In 2016, Carrie Fisher, the iconic actress known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, passed away at the age of sixty. Born into the spotlight to famous parents, Fisher led a troubled and challenging life. Over the years, she struggled with mental illness and substance abuse.
Despite her hardships, Carrie always managed to hang on to her sense of humor, writing, and acting in numerous films and shows. From being raised by Debbie Reynolds and her marriage to Paul Simon to her bipolar disorder and the birth of her daughter Billie Lourd, this is Carrie’s story.
On October 21st, 1956, Carrie Fisher was born to Hollywood’s favorite duo, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Reynolds was a Hollywood actress known for her role in Dancing in the Rain, and Fisher was a musician, a teen idol, and what used to be called a crooner.
Fisher and Reynolds were the golden couple of their day. They were America’s sweethearts; she ruled the screen and he the charts. A little over a year after Carrie was born, Debbie gave birth to a son named Todd, completing their picture-perfect family. However, things quickly went sour in a very public way.
Eddie left Debbie for none other than her best friend, Elizabeth Taylor when Carrie was only two years old. After that, Carrie and Todd were raised solely by Debbie, while Eddie would check in “from time to time.” Carrie later wrote that her father’s “scandals outshone his celebrity” and made him “infamous.”
Soon Reynolds got remarried to Harry Karl, a “millionaire businessman” and the opposite of her ex. Sadly, Karl’s millions couldn’t sustain his gambling habit and shoddy investments, and he used up Debbie’s money as well. They had two kids together before splitting in 1973.
From age two, when her parents went through their very public divorce, which was covered by every tabloid, Carrie became accustomed to suffering in the spotlight. She grew up watching paparazzi try to climb through the hedges of their backyard to snap a picture of her mother and always felt overshadowed by her celebrity.
Carrie vowed to never go into show business, but soon fate intervened, and when she was sixteen, Debbie took her and Todd out of high school to join the chorus of a Broadway musical in New York. Carrie got a taste of acting and never went back.
Though Carrie had a great singing voice, she decided against pursuing anything to do with music out of disdain for her absent father. Instead, she enrolled in London’s Central School of Speech and Drama at age seventeen. There she learned to act, following in her mother’s footsteps.
Reynold’s connections helped Fisher score her debut role in the film Shampoo, alongside Warren Beatty, in 1975. Then, at nineteen, Carrie was cast in her breakout role in Star Wars, the same age that her mother was when she starred in her breakout role in Singing in the Rain.
On Christmas vacation in 1975, Carrie Fisher read for what began as a low-budget, sci-fi flick called Star Wars. Fisher won over the director, George Lucas, with her formidable yet humorous countenance. When Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, it became an instant hit.
Thus, Fisher’s dreams of living her life away from the spotlight were obliterated, and she, as Princess Leia, became a star. No matter how hard she tried, Carrie will always be remembered first and foremost as the lovely Princess Leia, white gown, buns and all.
While shooting Star Wars, Fisher was drawn into an affair with her costar, Harrison Ford. She was only nineteen at the time, while he was thirty-four and married. It all began at a surprise birthday party for Lucas, where Fisher was teased by the all-male cast and crew and got drunk for the first time.
After being told that Carrie needed some air, Harrison Ford said, “Pardon me, but the lady doesn’t seem to be very aware of what she wants,” and took Carrie to his car, where they kissed.
Their affair lasted three months, and throughout it, Carrie agonized over whether Harrison liked her or not−like the teenager she was. In public, he ignored her, keeping their romance a secret, but he made love to her in private, confusing the young woman completely.
Carrie described Ford as quiet and mysterious and confessed that she spent much of their time together trying to make him laugh to no avail. When the film finished production, their affair also was over, and Carrie was left heartbroken, having been genuinely infatuated with Ford.
Fisher’s drug habit began on the set of Star Wars. She had only smoked weed before then, but after having a bad experience with Harrison’s marijuana, she switched to “hallucinogens and painkillers.” When Debbie Reynolds found out, she called Cary Grant, who had “famously [done]… LSD while under a doctor’s supervision.”
So, the unsuspecting Fisher received a call from Grant, who gave her a “just say no” lecture. Carrie was surprisingly starstruck since Grant was her “f***ing hero.” This was the first of three drug-related phone calls between them.
