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A child of Hollywood, Carrie Fisher grew up in the shadow of scandal as the daughter of Eddie Fisher, who left her mother Debbie Reynolds for best friend Elizabeth Taylor. No stranger to scandal herself later in life, Fisher was best known as Princess Leia in "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" (1977), one of the biggest box office hits of all time. With a Danish pastry hairdo and white robes, Fisher's Leia endeared herself to generations of obsessive fans who flocked to the sequels "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" (1983). She tried to escape the role with memorable turns in "The Blues Brother" (1980) and "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), but was unable to break free. Meanwhile, Fisher secretly struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as bipolar disorder, which she first revealed with the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge (1987), which was adapted into a 1990 film starring Meryl Streep. Equally discordant were her romantic affairs, which included a brief dalliance with Dan Aykroyd and a longtime relationship with singer Paul Simon, whom she married in 1983. In 2006, the self-deprecating Fisher took to the...
A child of Hollywood, Carrie Fisher grew up in the shadow of scandal as the daughter of Eddie Fisher, who left her mother Debbie Reynolds for best friend Elizabeth Taylor. No stranger to scandal herself later in life, Fisher was best known as Princess Leia in "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" (1977), one of the biggest box office hits of all time. With a Danish pastry hairdo and white robes, Fisher's Leia endeared herself to generations of obsessive fans who flocked to the sequels "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" (1983). She tried to escape the role with memorable turns in "The Blues Brother" (1980) and "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), but was unable to break free. Meanwhile, Fisher secretly struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as bipolar disorder, which she first revealed with the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge (1987), which was adapted into a 1990 film starring Meryl Streep. Equally discordant were her romantic affairs, which included a brief dalliance with Dan Aykroyd and a longtime relationship with singer Paul Simon, whom she married in 1983. In 2006, the self-deprecating Fisher took to the stage to poke fun at her addictions in the one-woman show, "Wishful Drinking." Though she continued to act, Fisher earned critical acclaim and industry respect for her work as an author and sought-after script doctor, all while embracing the image of Leia she once tried to avoid.
Born Oct. 21, 1956 in Beverly Hills, CA to "America's Sweethearts" of the era, actress Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher, the future star was Hollywood royalty long before she donned the infamous slave girl outfit years later. When Fisher was two years old and her brother Todd an infant, her father left her mother for a recently widowed Elizabeth Taylor, culminating in the biggest Hollywood love triangle dustup of the 1950s. Raised by her single mother under intense public scrutiny, Fisher decided to join the family business, as she knew no other reality. At age 12, she joined her mother's Vegas nightclub act and at age 15, appeared in the chorus of Reynolds' award-winning Broadway revival of "Irene." A year later, she dropped out of Beverly Hills High School to focus on her newfound acting career, enrolling in London's Central School of Speech and Drama. She made her film debut in the 1970s staple "Shampoo," (1975) starring as a teenage nymphet who utters a memorably enticing and profane line of dialogue to star and real-life family friend, Warren Beatty.
Two years later, Fisher auditioned opposite a young carpenter-turned-actor named Harrison Ford for a part in an intergalactic fantasy movie, written and directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Lucas. Despite her slight teen chubbiness at the time, Fisher nailed the part of the "staggeringly beautiful" rebel leader. Lucas would later say that despite her diminutive height (5'1"), she had all the poise and feistiness that the part required and it were these traits which helped the pretty brunette win the role. Filming for Fisher was done primarily in England at Elstree Studios. It was such a harsh shoot that Fisher, Ford (Han Solo) and the film's lead, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), grew into a tightly-knit threesome, weathering the storm of budget worries, an unseasoned director, a cantankerous British crew, and the anxiety of acting against blue screens or opposite costumed creatures. But somehow the magic happened. In May of 1977, "Star Wars" premiered and became not only the biggest moneymaker of the year and the highest-grossing film of all time until "E.T." knocked it off its perch five years later, it became a certifiable pop culture phenomenon. Fisher, Ford and Hamill became overnight stars, with their likenesses plastered on everything from bed sheets to bubble bath. The film and its merchandising goldmine made untold millions of dollars for everyone involved in the epic trilogy, especially after the generous Lucas cut his stars in on percentage points of the film's haul.
Fisher revisited Princess Leia twice in the sequels "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983) - both huge box office successes. The former film allowed Fisher to explore her regal, guarded character more deeply as she falls in love with and loses Han Solo; the latter film granted every young boy's wish come true when Lucas had Fisher chained to a giant space slug in nothing more than a metal bikini which left little to the imagination - something the actress would give Lucas playful grief over for years after. At the height of her Leia stardom, Fisher hosted a 1978 episode of "Saturday Night Live" and hit it off with several of the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" - most notably, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. While she became best friends to Belushi, she would date Aykroyd, culminating in a brief engagement in 1980. It was around this time that Fisher began a descent into serious drug addiction, which would later inform her writings and overall survivor persona. In between her galactic exploits on the screen and her drug-fueled exploits off of it, Fisher tried to forge an independent screen identity apart from Leia, appearing as Belushi's jilted, extremely violent fiancée in cult comedy "The Blues Brothers" (1980) and Chevy Chase' love interest in the comedy misfire "Under the Rainbow" (1981). Neither role, however, did much to advance her career. She was in fact, still famous for who she was: famous daughter; famous princess and famous girlfriend. After dating singer Paul Simon on and off for several years, she married the music legend on Aug. 16, 1983 to much hullabaloo in the press, which had followed the couple's every move for years. Unfortunately, the dating period lasted longer than the actual marriage, with Fisher's growing drug dependency later cited as the main reason the union lasted only eight months.
After performing on Broadway in "Agnes of God" (1983) and receiving stellar reviews, Fisher returned to the big screen. Unlike her former co-star Harrison Ford, Fisher never escaped her Leia legacy, taking supporting parts in such films as "Garbo Talks" (1984), "The Man with One Red Shoe" (1985), "Hannah and her Sisters" (1986), "Amazon Women on the Moon" (1987), "The Burbs" (1989) and "Soapdish" (1991). Despite famously losing close friend Belushi to a heroin and cocaine overdose in 1982, Fisher continued to abuse a medicine cabinet of drugs, including Percodan, cocaine and others. By the mid-1980s, she overdosed and was rushed to the hospital. Using her life-altering experience, she penned her first novel, Postcards from the Edge(1987), a sardonic roman a' clef detailing fictional actress Suzanne Vale's battles with drugs, Hollywood high-life and a famous, overbearing mom. A new career dawned as Fisher became an overnight literary star, shooting up The New York Times bestseller list and winning the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Two years later, Fisher adapted the screenplay for the 1990 Mike Nichols film of the same name, starring Meryl Streep as the Fisheresque Vale and Shirley MacLaine as her domineering mother. For her freshman effort, she garnered a BAFTA nomination for Best Screenplay Adaptation in 1991. In 1990, Fisher began dating Hollywood über-agent, Bryan Lourd. The couple had a daughter, Billie, in 1993. Fisher returned to the tabloid headlines when, after several years of dating, Lourd confessed his homosexuality to Fisher and left her for a man. The press had a field day, but the two shared custody and remained close for their daughter's benefit. However, this betrayal of trust and public embarrassment caused fissures in her already fragile mental state - a problem which would manifest itself soon enough.
Although Fisher found herself a critical favorite with her performance as Meg Ryan's sarcastic best friend in the romantic comedy hit "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), writing became her real bread and butter. Other best-selling novels followed Postcards, including Surrender the Pink (1991), which contained many allusions to her relationship with Simon; Delusions of Grandma (1994), which drew on her experiences with Lourd; and The Best Awful (2004). Known in Hollywood circles for her unique manner of thought and expression and a biting wit few could match, Fisher began an impressive career as a top comedy script doctor, starting with Steven Spielberg's "Hook" (1991) and polishing such scripts as "The Wedding Singer" (1998) and "Sister Act" (1992). Although she received no onscreen credit, her reputation grew and directors sought out the beloved actress-turned-writer to punch up their dialogue - particularly that of female characters. Even George Lucas tapped Fisher to spruce up scripts for his television series "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" (ABC, 1992-93).
At the peak of her success as script doctor du jour, Fisher suffered a "psychotic break" in 1997 when she was prescribed new drugs to curb her long-diagnosed mental illness. The allergic reaction landed her in a mental ward in Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where she remained for six days with her mother and brother by her side. Even Lourd rallied around the mother of his child. She spent half of a year in outpatient care. After surviving the harrowing experience, Fisher grew determined to destigmatize mental illness. On talk show after talk show, she made jokes at her own expense, becoming a much sought-after speaker on the mental health lecture circuit - from urging state legislators to increase government spending for mental health issues, to serving as key note speaker for Community Alliance benefits and other mental health organizations. The more it was discussed, she reasoned, the better it would be for anyone suffering in silence or confusion.
