As we anticipate the prospect of a new adventure for Princess Leia and company, T-plus 32 years on, we take a look back at 56 years in the life of the woman behind the iconic STAR WARS heroine, Carrie Fisher. The legendary provider of many a geek's spank material was famous before she had a chance to leave the womb. Born to celebrity parents, her young life was subject to the turmoil of her parents' relationship and sensationalistic affairs. Her early fame foretold the well known story of the troubled child star, forced to endure the chaos of fame and all the pitfalls that come with it. Pile on disastrous relationships, crippling mental illness and a persistent self-destructive nature, and you get one of Hollywood's most infamous and seemingly imminent celebrity train wrecks. Somehow, Carrie has always managed to step back from oblivion, though repeated flirtations with ultimate ruin have left their mark.
Carrie Frances Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, CA in 1956 to parents Eddie Fisher, a popular crooner and heartthrob of the day, and actress Debbie Reynolds, herself one of the classic hottie actresses of the 1950s and 60s. Together, Eddie and Debbie were Hollywood royalty, beloved by millions of fans, coveted subjects of the tabloid media and high profile members of the elite, A-list celebrity world - very much the Brangelina of their day. Popular as they were, the future of this darling celebrity couple was sealed soon after Carrie's birth by the unfortunate events taking place in the lives of another Hollywood power couple. Fisher and Reynolds were good friends with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, producer Mike Todd. When Todd was killed in a plane crash, Fisher found himself increasingly drawn to his "friend" Elizabeth's side amidst her grief. As day must turn to night, his need to comfort the weeping widow soon turned into a full blown relationship - one that apparently overruled his commitment to Reynolds. Barely two years old, Carrie was now the daughter of a single mom and the unfortunate byproduct of a Hollywood broken promise. Not the best way to start out in life, to be sure.
Growing up under the care of her mother proved to be even less beneficial to Carrie's well being. Subject to the often twisted and dodgy nature of the men her mother took for husbands, Carrie's young life was in constant upheaval, thanks to repeating waves of marriage and divorce, familial chaos and financial and emotional distress. By Carrie's high school years, much of her mother's fortune had been squandered by various greedy or inept husbands. Forced to go out on the road, doing song and dance performances to earn a living, Debbie and daughter found themselves a team, with Carrie dropping out of high school to help her mother along. Carrie's introduction to fame came during this time, via a role as the debutante and singer in the 1973 Broadway revival of Irene, also featuring her mother Debbie. Barely 17-years-old, Carrie's first taste of fame and performance left her hungry for more.
A few months spent at London's prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama readied Carrie for her next big break, 1975's SHAMPOO. Playing a promiscuous daughter in late 60s, Carrie's inaugural Hollywood role proved to be a huge success, on many levels. Not only was the film one of the top box office hits that year, it also introduced Carrie to one of her first loves, singer songwriter Paul Simon. The other half of the legendary singing duo Simon and Garfunkel, Simon wrote the music for SHAMPOO and presumably had occasion to met and begin dating Carrie in 1977. That year also brought Carrie her second screen role, playing an interstellar princess in a film many thought destined to become mere sci-fi trope. That movie, of course, was STAR WARS, a film that made Carrie a star and provided the defining role of her career. Though in the beginning, it was little more than a somewhat interesting script for Carrie, offering a next step toward bigger and better roles. Once the movie exploded at the box office, Carrie and her fellow cast members quickly realized that these were the biggest roles of their careers, instantly vaulting them all to the A-list almost overnight.
Carrie played her now world famous Princes Leia character twice more following the phenomenal success of the first SW film, her third performance sealing her reputation as a sex symbol as well as an actress, thanks to her now legendary golden bikini. While hugely popular, her rapid success, coupled with the ghosts of her past, drove her into a secret life of prescription drug and alcohol abuse. These dependencies became the true bane of her existence, exacerbating mental and emotional issues rising to the surface at this time. Though these issues were becoming increasingly intrusive in her life, most of her fans remained completely oblivious to her troubles.
