Carrie Fisher, Dead at 60: Despite Success and Fame, she Struggled With Drinking, Drugs, Men, and Mental Health Throughout Life


Carrie Fisher was as brutally frank as she was brutally funny – and it wasn’t like she had a shortage of material.

The Star Wars actress, who has died at 60 after suffering a heart attack, was born into Hollywood royalty yet spent her whole life skewering the world of celebrity.

Her main target was her own life and her battles with substance abuse and bipolar disorder.

Fisher, who was just 60, smoked pot at the age of 13, used LSD by 21 and went through electroshock therapy to treat her mental health issues.

Fisher was best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars but her wit and wisdom were what won her legions of fans.

Her honesty helped to dispel the stigma about the issues she suffered from – even if she would never have seen herself as a role model.

Fisher was born into Hollywood royalty in Beverly Hills; her mother was screen legend Debbie Reynolds – who at 84 has outlived her daughter – and her father was singer Eddie Fisher.

In 1959 Eddie Fisher left Reynolds and married Elizabeth Taylor, making Taylor Fisher’s step mother.

Fisher would remain very close to her mother for the rest of her life and the two lived next door to each other in Los Angeles.

It would not be until the mid-1990s that Fisher and Taylor made up and became good friends.

Fisher confronted Taylor at a party and in response Taylor pushed her into the pool – it worked and cleared the air.

Fisher debuted on Broadway in her teens and got her big film break alongside Warren Beatty in Shampoo in 1975 before briefly enrolling London’s Central School of Speech and Drama.

She dropped out at the age of 19 after landing the role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’ 1977 space epic Star Wars.

It became the role that defined her career and eclipsed her other parts including her appearances in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’.

But by then she was already battling the drug use that would bedevil her whole life.

Fisher used drugs to ‘dial down’ her mental health issues and make her able to function.

Fisher was diagnosed with bipolar at 24 and, speaking to Psychology Today in 2001, she said: ‘Drugs made me feel normal. They contained me’.

In an interview on CNN with Larry King, Fisher said that she became addicted to drugs because she copied her father, who had similar issues of his own.

Fisher was using cocaine during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi , something she only admitted to later in her life.

In interviews Fisher made clear she had a love hate relationship with the character.

She once said: ‘People want me to say that I’m sick of playing Leia and that it ruined my life. If my life was that easy to ruin, it deserved to be ruined’.

Fisher nearly did not even get the part and Star Wars director George Lucas was not convinced by her playing the role in such a forthright way.

In 1978 when she was auditioning for the part Lucas told her to go to a fat farm and lose ten pounds, which she did.

Recounting one of her conversations with Lucas, Fisher once said: ‘George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says: ‘You can’t wear a bra under that dress’.

‘So, I say: ‘Okay, I’ll bite. Why?’ And he says: ‘Because…there’s no underwear in space’.

In her memoir Wishful Drinking, Fisher joked that ‘George Lucas ruined my life’, though he also made her very wealthy with an estimated personal fortune of $5 million.

Fisher said that she hated wearing the bikini during the slave scenes and said that it was degrading.

But that meant that one of her favourite scenes in Star Wars was when she killed Jabba the Hutt, who in the script forced her to wear it.

She said: ‘I had a lot of fun killing Jabba the Hutt. They asked me on the day if I wanted to have a stunt double kill Jabba. No! That’s the best time I ever had as an actor. And the only reason to go into acting is if you can kill a giant monster’.

Fisher later told new Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley: ‘You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was’.

Speaking to ABC News last year Fisher said that she embraced being typecast as Leia. She said: ‘I’ve gotten into character and I’ve never gotten out again’.

Fisher’s drug problems reached their low point in 2005 when a night of debauchery ended with gay Republican lobbyist R. Gregory Stevens dying of an overdose in her home.

The day before the Academy Awards Fisher found his lifeless body lying next to her in her bed, she later revealed.

Fishers’ one-woman show ‘Wishful Drinking’ was turned into the memoir of the same name and made its way to Broadway in 2009.

