Saturday , 25 March 2017

R.I.P., Carrie Fisher, forever Princess Leia

There’s been a great disturbance in the force. Carrie Fisher, who played the iconic role of Princess Leia Organa in the ongoing Star Wars franchise, died on Tuesday at the ago of 60. She had suffered cardiac arrest on a London to Los Angeles flight on Friday, but we were given some hope recently when it was said that she was in stable condition. Now the entire galaxy mourns the passing of this one-of-a-kind woman.

Born in 1956 to two Hollywood legends, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, it was clear that with that sort of pedigree, Carrie’s destiny would lie along a different path from you or I. After appearances with her mom in a TV production in 1969 and a Broadway revival of Irene in 1973 (her dad had moved on to Elizabeth Taylor when Carrie was only 2), the young Fisher made her big screen debut, perhaps fittingly, in the racy Warren Beatty film, Shampoo, in 1975. Soon after, Carrie was up for a couple of major roles against a number of other actresses, including future Oscar winner, Sissy Spacek. While Sissy would land the infamous title role of Carrie in the Stephen King adaptation by Brian De Palma, Carrie herself would take off to heretofore unknown heights in George Lucas’ space opera, Star Wars (1977). Life for Carrie, and the rest of the universe, would never be the same.

Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?

While the impact of Star Wars on the film industry and pop culture is abundantly evident, it cannot be underestimated what Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia meant as well. Only 19 when she began filming the galactic adventure, Carrie was able to instill in her character a toughness, vulnerability, regality and wise-assness all in one. Take this exchange which occurs when Leia is brought to meet Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin for the first time:

“Governor Tarkin, I should’ve expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was  brought on board.”

Tarkin: “Charming to the last.”

Here, Carrie’s Leia is able to diss two of the most feared and powerful members of the Empire in one fell swoop, knowing full well the danger she is in. She also doesn’t hesitate to ridicule her eventual love interest, Han Solo, upon first meeting him, and ends up taking charge in looking for an escape route when Luke, Han and Chewbacca’s rescue mission goes awry – “Into the garbage shoot, flyboy!” Amidst all the space battles, lightsaber duels, robots and aliens, male heroes, and the evil Darth Vader, Leia is able to stand out and become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. Continuing in the follow-ups, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983), Fisher carried on her character’s attributes of strength and empathy. It’s interesting to note that in a universe containing such a plethora of human, alien and mechanical creatures, Leia was virtually the sole female voice. In fact, the only other speaking roles for any women in the original trilogy were that of Aunt Beru in Star Wars, an unnamed rebel officer in Empire and Galactic Senator Mon Mothma in Return.

Already beloved and admired by both male and female fans alike, when Fisher appeared in Return wearing a skimpy slave girl outfit in Jabba’s Palace, fanboys’ starfighters went into hyperdrive. And when Leia turned the tables on Jabba by choking him to death with the very chains he had enslaved her with, young women everywhere felt empowered to break free of the shackles society had placed upon them and could take charge of their own lives. OK, a bit of hyperbole there, but the message was clear. Carrie’s Leia also showed her softer side in her scenes with the diminutive Ewok, Wicket, showing that you could be strong and even lethal one minute, and thoughtful and caring the next. It was the absence of such a fierce, well-rounded and developed character that was sorely missing from the prequels, and is a chief reason why they are underwhelming when compared to the original trilogy. Taking nothing away from the incredible Natalie Portman, but her Padme (Leia’s mother – sorry, spoiler there) can’t match the sarcastic wit of her daughter, uttering lines like, “Can somebody get this big, walking carpet out of my way?” Of course, a great deal of Leia’s banter must be attributed to George Lucas, but it was Fisher who brought those lines to entertaining life.

While Carrie’s indelible role of Princess Leia is the one most etched in the minds of everyone across the galaxy, she had a number of other memorable roles as well. There was The Blues Brothers (1980), where she played the Mystery Woman, The Man With One Red Shoe (1985) and Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs (1989), both opposite Tom Hanks, Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989) {above, with Meg Ryan], the dark comedy, Drop Dead Fred (1991) and Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), where she played a nun. She also began guest-starring in a variety of hit TV series from Frasier, Smallville and Weeds, to Entourage, 30 Rock and The Big Bang Theory, where she was reunited with her former foe, James Earl Jones, the voice of Vader.

In the meantime, Fisher, always known for her outspokenness, whether it was regarding her upbringing in Hollywood or her substance abuse and bipolar issues, parlayed her acerbic wit into a successful writing career, from her novel to film, Postcards From the Edge to script doctoring such diverse movies as Lethal Weapon 3 and The Last Action Hero to The Wedding Singer and Sister Act to even some of the Star Wars prequels. Carrie became a best-selling author, tackling her own demons head on in Delusions of Grandma and The Best Awful.  In 2008, she adapted her one-woman stage show, Wishful Drinking, into a bittersweet memoir. In June of 2010, after performances in L.A. and Broadway, HBO taped her show at the Gore 4’s nearby haunt, the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) in New Jersey for broadcast later that year. In an ironic twist that the darkly humorous Carrie Fisher would appreciate better than anyone, her taped show ended with her being wheeled out on a stretcher after being overcome with exhaustion, and taken away by ambulance. One can only imagine Carrie coming up with this clever idea and pitching it to producers as a twisted way to end the show.

In the last couple of years, Fisher continued to stay busy with a variety of projects. On TV, she appeared in the series, Catastrophe and the animated Family Guy. She just released another memoir, The Princess Diarist, which chronicled her time filming the original Star Wars, and was also planning on doing a follow-up to her Wishful Drinking for another stage run. In 2015, fans across the galaxy were treated to Carrie’s return to the role that made her famous, this time as General Leia, in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Here, she appeared alongside her only child, daughter Billie Lourd, who has been blessed with much of her mother’s dry, cutting-edge sense of humor as displayed in her Fox series, Scream Queens, where she plays the droll, earmuff-wearing Chanel No. 3.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – NOVEMBER 14: Actresses Carrie Fisher (L) and Billie Catherine Lourd attend the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 7th annual Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on November 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

With Fisher’s appearance in A Force Awakens, one has to wonder what this means for the franchise going forward. Apparently, Carrie’s Leia has a much more prominent role in Episode VIII, of which she had already completed filming for the release set for December of 2017. Fisher most likely would have been set to appear in Episode IX as well, and while it’s all conjecture at this point, it would figure that that installment would have to be reconfigured, and possibly even Episode VIII’s before its release next year. Alas, it will be bittersweet seeing Leia Organa for the last time, though, as most of us are well aware, computer imagery can go a long way nowadays. As for Carrie Fisher, her many memorable roles, and the fond memories of her countless fans across the universe, the force will be with her…..always.

— tribute by Brian de Castro

2 comments

  1. 'Walking' Ed Turner

    I’m stunned… I was so expecting her to have pulled through. Stunned and saddened.
    Now her Mom goes a day later. I can’t get over it. What a damn crappy year this has been. Good riddance, 2016.
    Rest in Peace, Carrie and Debbie. I’ll miss you both being in the world.

  2. Great job on this tribute! There has been a disturbance in the Force indeed! May the Gore4ce be with you!

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