A child of Hollywood royalty, Fisher carved out her own idiosyncratic career, enjoying her biggest onscreen popularity as Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy before going on to establish herself as an acerbic, truth-telling writer with such books as Postcards From the Edge. Her HBO special, Wishful Drinking, in which she recounted her unusual life, was nominated for an Emmy as outstanding variety, music and comedy special in 2011.
Born to actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher in 1956, Carrie Fisher grew up in a showbiz fishbowl — her parents divorced when she was just 2 after Eddie Fisher left Reynolds for actress Elizabeth Taylor in what at the time was a major tabloid scandal.
The young Carrie, who grew up in Beverly Hills, first stepped onstage when she was 15 to join her mother in the Broadway musical Irene. She made her film debut four years later in Warren Beatty’s Shampoo (1975), playing a precocious teen who seduces Beatty’s sexually adventurous hairstylist.
Appearing at Cannes in May to promote the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which HBO will air in March, Fisher joked, "I didn't want to be in show business, and I think I did a very good job [of that]."
Nevertheless, she left her mark on the big screen. Star Wars (1977), in which she led the rebellion as Princess Leia, was only her second film and first starring role. She would reprise the part in the two sequels that rolled out in 1980 and 1983, and she returned to the character, in a now-mature incarnation, in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fisher, who is thanked in the end credits of the new Star Wars spinoff movie Rogue One, was scheduled to appear in the next Star Wars movie, Episode VIII, scheduled for release on Dec. 15.
Fisher often spoke with ambivalence about Leia, telling Rolling Stone in 1983: "She has no friends, no family; her planet was blown up in seconds — along with her hairdresser — so all she has is a cause. From the first film, she was just a soldier, front line and center. The only way they knew to make the character strong was to make her angry."
However, in the wake of the success of The Force Awakens, Fisher appeared to have made peace with her onscreen alter-ego, attributing the success of the franchise to the fact that "this movie's about family, Star Wars is. That's why it has the appeal."
And she received another Emmy nomination for a 2007 appearance on NBC's 30 Rock, in which she played a crazy writer, spoofing her Star Wars dialogue with that episode's last line: "Help me, Liz Lemon! You're my only hope!"
When some fans criticized how the older Leia looked, Fisher took to Twitter. She admitted that some of the negative comments had hurt her — "unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings," she wrote — but she also fought back, adding, "Youth & beauty R NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS, they're the TEMPORARY happy Biproducts of Time or DNA. Don't hold your Breath 4 either."
But while Fisher will always be associated with Leia and the princess’ famous hair buns, Fisher — who also appeared in such films as Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), When Harry Met Sally … (1989) and Soapdish (1991) — drifted away from acting full-time and found a new identity as an author, screenwriter and all-around Hollywood wit.
Frankly addressing her own problems with substance abuse and bipolar disorder, she penned the 1987 hit novel Postcards From the Edge, an only slightly fictionalized version of her own life as a sometimes-depressed actress and the daughter of a major, and occasionally intimidating, Hollywood star. She went on to write the book’s screen adaptation for the 1990 film version, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
While serving as a script doctor on such films as Sister Act, Last Action Hero and The Wedding Singer, Fisher wrote several more novels as well as the memoirs Wishful Drinking (2008), which she later turned into a one-woman play, the 2011 HBO special; Shockaholic and, most recently, the recent The Princess Diarist.
Whenever she appeared on the Hollywood awards circuit to pay tribute to another star, Fisher could be counted on to offer up a wry observation that provoked laughter. Speaking at the 2004 AFI Life Achievement Award given to Streep, she recalled what it was like to have the Oscar-winning actress play her. "After Postcards premiered, I began daily to see the pain and disappointment in the eyes of my family and friends every time I wasn't Meryl," Fisher admitted. "There's a name for this condition as it turns out — Merylnoma Streepdecoccus."
Fisher — whose most constant companion in recent years has been her French bulldog Gary, who accompanied her everywhere — was married to musician Paul Simon from 1977-83 and during the course of her life had a series of other romances with high-profile men, including a recently revealed affair with Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford.
In addition to her mother, survivors include her daughter, actress Billie Lourd, whose father is CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd; her brother Todd Fisher; and her half-sisters, actresses Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.