In the show she said: ‘I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result’.

At another point, she cracked: ‘I don’t have a problem with drugs so much as I have a problem with sobriety’.

Fisher’s 1983 marriage to Paul Simon, which lasted just 11 months, was troubled.

In the biography of Simon ‘Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon’ by Peter Ames Carlin, he writes that they ‘fought a lot’.

Carlin writes: ‘(Paul) didn’t want to have to deal with Carrie when she came pinballing home with Christ only knew what powders and pills sizzling inside her feverish skull.

‘Then it would be her turn to crash back to earth, ashamed of her wild moods and indulgences, suddenly convinced she had neither the brains nor the maturity to keep up with her older genius boyfriend’.

The two tried to heal their differences by visiting a spiritual healer in the Amazon where Fisher took a psychedelic tea drink to cleanse her spirits.

Carlin wrote that it was to no avail because her ‘depths were unimaginably deep’.

For her part Fisher summed it up like this: ‘It was a fantastic wedding, but a bad marriage’.

Fisher married celebrity PR agent Bryan Lourd in 1991 but their three year marriage ended when he left her for a man.

After the split Fisher tried to play happy families for her daughter’s benefit, even going on holiday with Lourd’s new lover.

Fisher has said: ‘I don’t know if I believed I made him gay, but I’d failed and that’s all that really counts’.

Among the other men who courted her was Dan Aykroyd; he once proposed to her after she choked on a Brussels sprouts and he saved her with the Heimlich maneuver.

In addition to acting Fisher was a talented screenwriter and revised numerous scripts, including ‘Sister Act’, ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Outbreak’.

This summer Fisher had attracted a new generation of fans when she became an agony aunt for young people.

In her introductory letter she wrote: ‘If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true and that’s unacceptable’.

Fisher’s therapy dog Gary, who was at her bedside in hospital in her final days, had of late become a star in his own right.

In a hilarious interview on Good Morning America Gary stole the show by poking his tongue out the whole time, causing interviewer Amy Robach to laugh uncontrollably.

In her latest memoir ‘The Princess Diarist’, Fisher revealed that she and Harrison Ford had a secret relationship during the filming of Star Wars.

Fisher wrote: ‘It was so intense. It was Han and Leia during the week, Carrie and Harrison during the weekend’.

In 1985 Fisher had a near fatal overdose and checked herself into a 30-day rehab program in Los Angeles.

She turned the incident into fuel for her comic novel ‘Postcards from the Edge’.

Addressing her drug issues, Fisher once said: ‘All in, I’ve had about four or five slips since I started going to 12-step support groups at the age of 28, making that four or five slip ups in 23 years, which is not great.

‘The most painful thing about returning to this dark planet is seeing the look of disappointment and hurt that these forays invariably put in the eyes of your loved ones’.

Fisher has said that she has few regrets but she was ashamed of the effect that her drugs and mental health problems had on her daughter.

In one interview she said: ‘How many eight-year-olds have to visit their mom in a mental hospital? I’m not one for regrets, but I do regret anything I did that made life hard for my daughter.

‘But after thinking I’m an idiot, she now thinks I’m funny, which is great. She’s just really bright and pretty and hilarious and has a great voice. She’s a DNA jackpot!’

Fisher is survived by her daughter, Billie Lourde, her brother, Todd Fisher, sisters Tricia and Joely Fisher as well as her mother.

Fisher will appear once more as Princess Leia after her death as she had recently filmed scenes for next year’s Star Wars film, Episode VIII.

Earlier this year Harvard College gave Fisher the Outstanding Achievement in Cultural Humanism, whose previous recipients have included comedian Eddie Izzard, former Senator Barney Frank, author Salman Rushdie and British author and comedian Stephen Fry, who made a TV documentary with Fisher about mental illness.

Harvard said the award was for Fisher’s ‘forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy’.

In Wishful Drinking, Miss Fisher said she had only one request for her obituary.

She wrote: ‘However I go I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra’.

SOURCE: Daily Mail