The Last Days of Carrie Fisher: An Exclusive Excerpt from the Bombshell Biography

The author-actor-satirist was emerging as a feisty feminist icon for the Trump era—then the demons that bedeviled her paid one final visit

On December 23, 2016, right before her favorite holiday, as the day was just starting in London, Carrie Fisher boarded United Flight 935 at Heathrow Airport. Accompanying Fisher was her constant companion, Gary, the French bulldog she’d adopted from a New York shelter. She took Gary everywhere: to talk shows, to restaurant dinners, and now to his own seat in the first-class cabin of this plane. The not-very-housebroken Gary, whose hot-pink tongue invariably hung sideways out of his mouth (“It matches [my] sweater,” Carrie once told an interviewer), was like her canine twin. They were sweet survivors together: he, of a puppyhood of neglect; she, of a Hollywood childhood of glamour, popping flashbulbs, and headline-making scandal when the marriage of her parents, Hollywood’s sweethearts Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, blew apart under the spell of the gorgeous, just-widowed Elizabeth Taylor.

Carrie subsequently survived early, sudden, international megafame—at age 20 in 1977—as Princess Leia, the arch-voiced galaxy-far-away heroine in that flowing white gown and those funny hair buns. Despite Leia’s storybook royalty—her silky, almost-parody-of-feminine clothing and touching, repeated plea (“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”), made all the more plaintive because she uttered it as a hologram miniature—she was the fiercest hero of them all: ironic, tart, and already a Resistance leader, while her twin brother, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), was still a mere farm boy and her later love, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), was a cynical gun for hire. She was the only girl warrior among the boys, and she could hold her own better than they could. If second-wave feminism had a science-fiction stand-in, it was the Princess Leia created by Carrie Fisher.

Fisher poses in the iconic metal bikini from Return of the Jedi. As her career blossomed she observed, “Celebrity is just obscurity biding its time.”

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

As Carrie and Gary settled into their seats for the long flight home to Los Angeles, if she had wanted to use the hours in the sky to mull her accomplishments, she had plenty about which to feel satisfied.

More consequentially than surviving early fame, Fisher was also a survivor of an inherited propensity for drug addiction, a hushed-up overdose, and major bipolar disorder. Fisher’s disorder could come on unpredictably, and for her, enduring it was like living “a war story.” She talked about both of these challenges so frankly and so helpfully to others that in the early years of the 21st century “she completely kicked the stigma of bipolar disorder to the curb,” says Joanne Doan, the editor of bp Magazine. Expert after expert would gratefully agree: Nobody took the shame out of bipolar disorder the way Carrie Fisher did.

Of course there was more, much more. Carrie had a brilliant, sage honesty and madcap personality—a crazy joyousness—pretty much unequaled in Hollywood. During the five-year run of her self-written one-woman show Wishful Drinking—her autobiographical late-career tour de force—she started sprinkling the audience, and her friends, with glitter. Actual glitter. She did it backstage at the Oscars; she did it at restaurants; she had special glitter-holding pockets sewn into her coat. Her house, tastefully decorated with antiques and folk art, was also chockablock with felicitousness: The tiles in the kitchen were embossed with an image of a Prozac capsule; one of her bathrooms contained a piano (don’t all bathrooms have pianos?), and what she called “ugly children portraits” hung in her living room.

Her bons mots were epic. During a National Organization for Women march in the 1980s with her friend the screenwriter Patricia Resnick, Fisher had wisecracked of a small weight gain: “I’m carrying water for Whitney Houston.” When she first dated her future husband, Paul Simon—who was almost as short as her, five foot one—she’d remarked, “Don’t stand next to me at a party—people will think we’re salt and pepper shakers.” When, late in the first decade of the 21st century, men started weight and age shaming her on social media, she bounced back with: “You’ve just hurt one of my three feelings.” When
Eddie Fisher wrote of his dislike for her mother in his second memoir and erroneously accused Debbie Reynolds of being a lesbian, Carrie, hurt and angry, nevertheless riposted, “My mother is not a lesbian.” Pause. “She’s just a really, really bad heterosexual.” When, ten weeks before she boarded this plane, it was revealed that the presidential candidate Donald Trump, whom she despised, ogled only beautiful women, she tweeted, “Finally! A reason to want to be ugly!”

Carrie Fisher at 17 filming Shampoo with Warren Beatty.

Bettman Archive

It wasn’t just snappy wisecracks that were her forte; she was good at substantive aphorisms. She knew from her parents’ up-and-down careers that “celebrity is just obscurity biding its time.” And she warned about the toxic nature of competitive Hollywood. “Resentment,” she liked to say, “is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Fisher’s main maxim for her complicated life: “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” In her book The Princess Diarist, she wrote that as a girl she had longed to be so wildly popular that she could “explode in your night sky like fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong.” Many would say she had achieved this goal. She was “irresistible,” said Albert Brooks; her friend Richard Dreyfuss called her a subject of “worship” among their friends. “I am a very good friend,” she once told Charlie Rose. “I can go the distance with people.”