While shooting Star Wars and engaging in an illicit affair with Harrison Ford, Carrie met Paul Simon for the first time. Carrie wrote about her first encounter with Simon, “every so often, you meet someone from your tribe. Which is how I felt when I met Paul Simon.”
Soon, Carrie’s relationship with Ford ended, and she started seeing Simon. The couple dated on and off from 1977 until 1983. Carrie remembered, “we understood each other perfectly. Obviously, we didn’t always agree, but we understood the terms of our disagreements.”
In 1980, after starring in two successful Star Wars films, Carrie appeared in the musical comedy, The Blues Brothers. At the time, she and Simon were on a break, and Carrie began a relationship with her costar, Dan Aykroyd.
In no time, Aykroyd proposed to Fisher, and the two became engaged. According to Carrie, “We had rings, we got blood tests, the whole shot. But then I got back together with Paul Simon.” Dan was devasted at first but bounced back and married another costar, Donna Dixon, in 1983.
Carrie’s drug use escalated while filming her second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, and she started using cocaine in addition to painkillers and hallucinogens. On the set of The Blues Brothers, even John Belushi, who died of an overdose three years later, told her to take it easy with the drugs.
Cocaine wasn’t Carrie’s first choice; she preferred LSD, which quieted her mind and turned her overthinking into visual hallucinations. However, Fisher’s favorite drug was Percocet, which she claimed to take over 30 times a day.
Carrie was taking so many drugs to quiet her mind. Carrie was self-medicating for a disorder that she didn’t know she had. She was out of control. In 1980, Carrie had an overdose on the set of the comedy, Under the Rainbow.
While in recovery, Carrie was given an official diagnosis: she had bipolar disorder. However, at the time, Fisher thought her doctor just didn’t want to call her a junkie and believed the diagnosis was nonsense and that she was just a drug addict.
In 1983, out of rehab and back on drugs, Carrie Fisher married Paul Simon after dating on and off for six years. Paul wrote several songs about Carrie while they were together, including the title song of the album Graceland. The lyrics truly describe their on again off again relationship well:
“She’s come back to tell me she’s gone.”
In another song called Allergies, Paul sang some heartbreaking yet unflattering lyrics about Carrie:
“My heart is allergic
to the woman I love
and it’s changing the shape of my face….”
In 1984, after only eleven months of marriage, Paul and Carrie divorced. Carrie recalled that even on their honeymoon, they weren’t getting along. Once, she yelled at him, “not only do I not like you, I don’t like you personally,” which caused them to erupt in laughter.
The last song Simon wrote about Carrie is She Moves On; it goes:
“When the road ends
And the song bends
She moves on….”
Maybe these emotions are
As near to love as love will ever be
So, I agree.”
After her divorce from Paul Simon, while shooting Hannah and Her Sisters, Carrie had another overdose from sleeping pills and Percocet. Carrie was rushed to the ER, where her stomach was pumped, and from there, Carrie was sent to rehab.
In one of her memoirs, Wishful Drinking, Carrie wrote, “I married Paul at twenty-six, we divorced when I was twenty-eight, and at twenty-nine I went into rehab.” She’d had another overdose after taking “opiates religiously.” There she finally accepted her diagnosis as bipolar and began to seek treatment.
While she was in rehab, Carrie was forwarded a letter from a publishing house asking her if she wanted to write a book. She did want to write a book, so, there in rehab, Carrie began writing Postcards From the Edge.
After she finished her rehabilitation, Carrie got back together with Paul Simon. But don’t worry, they didn’t get remarried. Carrie wrote, “remarrying the same person is the triumph of nostalgia over judgment.” They broke up again in 1989 because Carrie’s filming schedule was taking a toll on their relationship.
Fisher’s first book was the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge, released in 1987. The book opens with the sentence: “Maybe I shouldn’t have given the guy who pumped my stomach my phone number, but who cares?”
It became a New York Times bestseller, and in 1990 was turned into a film, for which Fisher wrote the screenplay. The movie stars Meryl Streep as a recovering addict who lives in the shadow of her famous mother, played by Shirley MacLaine. Debbie Reynolds wanted the part, but MacLaine was cast instead.
