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Hollywood’s ‘princess’ Fisher dead at 60 – Star Wars’ icon found best material in her own troubles

In this Jan 25, 2015 file photo, Carrie Fisher presents the life achievement award on stage at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. On Dec 27, 2016, a publicist said Fisher has died at the age of 60. (AP)

LOS ANGELES, Dec 28, (Agencies): After decades of fast living that her fearless “Star Wars” character Princess Leia would have struggled to keep up with, Carrie Fisher died Tuesday following a massive heart attack. She was 60.

The American actress, best-selling author and screenwriter — who suffered from numerous addictions she later turned into writing gold — was a member of Hollywood royalty, both on screen and off.

Born in Los Angeles in October 1956, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher became an international star overnight with the release of “Star Wars” in 1977.

Leia was the tough rebel princess in a white dress with a strange hairdo and blaster guns, who was unafraid to stare down the villainous Darth Vader.

Six years later in “Return of the Jedi,” she became a sex symbol in a barely-there metal bikini — but remained the tough heroine, killing her slug-like gangster jailer Jabba the Hutt by choking him with the chain he used to hold her captive.

The blockbuster space saga is now part of pop culture legend and a worldwide fan favorite. Fisher was back in the spotlight after reprising her iconic role in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

She was returning Friday from the London leg of a tour promoting her headline-grabbing memoir “The Princess Diarist” when she collapsed 15 minutes before landing in Los Angeles, where paramedics and hospital staff were unable to revive her.

“It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” family spokesman Simon Halls said in a statement to AFP on behalf of Fisher’s daughter.

Tributes began pouring in soon after news of her death spread on social media, led by “Star Wars” co-stars Mark Hamill — Luke Skywalker in the saga — who initially tweeted that he was “devastated” and had “no words.”

Excess

Steeped in Hollywood excess from an early age, she was the product of the four-year marriage between Reynolds, best known for her role in “Singin’ In The Rain,” and Fisher.

The relationship, and the happy home in Beverly Hills, came to an end when Fisher left Reynolds for her close friend, the actress Elizabeth Taylor.

The early 1980s were marked by problems with alcohol, drugs and depression for Fisher, who appeared in a number of critical flops, including “Under the Rainbow” (1981) and “Hollywood Vice Squad” (1986).

She was widely praised for her performance in the hit 1989 comedy “When Harry Met Sally,” but began to turn her back on acting in favor of writing.

She became known for her searingly honest semi-autobiographical writing, including her best-selling debut “Postcards from the Edge,” which she turned into a film of the same name in 1990 starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

A talented screenwriter, Fisher has revised numerous scripts, including “Sister Act” (1992), “Outbreak” (1995) and “The Wedding Singer” (1998).

She gave various interviews over the years about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction to prescription drugs and cocaine, which she admitted using on the set of “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980).

She “took too many drugs to remember” who it was, she added.

She also discussed being treated with electroconvulsive therapy, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, to trigger brief seizures and treat depression.

In her first agony aunt column for the British Guardian newspaper in June, the actress promised to “provide solicited advice, based on a life filled with pratfalls and accidents.”

Fisher told her readers that the addictions, heartbreak and mental illness she had endured amounted to a “fair share of challenging and unhappy experiences.”

“Over time, I’ve paid attention, taken notes and forgotten easily half of everything I’ve gone through. But I’ll rifle through the half I recall and lay it at your feet.”

Her recently-released memoir “The Princess Diarist” is based on journals she kept while filming the “Star Wars” trilogy.

Memoir

The memoir made headlines because of a section in which Fisher admits a three-month affair with co-star Harrison Ford while filming “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” in 1976.

The eighth episode of the main “Star Wars” series — due for release in December next year — wrapped filming in July, according to Variety magazine, and will probably be her last big-screen appearance.

She was due to appear in 2017 fantasy adventure “Wonderwell,” according to the Internet Movie Database, although the status of the shoot was not immediately clear and it has no publicly announced release date.

Fisher, a princess onscreen and off, played both roles in her own gutsy way.