Fisher returned to acting intermittently in subsequent years, appearing in "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997), "Scream 3" (2000), "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003), "Wonderland" (2004) and "Undiscovered" (2005), but the parts were never more than minor or cameo. Her interests now lay elsewhere. She joined the Oxygen network in 2002 for her first venture into serial television called "Conversations from the Edge with Carrie Fisher." The one-hour talk show allowed fans to view Fisher's laser wit up close and personal as she interviewed the entertainment industry's biggest stars. As one of the more well-liked personalities in Hollywood circles, it was not difficult for her to land interviews with Lucas, Lisa Kudrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin and other Hollywood A-listers. Fisher also orchestrated the seemingly impossible: bringing her mother and "the other woman" Elizabeth Taylor together by co-penning a campy TV movie, "These Old Broads" (2001) specifically for them. The screen legends' much heralded appearance together was a hit with viewers, but not with critics who thought the whole exercise embarrassing. The women had, in fact, long buried the hatchet, saving their resentment for Eddie Fisher himself, after the onetime crooner wrote two scathing autobiographies over the years which graphically recalled his love life and struggles with drugs. The books were particularly stinging toward Reynolds, which only served to further drive a wedge between the addict father and his recovering addict daughter.
With the re-release of the Special Edition "Star Wars" films, a new legion of fans joined the veteran obsessed and all lined up to see their favorite characters on the big screen during the winter of 1997. Fisher was no exception. Having made peace with her timeless character years before, she happily joined the commemoration in television retrospectives and on the red carpet at the Hollywood premieres of both Special Edition films and the prequels. In June, 2005, she and fellow co-stars Ford and Hamill appeared onstage together for the first time in decades to help Lucas celebrate his American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award nearly 30 years after he turned them into twentieth century icons. Just months before the appearance, however, a lobbyist and advisor to the Republican Party named Gregory Stevens died sleeping next to her in her home due to an overdose of OxyContin, a traumatic event that set off Fisher's own descent back into drugs.
Never one to waste her personal demons in private, Fisher wrote and performed her one-woman play "Wishful Drinking" at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles for a few months in 2006, before playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in Northern California through April 2008, and onto engagements in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. She remained in demand for voiceover work and TV guest appearances as well, voicing Peter Griffin's boss, Angela, on the animated sitcom "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999- ) in recurring fashion starting in 2005. In 2007, she was a full-time judge on the short-lived filmmaking competition series, "On the Lot" (Fox, 2006-07) and joined Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne on Saturday evenings for "The Essentials" (2001- ) to provide entertaining conversation on Hollywood's best films. After small parts in features like "Ghost Writer" (2007) and "Cougar Club" (2007), she was given a meaty role as a boozy former TV writer whom Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) once idolized in the Emmy-nominated episode "Rosemary's Baby" of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2007-2013), in which she uttered the reverential line, "Help me Liz Lemon - you're my only hope!" Fisher's tour de force performance earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.
Following more small supporting turns in films like "The Women" (2008), "Fanboys" (2009) and "Sorority Row" (2009), Fisher had guest spots on shows like "Weeds" (Showtime, 2005-2012) and "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-2011), while also speaking more openly about her battles with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. With appearances on "20/20" (ABC, 1978- ), "Today" (NBC, 1952- ) and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" (CBS, 2005- ), Fisher was frank about her use of alcohol and cocaine during the filming of the "Star Wars" trilogy, while also opening up about receiving electroconvulsive therapy - so-called shock treatment - every six weeks to control her bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, in 2010, HBO aired an hour-long live performance of "Wishful Drinking," while she also participated in a 2012 "Comedy Central Roast" of comedienne Rosanne Barr. In March 2013, Fisher and her former "Star Wars" co-stars Ford and Hamill were the source of endless speculation in regards to reprising their famed roles for "Star Wars - Episode VII" (2015), a sequel that became reality after George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company for $4 billion in late 2012. Fisher sparked wild Internet rumors when she mentioned that she would be reprising Princess Leia for the sequel to be directed by J.J. Abrams, but quickly recanted by saying she was making a joke. But Lucas stepped in and fanned the flames in the hearts of fanboys everywhere that all three actors were rumored to be all but signed to return to the franchise.
By Jenna Girard
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Won PHOTOPLAY Magazine's Newcomer of the Year award in 1975 for "Shampoo"
Fisher has suffered with manic depression for most of her life. The condition was first diagnosed when she was a teenager.
In November 1998, Fisher entered a substance abuse clinic reportedly over problems resulting from prescription drugs for dental surgery. Fisher had previously been treated for an addiction to cocaine and for alcoholism.
"When I was younger, I thought my mother was perfect. She was beautiful. She was funny. She was loving and kind...She could only fall from the pedestal I put her on...Having a daughter of my own made me realize what my mother had been up against while raising me."---Carrie Fisher on her mother Debbie Reynolds Biography Spring 2004
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