In 1989, Carrie starred as Meg Ryan’s best friend in When Harry Met Sally. In the film, Fisher delivered an outstandingly convincing performance of a single New Yorker, but she wasn’t doing well behind the scenes. Despite having completed rehab and attending NA meetings regularly, Carrie was back on drugs.
Carrie later shared, “When we were shooting Harry Met Sally, I stayed up all night snorting heroin. You can imagine how proud my parents must be.” The actress was also back on other opiates such as Codeine and Percocet.
A week after Carrie and Paul broke up, the actress met the handsome Bryan Lourd, a talent agent, and Creative Artists Agency executive. They quickly fell in love and started dating. According to Fisher, “Bryan took really, really good care of me, and this was the first time a man had ever done that.”
Lourd’s caring personality convinced Fisher that he would be a great dad, so they decided to have a child together. Their early bliss made Carrie begin mistakenly “fearing now that finally, everything would be alright.”
On July 17th, 1992, Billie Catherine Lourd was born. The actress Meryl Streep and writer Bruce Wagner were chosen as Billie’s godparents. But unfortunately for everyone involved, Carrie was unable to stay clean for long and was soon back on Codeine.
So, just three years after getting together, Bryan left Carrie for a man named Scott. Carrie shared that Bryan “told me later that I had turned him gay by taking Codeine again. And I said, you know, I never read that warning on the label.” Carrie was understandably devasted.
She would never have gotten through the time after Bryan left without the help of her caring mother, Debbie. Part of the reason Carrie was so hurt was that Bryan’s departure reminded her of how Eddie had left Debbie when she and Todd were just toddlers.
Being raised by a single mother hadn’t been easy for Carrie, and she was worried about Billie. Luckily, Bryan turned out to be a wonderful father after all and remained very invested in his daughter’s life. Plus, they had Reynolds’ support.
A year after Lourd left Fisher, she was put in a mental hospital, or as she phrased it, “invited to go to a mental hospital.” She was again diagnosed with manic depression or bipolar II and later wrote, “ultimately I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.”
While hospitalized, Carrie addressed the dual parts of herself and even gave them names: Rollicking Roy and Sediment Pam. Roy, she described as “the wild ride of a mood,” and Pam as the one “who stands on the shore and sobs.”
In the early 2000s, Carrie finally opened up about her time in the psych ward. She shared that she had just wanted to feel less. She barely slept, hallucinated, and spoke nonsense. Carrie also confessed that while hospitalized, she received electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
“[Carrie’s] memory… [was] wrenched from [her] ” because of the electroshock. She did the treatments many times and spent years of her life recalling all the memories she had lost. Carrie never regretted getting ECT, explaining that she’d been profoundly depressed back then.
Carrie Fisher’s picture appears in the chapter about bipolar disorder in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. The image was used without her knowledge and is of Carrie as Princess Leia. Carrie wrote humorously, “I’m a PEZ dispenser, and I’m in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can’t have it all?”
The reason her picture was legally used without her knowing goes back to when Fisher first signed a contract with George Lucas to make Star Wars. At the time, Carrie mistakenly signed over the rights to her image as Leia.
Eventually, Carrie was released from the hospital and returned to raising her daughter and her Hollywood career. Aside from acting, Fisher became a screenwriter and a script doctor. As a script doctor, she worked as an editor and tightener of many scripts, including The Wedding Singer, Hook, and Sister Act.
Among her screenwriting credits are episodes of Roseanne and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Carrie also continued writing novels, releasing Surrender the Pink in 1990, Delusions of Grandma in 1993, and The Best Awful There Is in 2004.
In 2001, Carrie wrote the television movie These Old Broads. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, starred in the film alongside Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, and Debbie’s former nemesis, Elizabeth Taylor. Despite Taylor’s betrayal, Debbie and Liz patched things up years before.
In 1966, the two stars had run into one another on the Queen Elizabeth, a trans-Atlantic cruise ship. While on the cruise, they resolved to have dinner together. Reynolds famously recalled, “we just said ‘Let’s call it a day.’ And we got smashed… and stayed friends since then.”
