Man at His Best

Carrie Fisher Was Most Admirably Blind to the Bullsh*t

The outspoken and fearless star learned the hard way how Hollywood worked—and in the end worked the system on her own terms.

BY Mallory Andrews | Dec 29, 2016 | Film & TV

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Like the famous sci-fi character that introduced her to millions of fans around the world, Carrie Fisher had no patience for bullshit. Perhaps it was a symptom of growing up amidst the furor of her parent's famous split. Fisher, the daughter of screen icon Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, had witnessed first hand how the Hollywood publicity machine could chew people up and spit them out.

It was her deep, throaty voice and a countenance that conveyed wisdom beyond her years that contributed to her casting as Princess Leia Organa in George Lucas's 1977 space fantasy Star Wars at the age of 19. Donning the iconic white gown and "cinnamon bun" hairdo, Fisher's mark on the role was unmistakable. Her take on the princess was that of a scrappy fighter who could verbally and physically go toe-to-toe with the best of the boys, creating what would become a feisty role model for generations of young girls.

Fisher also held her own as the only woman on a set full of men, where she was routinely referred to as "The Girl." Her trademark unapologetic nature revealed itself while recalling an incident about being unable to wear a bra under her white costume. While relaying the story of being asked to tape her breasts down with gaffer tape, Fisher quipped to Lucas biographer Dale Pollock, "No breasts bounce in space, there's no jiggling in the Empire!" She later reprised the role in three sequels, including last year's The Force Awakens, belatedly promoted from Princess Leia to General Organa—a title finally worthy of her ineffable sagacity.

Fisher also held her own as the only woman on a set full of men, where she was routinely referred to as 'The Girl.'

She appeared in several memorable supporting roles over the decades, though often relegated to playing the friend to the leading ladies of films like When Harry Met Sally… and Hannah and Her Sisters. Her less well-known but more influential Hollywood legacy was as a script consultant, with Entertainment Weekly proclaiming her one of the most "sought-after [script] doctors in town." In the 1990s she was called upon to punch up the screenplays of Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and Outbreak. She was uncredited for all. Though she made a profitable career, she left script doctoring behind for reasons all-too familiar to freelance writers: The changing nature of the business saw more and more of her preliminary work on scripts going unpaid. As she explained to Newsweek in 2008, "Now in order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix the script. So they can get all the notes from all the different writers, keep the notes and not hire you. That's free work and that's what I always call life-wasting events." We should all be so forthright when recognizing our own worth.

Carrie Fisher at the book party for 'Surrender the Pink,' 1990

Fisher has never shied away from talking about the realities of living with depression and bipolar disorder, even at a time when the disease is still widely misunderstood. She was often accompanied on red carpets and press events by her service animal (and something of a social media star), a floppy-tongued French bulldog named Gary, whose constant companionship helped her manage her symptoms. "I am not ashamed of that," she said, speaking out about her mental illness in a 2008 interview with Diane Sawyer, "I survived that, I'm still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you."

Carrie Fisher as the Mystery Woman in 'The Blues Brothers'

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