News of Fisher’s death comes after she suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23. Family members told the press she was stabilized after being admitted to an L.A. hospital, but her condition worsened; according to family spokesman Simon Hall, Fisher died at 8:55 a.m. on Dec. 27.
Long before acquiring her own fame, Fisher was a member of Hollywood royalty. Born in Beverly Hills on Oct. 21, 1956 to singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, she saw the best and the worst of the entertainment industry from a very young age; her parents went through a very public split after her father left the family when she was two, leaving the family in the middle of a lasting tabloid scandal.
Fisher’s knack for fictional drama manifested itself early on. She picked up an early stage credit at the age of 15, appearing alongside her mother in the 1973 Broadway revival of Irene, then made her film debut two years later, opposite Warren Beatty in the classic satire Shampoo. That auspicious beginning was just a prelude, however, for the stratospheric rise her career took after she landed what would prove to be the role of a lifetime — Princess Leia in Star Wars.
The original 1977 film’s massive success led to a pair of blockbuster sequels, both of which Fisher returned for, making her a household name even as Leia’s increasingly iconic status threatened to typecast Fisher’s future efforts. To her immense credit, after the original trilogy concluded with 1983’s Return of the Jedi, Fisher quickly diversified, drawing acclaim for her efforts in a variety of creative disciplines.
Admirably open about her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder, Fisher used a 1985 stint in rehab as part of the grist for her debut novel, 1987’s semi-autobiographic Postcards from the Edge; a bestselling critical success, it served as the first in a series of fictional and non-fictional literary efforts and ultimately inspired a screen adaptation — written by Fisher herself — starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
After embarking on her new career as an author, Fisher also branched out into work as a script doctor, spending roughly 15 years as one of the industry’s more sought-after uncredited writers while salvaging screenplays for a list of films that included Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer. During this period she also returned to the stage, penning and starring in the one-woman show Wishful Drinking, later commemorated with a documentary and autobiographical book of the same name.
Fisher’s film career came full circle with the start of a new Star Wars trilogy, which commenced with Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and hiring of director J.J. Abrams to helm what ultimately became 2015’s The Force Awakens. One of many members of the original trilogy’s cast to return, Fisher reprised her role again for 2017’s Episode VIII, for which she completed filming shortly before her death.
Fisher is survived by her mother, her brother Todd, her half sisters Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher, and her daughter Billie Lourd, who shared her “very deep sadness” in a statement that concludes, “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly.”
For Carrie Fisher’s complete filmography on Rotten Tomatoes, click here.