Beginning in the ’90s and throughout the next twenty or so years, Carrie appeared in many cameos. She had more cameos than actual roles in film or television. Some memorable cameos of Fisher’s include Hook, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and Scream 3.
She also appeared briefly in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. On television, Carrie scored a lot of guest roles in shows such as Sex and the City, Smallville, Weeds, Entourage, Side Order of Life, and 30 Rock.
On February 26th, 2005, Carrie’s best friend Greg Stevens died in her bed. Greg was a 42-year-old lobbyist, and he overdosed on cocaine and Oxycodone, which didn’t mix well with his sleep apnea and chronic, undiagnosed heart disease.
Though many suspected otherwise, she and Greg were merely having a sleepover, he was gay, and there had never been anything romantic between them. Carrie took Greg’s death very badly and suffered from PTSD afterward. She later said, “I was a nut for a year, and in that year, I took drugs again.”
In 2008, Carrie’s first non-fiction book was released. The book is a short memoir called Wishful Drinking, in which Carrie opens up about her being raised by Debbie Reynolds, her substance abuse, bipolar disorder, marriage to Paul Simon, and much more.
The autobiography landed on The New York Times bestseller list and was turned into a one-woman show. Carrie was the one who adapted the book to the stage and acted in the play. She toured with Wishful Drinking nationally, performing in Berkeley, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and finally, on Broadway.
In 2007, for her cameo role in 30 Rock, Carrie was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. That wasn’t her only nomination throughout the years. Fisher’s Wishful Drinking audiobook was nominated in 2009 for the Best Spoken Word Album at the Grammy Awards.
In 2017, she was nominated again for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Catastrophe. And in 2018, Carrie succeeded in winning the Best Spoken Word Album category for her final book.
In 2010, a documentary was released on HBO, based on Carrie’s play Wishful Drinking. The film received mixed reviews, and Carrie was both praised and criticized. One critic wrote, “Fisher… [is] a little larger than life, worn but not worn out. She’s funny as an actress and as a writer makes memorable phrases.”
However, another critic found her “tiresome” and wrote, “even while her tales of Hollywood absurdity remain outrageous … Fisher… starts to seem boastful about her dysfunction.” But all in all, the HBO special was highly recommended.
In 2011, Carrie released her second autobiographical book called Shockaholic, which details her ongoing decision to do ECT. She also tells tales of her famous celebrity friendships in the book, from Senator Chris Dodd to Michael Jackson.
Carrie delves into her relationship with Eddie Fisher, to whom she grew close before his death. She wrote, “Near the end, he was doing all he could to get to know me, everything from hugging me tighter than any man had hugged me in my life to calling me fifteen times a week.”
In 2005, Carrie began her long-standing voice role as Angela, Peter Griffin’s boss, in the animated sitcom Family Guy. Fisher’s voice starred in 25 episodes of the show, spanning twelve years. The last two episodes Carrie acted in were aired after her death.
Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy’s creator, said, “Carrie Fisher was smart, funny, talented, surprising, and always a hell of a fun time to be around.” In 2007, Carrie joined the judge’s panel of the reality series On the Lot, a filmmaking competition which only lasted one season.
One of Carrie’s many close celebrity friends was the English singer-songwriter, James Blunt. Blunt was known to spend a lot of time at Fisher’s house, which sparked rumors that the two might be dating. However, when questioned, Carrie said, “Absolutely not, but I did become his therapist.”
Carrie shared that Blunt had been a soldier and “seen awful stuff.” She joked about being his psychologist, saying, “it would have been unethical to sleep with my patient.” After her death, Blunt said, “Fisher was my American mother and a real inspiration.”
In 2015, Carrie reprised her seminal role as Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, now as General Leia Organa. Her daughter, Billie Lourd, appeared in the movie alongside her as Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix.
Fisher’s performance was excellent, but she was criticized online for not looking as good as she had at age nineteen. In retaliation to the internet trolls, Carrie tweeted, “Please stop debating about whether OR not [I’ve] aged well. Unfortunately, it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have.”
After her first role alongside her mother in The Force Awakens, Billie Lourd began an acting career of her own. No longer known as just Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Lourd appeared in the Ryan Murphy series Scream Queens, from 2015 to 2016, as Chanel #3.