As Leia of the “Star Wars” franchise, she commanded the troops, enjoyed a fling with Han Solo — and, in real life, co-star Harrison Ford — and showed fledgling 1970s feminists what life as a liberated woman might be like in a galaxy far, far away.

As the offspring of Hollywood royals Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she drew on her painful family history and personal demons to forge a distinctively tart, unsettlingly funny style as a best-selling writer.

Fisher’s throaty voice and inviting delivery also told the tale: She’d lived through much and wanted to — needed to — share her journey that included drug addiction, mental illness and electroshock treatment.

“People relate to aspects of my stories and that’s nice for me because then I’m not all alone with it,” she told The Associated Press in 2009. “Also, I do believe you’re only as sick as your secrets. If that’s true, I’m just really healthy.”

She avoided few topics in the piece, including the scandal that engulfed her superstar parents (singer Fisher ran off with Elizabeth Taylor); her brief marriage to pop star Paul Simon; the time the father of her daughter left her for a man, and waking up next to the dead body of a platonic friend who had overdosed in her bed.

“I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result,” she joked in the show. And there was this wisecrack: “I don’t have a problem with drugs so much as I have a problem with sobriety.”

Her feature film debut was opposite Warren Beatty in the 1975 hit “Shampoo.” She also appeared in “Austin Powers,” ‘’The Blues Brothers,” ‘’Charlie’s Angels,” ‘’Hannah and Her Sisters,” ‘’Scream 3” and “When Harry Met Sally …”

But she is best remembered as the tough, feisty and powerful Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” films, making a statement with her character and no-nonsense braided buns.

She famously despised the latter, and even had mixed feelings about her famous character. She knew it then and audiences later figured it out: Playing Han Solo would have suited her better.

“When I first read the script I thought that’s the part to be, always wry and sardonic,” Fisher told a gathering in England in 2015. “He’s always that. I feel like a lot of the time Leia’s either worried or pissed or, thank God, sort of snarky.”

She reprised the role of Leia in Episode VII of the series, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, and her digitally rendered image appears in the newest installment, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Fisher kept telling her own story after “Postcards From the Edge” became a best-seller and was adapted into a 1990 movie starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep.

Other books included “Delusions of Grandma,” ‘’Surrender the Pink,” ‘’The Best Awful,” ‘’Shockaholic” and this year’s autobiography, “The Princess Diarist,” in which she revealed that she and Ford had an affair on the “Star Wars” set.

Ever ready to satirize herself, she played Carrie Fisher a few times, as in David Cronenberg’s dark Hollywood sendup “Maps to the Stars” and in an episode of “Sex and the City.”

Fisher starred with her mother in a documentary set to air on HBO in 2017. “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

The public fell in love with her twice: as Princess Leia and as the wry truth-teller of such books as “Postcards From the Edge,” ‘’Wishful Drinking” and “The Princess Diarist,” in which she revealed having an intense affair with “Star Wars” co-star Harrison Ford.

Plans

Fisher had been developing a sequel to her autobiographical, one-woman play “Wishful Drinking,” with plans to present the show at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

The new play — titled “Wishful Drinking Strikes Back: From Star Wars to, uh, Star Wars!” — would have re-teamed Fisher with Josh Ravetch, who directed “Wishful Drinking” in 2006 when it premiered at the Geffen.

The theater issued a statement following Fisher’s death on Tuesday: “All of us at the Geffen Playhouse are devastated by the news of the passing of our dear friend and alum, Carrie Fisher. She was a wickedly funny force of nature and it was a privilege and a pleasure to have her on our stage. We send our love to her family and friends as we all mourn this tremendous loss.”

Fisher’s unexpected death on Tuesday did not just leave “Star Wars” fans heartbroken. It thrust movie studio Walt Disney Co into a dilemma over the fate of her iconic character, Princess Leia, as it moves forward with the blockbuster film franchise.

A Disney spokeswoman on Tuesday declined to comment on whether Leia would appear in films beyond “Episode VIII.”

“Star Wars” director Colin Trevorrow said in a January 2016 interview that he was excited “to find new places that we can take” the characters of Princess Leia and her on-screen twin brother Luke Skywalker.

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