The People’s Princess
‘Carrie Fisher: A Life On The Edge’
When she died at the end of 2016, Carrie Fisher left an entire galaxy of fans stunned and saddened by her passing. From almost the moment of her birth, she was in the public eye, first as the heir to Hollywood royalty (her parents were movie star Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher), then as the regal Princess Leia in a galaxy far, far away. But her life as a brash, ballsy truth-teller ultimately helped her find her way through the ups and downs of life on the A-list.
In Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge, Sheila Weller chronicles Fisher’s tumultuous life. Fisher’s Hollywood parentage and affluence, Weller argues, were a huge influence on her addictive personality, but the real culprit was the long-undiagnosed bipolar disorder that helped create periods of manic creativity but also periods of pure mania. Fisher was born in the glare of the tinseltown publicity machine (her mother’s next-door neighbor was Louella Parsons, gossip columnist to the stars) and witnessed the break-up of her parents’ marriage at a tender age. She left high school to perform in Debbie’s Broadway show, and then had a quick turn in Warren Beatty’s 1975 film Shampoo. But another acting job, in a movie championed by no one but the director and Alan Ladd, Jr., made Carrie Fisher a household name.
Weller gets lots of access to Hollywood insiders and close friends of Fisher’s who divulge decades of great stories about Carrie’s life and loves, her battles with her mental illness, and the various addictions that came along for the ride, as well as her sometimes toxic but ultimately loving relationship with Debbie Reynolds, who famously introduced herself on the phone to her only daughter this way: “Hello, this is your mother…Debbie.” Weller crafts a sensitive but honest portrayal of the many struggles Fisher dealt with in her life, from the two major relationships in her life (Paul Simon was an ex-husband; Bryan Lourd came out as gay after fathering a child with Fisher) and the secret third one, the tryst with Harrison Ford on the set of the first Star Wars film, that Carrie only revealed in her final book, The Princess Diarist.
VIDEO: Carrie Fisher Talks Candidly About Her Personal Struggles With Mental Health Issues
Throughout it all, Carrie Fisher emerges as much more than the self-reliant dame of the Star Wars Saga. She was a talented writer whose novels and one-woman shows displayed her fierce honesty and fiery wit. She found a second life as a Hollywood script doctor, doing work on many films that went on to be classics. And she was an advocate for mental-health awareness, disclosing her own struggles with bipolar disorder long before it became fashionable for Hollywood stars to do so. Above all, she was a loving mother to her daughter Billie, a helpful daughter to her mother Debbie in the last years of her life, and a wonderful friend to stars and non-celebrities alike.
Carrie Fisher was much more interesting, it turns out, than many of the fictional roles she played over the years. Her death, followed closely by her mother’s a day later, left an Alderaan-sized hole in the hearts of many fans, but it was a damn fun ride to be in her orbit while she was here. Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge shows that the woman behind one of the most iconic roles in science-fiction history was herself a real badass, a princess for everyone who ever felt different or unloved.
(Sarah Crichton Books, November 12, 2019)