include 1980's The Blues Brothers, 1989's When Harry Met Sally, 1997's Austin Powers and 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. But to her biggest fans, she will always be Leia Organa, the courageous rebel leader who would do anything to save her people from the tyranny of the evil Empire.

"It's never easy to lose such a vital, irreplaceable member of the family, but this is downright heartbreaking," Fisher's friend and former Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill said in a statement.

"Carrie was one-of-a-kind who belonged to us all — whether she liked it or not. She was OUR Princess, damn it, & the actress who played her blurred into one gorgeous, fiercely independent & ferociously funny, take-charge woman who took our collective breath away."

'The only girl in an all-boy fantasy'

Fisher first took on the mantle of Leia, a revolutionary role for women in science fiction, in 1977's Star Wars. She later reprised it in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back, 1983's Return of the Jedi and 2015's The Force Awakens. Filming was completed in July on Fisher's next appearance as Leia in Star Wars: Episode VIII, which is set for theatres in December 2017.

"Those movies are great. I got to be the only girl in an all-boy fantasy, and it's a great role for women. She's a very proactive character and gets the job done. So if you're going to get typecast as something, that might as well be it for me," Fisher said in a 2016 interview with CBC News.

Carrie Fisher, seen with her Star Wars co-stars Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford in 2015, died at the age of 60. Fisher said she was proud to be the 'only girl in an all-boy fantasy.' ( Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

"I'm not really one of those actresses like Meryl Streep. Those actresses travel outside themselves and play characters. And I'm more of an archaeologist. I play what I am. I dig what I can. It's a character that's not too far from myself, except I don't have any laser guns."

As people shared their tributes to Fisher on Tuesday, many women noted the impact the character Leia had on them.

"You made millions of girls think we could do anything," comics writer Gail Simone tweeted. 

Writing was her 'first intoxicant'

While proud of her work on Star Wars, Fisher was a woman of many talents. In 1987, she published her first novel, the bestselling Postcards from the Edge, a semi-autobiographical story about a woman raising a daughter while working in show business.

Writing became a lifelong passion for Fisher. She helped adapt Postcards into a film starring Streep in 1990, and made a career of revising Hollywood scripts, including Sister Act (1992), Outbreak (1995) and The Wedding Singer (1998).

Fisher autographs her novel The Best Awful in London, England, on Feb. 20, 2004. Fisher told CBC News she 'fell in love with words' at early age. (John D. McHugh/Associated Press)

She penned seven books, both fiction and non-fiction, over the course of her career, including autobiographical bestseller Wishful Drinking in 2009 and Shockaholic in 2012. She also co-wrote several books.

Most recently, she wrote a regular advice column called "Advice from the Dark Side," in the Guardian and released her newest autobiography, The Princess Diarist, in 2016.

"I've just always written. It was an outlet for me," she told CBC News. "I loved reading, so I fell in love with words very early on. And I used to rip through books and underline all the words I didn't know and all the sentences I adored. I was just a very big reader. That was my first intoxicant. It was a great escape."

Her personal life was filled with enough drama, struggle, romance and perseverance to fill a dozen books.

Fisher embraces her daughter Billie Lourd as they arrive at the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Hollywood, on Dec. 14, 2015. Fisher's semi-autobiographical book Postcards from the Edge is about raising a daughter while working in show business. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

She was married to musician Paul Simon for a time and was briefly engaged to Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd.

Fisher revealed in November that she had had a behind-the-scenes affair with on-screen love interest Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo

While shooting the first Star Wars film, Fisher was 19, and Ford was 33 and married at the time.

Fisher told People: "It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend."

"Carrie was one of a kind … brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life bravely," Ford said in a statement Tuesday.

'I wanted my version of it out there'

Fisher was outspoken about her struggles with addiction and mental health long before the stigma of those topics began to wane.

She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 29 and has struggled on and off for years with alcoholism and addiction to painkillers and cocaine.

Carrie Fisher attends the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival with her dog Gary, who she often took along to interviews and red carpet events. (Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

In a Q&A with WebMD about her mental health, Fisher was asked what it's like to be the poster child for bipolar disorder.

"Well, I am hoping to get the centrefold in Psychology Today," she joked in reply.

"It's a combination of everything. It was out there, anyway; I wanted my version of it out there. Now, it seems every show I watch there's always someone bipolar in it! It's going through the vernacular like 'May the force be with you' did. But I define it, rather than it defining me."

No holds barred

Like Leia, Fisher has always been tenacious and unafraid to speak her mind, whether it be about mental health or the unrealistic beauty standards placed on women in Hollywood.

She made headlines ahead of the The Force Awakens when she took to social media to denounce anyone critical of her physical appearance.

"Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They're temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA. Don't hold your breath for either," Fisher tweeted.

"My body is my brain bag, it hauls me around to those places and in front of faces where there's something to say or see."

Mark Hamill tweeted that he has 'no words' upon learning of Fisher's death. (Araya Diaz/Getty Images )

Before The Force Awakens was released, the actress said she had been asked to drop more than 35 pounds for the movie.

"I'm in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up," she told Good Housekeeping in the magazine's January cover story. "They might as well say get younger, because that's how easy it is."

Fisher is survived by Lourd, her only child with her one-time partner talent agent Bryan Lourd, her 84-year-old mother and her brother, Todd Fisher, 58, an actor-director, and her half-sisters, actresses Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher.

Drowned in moonlight, strangled by her bra

In Wishful Drinking, the irreverent and witty Fisher penned her own obituary of sorts, recounting how Star Wars creator George Lucas once told her there's no underwear in outer space.

"What happens is, you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn't — so you get strangled by your own bra," she wrote.

"Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit, so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra."


Sheena Goodyear


Sheena Goodyear is a web journalist with CBC Radio's As It Happens in Toronto. She is equally comfortable tackling complex and emotionally difficult stories that hold truth to power, or spinning quirky yarns about the weird and wonderful things people get up to all over the world. She has a particular passion for highlighting stories from LGBTQ communities. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, her work has appeared on CBC News, Sun Media, the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, VICE News and more. You can reach her at sheena.goodyear@cbc.ca

With files from The Associated Press