In Scream Queens, her character wore earmuffs all the time, a reference to Princess Leia’s buns. Lourd has since appeared in Book Smart, Billionaire Boys Club, and several seasons of American Horror Story. In 2019, she played young Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
A year later, Fisher also got a chance to star alongside her mother in Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Bright Lights is a documentary about their lives and was applauded as “an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty.”
The film premiered at the Cannes Festival in 2016 but was officially released only after the deaths of both Fisher and Reynolds. The documentary gained critical acclaim and is comprised of home videos, interviews, and footage the filmmakers collected of the two stars’ lives. It remains a beautiful tribute to their legacy.
Fisher’s final autobiography, The Princess Diarist, was released in 2016 and topped The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list. It tells the tale of the making of Star Wars and was described by some as “cringe-worthy,” primarily due to Carrie’s confessions regarding her secret affair with Harrison Ford.
Looking back, their relationship was semi-inappropriate, and it becomes clear that Ford took advantage of Fisher, who was only nineteen and infatuated. One review read, “In Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic, she turns discomfort into humor, but here, she turns humor into discomfort.”
When did Carrie Fisher die? Carrie died at age 60, on December 27th, 2016, after returning from an international book tour. How did Carrie Fisher die? Carrie stopped breathing on a flight from London to New York, fifteen minutes before landing, on December 23rd.
A passenger performed CPR on Fisher until the EMTs arrived, and she was rushed to UCLA Medical Center. She was put on a ventilator at the hospital, but after four days in the ICU, Carrie passed away. Initially, the cause of death was ruled cardiac arrest.
Sixth months after Carrie passed away, the coroner’s office released the news that the exact cause of Carrie’s death couldn’t be determined. They said contributing factors were sleep apnea and a build-up of fatty tissue on the walls of her arteries.
However, three days later, the full toxicology report was released. It revealed that Carries had traces of cocaine, heroin, morphine, MDMA, and other drugs in her system during her medical emergency. The report elaborated that it was impossible to determine when Fisher had taken the drugs.
On December 28th, 2016, the day after her daughter’s death, Debbie Reynolds had a stroke. She was at her son, Todd Fisher’s home, planning Carrie’s funeral. Reynolds was rushed to the hospital, where she passed away a few hours later. Todd claimed that just before her stroke, Debbie said, “I want to be with Carrie.”
A week later, a joint memorial was held for the talented mother and daughter. Carrie was cremated, while Debbie was entombed, but some of Carrie’s ashes were ceremoniously laid to rest next to Debbie’s crypt.
In 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Carrie Fisher appears in a posthumous performance as General Leia. The director Rian Johnson claims not to have added to her acting with any computer-generated version of her by explaining there was no need.
Johnson praised Fisher’s acting, “She gives a beautiful and complete performance in this film.” The Last Jedi is Fisher’s last performance, and the film was dedicated to her. Just before the credits roll as the screen goes black, appear the words: “In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher.”
When Carrie and Debbie died one after the other, Billie was left without mother and grandmother. The young actress was devasted by their deaths and shared how hard it was to grieve in the public eye.
In her statement regarding Carrie’s passing, Billie wrote, “my mother battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases… She’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.”
Carrie would be a grandmother were she alive today. In 2020, Billie gave birth to a son with her fiancé Austen Rydell. The couple named the baby Kingston Fisher; his second name is, of course, after Lourd’s late mother.
Billie continues to pay tribute to Carrie, dressing her baby up as Princess Leia and putting Fisher in Princess Leia onesies. Billie often shares pictures of her and Carrie, from her childhood, on her Instagram @praisethelourd. She also uses her platform to document her pregnancy and motherhood and to destigmatize breastfeeding.
Star Wars fans all over the world mourned Carrie’s death. Since Fisher had no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, her loving fans created a memorial for her on a blank star. Carrie may have passed away, but she will be remembered forever for her portrayal of Leia as both Princess and General.
Carrie Fisher will also be remembered for her devil-may-care attitude, daring sense of humor, openness about substance abuse and mental illness, and her contributions to motion pictures and television, both as an actress and a writer.