Despite her issues, Carrie did manage to win a few modest roles between her Leia portrayals, with movies like UNDER THE RAINBOW and THE BLUES BROTHERS. The later film spawned a second serious relationship with actor/comedian Dan Aykroyd. Theirs was a brief but passionate affair during the filming of that movie, resulting in engagement and plans for a wedding, complete with rings and blood tests. Those plans quickly deteriorated when Carrie returned to her former boyfriend, Paul Simon. She and Simon later married in 1983, divorced in 1984, then dated again for a time after that - an obvious echo of her mother and father's wild and unpredictable relationship choices.
As the 80s and her early 30s progressed onward, Carrie added 'celebrated writer' to her list of accomplishments. Her semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, was her attempt at catharsis through the telling her life's story in the form of burned out actress Suzanne Vale and her failed attempts to juggle career, family, relationships and the lingering effects of drugs, alcohol abuse and rehab. The book was a huge success, earning Carrie awards and acclaim. It was even adapted into a movie, starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep. In 1991, Carrie married again, shortly after her relationship with longtime boyfriend/husband/boyfriend Paul Simon finally came to a close. She and her husband, casting agent Bryan Lourd, had one child together, though after 3 years of marriage, he decided to leave her for another man, no doubt creating even more turmoil in a life already jam packed with drama.
Things may have been rocky in her private life, but as a writer, Carrie was in high demand. By this time she had become a sought after Hollywood script doctor, performing rewrites to weak scripts for such films as HOOK, SISTER ACT and THE WEDDING SINGER. Carrie's skilled rewrites are thought to have raised more than a few of these stalled productions from hopelessly gridlocked to big time blockbusters.
As the 2000s dawned, Carrie took on yet another new role - this time as mental health advocate. Coming clean to the general public via various television interviews, Carrie honestly and frankly laid out the sometimes messy details of her past issues with drugs and bipolar disorder. Her sardonic frankness about herself made her a media darling all over again, inspiring her to transform these frank confessions into the book and one woman stage show Wishfully Drinking. In it, the many sordid details of her life are turned into comedic monologues she uses to carefully chart all the ups and downs on her often wobbly rise from noteworthy daughter to world famous addict. Of course, being on yet another high note meant that another devastating blow couldn't be far behind. Sure enough, it arrived in the form of the 2006 death in her home of lobbyist and republican party adviser Gregory "Greg" Stevens, from an overdose of Oxycontin combined with the effects of sleep apnea. Carrie claims that Stevens' ghost haunted her home for years afterward, causing her great distress which in turn led to another drug relapse.
In 2011, Carrie came clean with yet another personal revelation. Admitting in an Oprah interview that a lifetime of chemical abuse and mental illness had left her short on solutions for her issues, Carrie confessed to having regular shock therapy treatments. Though apparently effective in helping her deal with her demons, one particularly nasty side effect to these treatments is the erasure of significant blocks of time from her memory. While perhaps troubling to you and me, Carrie dismissed such worries as blessings in disguise. After 56 years of the highest highs and lowest lows, there are probably quite a few things she'd rather not recall.
As her 60s approach, Carrie and her long time claim to fame, Princess Leia, stand on the verge of yet another chapter in their now continuing sagas. While the details of Leia's life after the collapse of the Galactic Empire are still being worked on, the details of Carrie's life are well known - perhaps more well known than some of us would like. Surely the ups and downs of life will have shaped and molded Leia in much the same way they have done with Carrie. The real question is what kind of Leia Carrie can honestly portray. Will any of the intervening 30+ years of Carrie's life come into play in her performance? Can she come back from years spent regretting and lampooning her part in this iconic movie franchise? Can we ever accept a Leia who's bikinied days are behind her? All that remains to be seen. However, one thing stands clear. If they ever have any trouble with the script, they know who to call.