Here at Nerdist, it is our staff’s least favorite task to report on the passing of any beloved celebrity or pop culture icon. But when it comes to someone whose life and work have been of such paramount importance to the little world we pride ourselves on celebrating, the job creates its own league of heartbreak. Today, December 27, we are sad to report on the death of Carrie Fisher, following suffering a heart attack four days prior. She was 60 years old.
In our reflection of Fisher’s life in the spotlight, we immediately think of the innumerable moments she enchanted us as Star Wars’ unflappable Princess Leia. We still easily hear mental echoes of “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi—you’re my only hope,” or “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” or, of course, that seminal favorite: “Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking… nerf-herder!” Certainly, Leia’s importance to Star Wars fans well exceeds her penchant for a snappy line.
As that galaxy far, far away’s most revered diplomat, Leia asserted herself as the kind of heroine found far too infrequently in blockbuster cinema, even today. Her iconic character is owed not only to George Lucas’ screenplay pages, but to the live, bravery, wit, and fortitude that a then only 19-year-old Fisher brought with her to the part.
Throughout her years with Leia, Fisher would contribute more than just a dynamic performance. Fisher’s literary aptitude shone through novels like Postcards from the Edge and Surrender the Pink, as well as non-fiction works like Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist, not to mention her work as a script doctor on films like Hook, Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer, (to name a few).
The resilience with which Fisher carried herself, a sort never qualified by the margins that Hollywood—and the world beyond—may have wished to force upon her, the acerbity with which she spoke every word dialogue, the confidence intrinsic to her unblinking glare: these were more than just the building blocks of a charming character. They were Fisher’s way of projecting her strength, of changing the game for women onscreen.
Of course, Leia Organa was only one of the great characters that Fisher contributed to the big screen. Her work in comedy, though perhaps understandably overshadowed by the magnitude of Star Wars, is something damn near otherworldly. In fact, Fisher got her start in comedy, making her screen debut on the sidelines of the Hal Ashby movie Shampoo. Still early on in her career, Fisher flashed her comic prowess in the screwball picture The Blues Brothers, stealing scenes from likes of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as the homicidal “mystery woman.”
Fisher showed off a more sensitive breed of comedy in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, and Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally…. In stark contrast to her aforementioned roles, it was films like these that allowed Fisher to demonstrate how well she could handle the sophistication of downplayed, softened material. Though a supporting player in both pictures, she enlivened all of her scenes in each with unforgettable panache. Of course, she was still up for the odd episode of bombast, namely the thriller-comedy The ‘Burbs.
Supporting parts and guest appearances became Fisher’s modus operandi in and beyond the 1990s, readily parodying her geek-friendly persona with roles in popular franchise films like Scream 3 and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, ditto with an all-timer of a role on an episode of 30 Rock.
Naturally, the role that stands out most among her recent work is Leia—now a General—in The Force Awakens. Though not equipped with the same sum of screen time that she held in previous Star Wars outings, the gravitas with which Fisher delivered lines of dialogue and silence expressions alike is an incredible part of what made the film a dutiful revival for fans all over.
That said, the piece of work I can’t help but think about is even more recent: Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, the documentary that showcased the relationship between Fisher and her mom (and next-door neighbor) Debbie Reynolds. On one hand, the picture couriers viewers through Fisher’s life, tapping into everything from her childhood struggles with drug abuse and mental illness to her contemporary idolatry among millions of Star Wars fans. Beyond this, Bright Lights is a testament to just how superhumanly charming and intelligent Fisher is—two hours spent in her company speed by, as her every work and movement is imbued with comedy, humility, and valor.
We here at Nerdist, writers and readers alike, will miss Carrie Fisher a great deal. But we invite you all take comfort in this: she hit us with too powerful a punch for her impact to fade now. Fisher’s work, words, and wisdom will be with us for a long time. Thanks to her, there is and has always been hope.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox