There’s very sad news from Hollywood. Actress and author Carrie Fisher has passed away at 60. Fisher suffered a massive heart attack in the air, enrout from London to Los Angeles, on December 23, and finally succumbed to her condition on Tuesday.
Fisher was a dynamic, charismatic force in popular culture. She was born into a show business family—- her mother is super star actress Debbie Reynolds. She made her film debut in Shampoo, opposite Warren Beaty, in 1976. But she’s best known for her spirited portrayal of the dignified and rebellious Princess Leia in George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise, making a name for herself playing opposite Harrison Ford in his own break out role as Hans Solo, the seemingly brash, selfish smuggler with redeeming qualities. The chemistry between the two was palpable, as the success of the Star Wars films rocketed Fisher to stardom in the 70s and 80s.
However, fame often comes with a price. Fisher struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for years, very openly writing about her bipolar diagnosis and chemical dependency issues in her books. She penned the semi autobiographical novel ‘Postcards from the edge,’ which follows a fictitious actress, based on Fisher, rebooting her life and film career following a stint in drug rehab.
She also presented a poignant one woman show, ‘Wishful Drinking,’ which she turned into an autobiography. In total she wrote 6 books, which were emotionally honest, clear-headed critiques of society, Hollywood, and her own life. She was returning from a book tour visit in London to publicize her final work, ‘The Princess Diarist,’ based on diary entries she made while filming the first Star Wars film as a young woman, when she suffered her heart attack.
Fisher struggled with addiction, as many artists and actors do, though of course, these issues affect people from all walks of life. Perhaps the norms of show business life, particularly in the 70s, and the easy availability of money and drugs among the film industry crowd, make it particularly easy for young actors like Fisher to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
Also, people who endure serious bouts of depression often self-medicate, which provides some temporary relief but spells trouble down the road. In any event, it’s clear that some very talented and capable people, like Fisher, can fall victim to drug and alcohol dependency, and more medically-based treatment programs are needed to assure that they get adequate help, so they can continue living and working as productive members of society.
Learn more about Carrie Fisher’s life and career (New York Times)