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Her life’s work

Carrie Fisher, iconic Star Wars actress, was a tireless mental health advocate until her last days

Carrie Fisher, iconic Star Wars actress, was a tireless mental health advocate until her last days

Carrie Fisher, best known for playing Princess Leia Organa in “Star Wars,” died Tuesday, according to a family spokesman in a statement released to People magazine. Beyond her iconic role in the mega movie franchise, Fisher was a prolific author and screenwriter, and a vocal advocate for the mentally ill, who helped to destigmatize mental illness throughout her career. She suffered a heart attack Friday on a trans-Atlantic flight from London to Los Angeles and was hospitalized. She was 60.

Fisher, who struggled with substance-abuse issues for much of her life, was one of the industry’s leading advocates for mental health, and was always remarkably frank about her own trials and tribulations — Meryl Streep portrayed Fisher’s battles with addiction in “Postcards from the Edge,” the 1990 movie written by Fisher and inspired by the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.

Fisher also wrote an advice column for The Guardian, giving her final bit of advice just last month, to a reader who wrote asking how to deal with a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

“You don’t have to like doing a lot of what you do; you just have to do it,” Fisher responded. “You can let it all fall down and feel defeated and hopeless and that you’re done. But you reached out to me – that took courage. Now build on that. Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do.”

Less well-known is Fisher’s work as a script doctor. She helped fix up scripts for movies like “Sister Act” and “The Wedding Singer.” In 1992, Entertainment Weekly described Fisher as “one of the most sought-after” script editors in Hollywood. 

Earlier this year, Harvard awarded Fisher the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism for her career as an artist and her work as a mental health activist. “Her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy,” said the Humanist Hub, which gave her the award.

The child of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Fisher spent her life in Hollywood inner circles. She has written three memoirs about her experiences: Wishful Drinking,  Shockaholic, and The Princess Diarist, the last released just this year. She’s also written five fictional novels. In her writing, Fisher has frankly detailed her experiences on the “Star Wars” sets, as well as her history with drug and alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder.

“I outlasted my problems,” Fisher once said in an interview with ABC News. “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”

Carrie Fisher will appear again as now General Leia Organa in “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” filmed last year and due out next year.

 

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