The night before she’d boarded the plane for L.A., she had dinner with another one of her best friends, the author Salman Rushdie, and Fisher’s newer and younger friend, the Irish actress and producer Sharon Horgan, whose wacky-bitchy mother-in-law Fisher played on the British TV series Catastrophe. “She seemed hale and healthy, and she ate heartily,” Rushdie recalled. “She’d bought a house in Chelsea, which seemed to lift her spirits.” Fisher, a gift giver of wit and thoughtful specificity (and an opinionated matchmaker of Rushdie with women), handed the writer a tiny chocolatier’s box over the dinner table. He opened it, and “there were a pair of … chocolate tits!” He laughed, of course, and vowed to devour the breasts. (He never did; they’re still in his freezer.)

After the dinner, Carrie returned to her hotel for a good night’s sleep before her flight. She had packed a lot into the previous two months: She’d filmed her part in a glamorous sci-fi movie called Wonderwell in Italy and zipped over to London to shoot several episodes of Catastrophe. She’d also flown to L.A. and back for a few-weeks-late 60th birthday party that her mother had insisted be a big deal. Carrie had also been busy promoting The Princess Diarist, which disclosed the secret affair she had with Harrison Ford while filming the first Star Wars. It was her eighth book and, like all the others, a best-seller. She hadn’t been feeling particularly well. “She’d lost some spring in her step” during November, Horgan had noticed. In fact, she was almost ill enough to cancel a TV show hosted by one of her many English best friends, Graham Norton, to promote the book, but she had decided—just as her mother would have—that the show had to go on.

The plane took off, arched over the Atlantic Ocean, nipped the lower tip of Greenland, entered Canada, and zoomed over Montana, Idaho, and Nevada, approaching California. During the 11-hour flight, two young performers, a comedian named Brad Gage and his girlfriend, the YouTube personality Anna Akana, happened to be seated near Carrie. (Anna had just read The Princess Diarist.) Carrie slept for much of the flight, but then, 15 minutes from the scheduled landing, she woke abruptly and started vomiting uncontrollably. She said she couldn’t breathe. For decades she had worried about sleep apnea—a serious sleeping disorder where breathing can stop, dangerously. Now here it was.

Nurses on board the flight rushed to her side and administered CPR. “Don’t know how to process this but Carrie Fisher stopped breathing on the flight home,” Akana tweeted. “Hope she’s gonna be OK?” Akana has a large Twitter following, and this was the first news anyone, even Fisher’s family, had heard about the emergency. Not long before the scheduled landing, Carrie went into cardiac arrest. The pilot radioed emergency services; the plane was given permission to accelerate; an L.A. Fire Department truck met it on the runway, and paramedics rushed Carrie to UCLA Medical Center’s intensive care unit. For three days a virtual news blackout on her condition had media and fans on edge. On the morning of December 27, Simon Halls, the spokesperson for Fisher’s 24-year-old daughter, Billie Lourd, and Billie’s father, CAA managing director Bryan Lourd, announced: “It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother, Carrie Fisher, passed away at 8:55 this morning. She was loved by the world, and she will be missed profoundly.”

Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog accompanies her at a book signing a month before her death

Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage

Social media went wild with grief and awe, with Paul Simon, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford just a tiny handful of those close to Carrie chiming in; young, mostly female writers posted Fisher’s best tweets and witticisms. It became clear she had been a multifaceted hero hiding in plain sight. No one had taken her for granted when she was alive exactly, but with her death came a torrent of appreciation. No wonder that when the women’s marches were held in January 2017, thousands of women—including girls who weren’t even born when Star Wars was released—hoisted Princess Leia posters high.

Fisher’s life story—which she told and retold—started, of course, with her mother, the irrepressibly wholesome 1950s darling who sang and danced “Good Morning” with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain and earned an Oscar nomination for The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She was a glamorous member of old Hollywood who refused to let age get in her way. But these days, mostly everyone knew her foremost as Carrie Fisher’s mother, and everyone knew Carrie Fisher as Debbie Reynolds’s daughter. “Debbie had been America’s sweetheart, but as American values changed, that job was no longer open, so Carrie became America’s cynic,” says a close friend of both women.

A month before she died, Carrie told NPR’s Terry Gross: “It was just the year from hell.”

The public’s pain at Carrie’s death carried over to concern for her frail 84-year-old mother. How do you cope when your child—even a woman of 60—predeceases you? The next day, December 28, the public received news both shocking and unbelievable but also perhaps predictable. Carrie’s mother had been rushed to the hospital with a stroke. And then the headline: “Debbie Reynolds Dies.”

Debbie wanted to be with Carrie, Todd Fisher, Carrie’s brother, simply said. Later he would say that his sister’s death surprised him, but their mother’s did not. What didn’t get told amid the tragedy was that, as a close friend of Debbie’s put it, Debbie had braced herself for a “call about Carrie” every day for decades.

Carrie Fisher was a rare woman in American culture, one who embodied wit, honesty, originality, complexity, and feminism: “famous and beloved for simply being herself.” How could such a charismatic, quick-witted creature—adored by fans and best friends alike—be so vulnerable as to incite such worry in her mother?

Fans created a makeshift memorial on the Hollywood Walk of Fame following Fisher’s death

Greg Doherty/Getty Images

In November 2016, a month before she died, Carrie told NPR’s Terry Gross: “It was just the year from hell.”

Carrie was mostly referring to the maladies her mother had begun to suffer in earnest in late 2015 and into the following year. Debbie would endure two strokes as a result of having an abscess on her spine. “Everything that could go wrong [would go] wrong” with Debbie’s health, Carrie told Gross. “I said to the nurse … ‘Have you ever seen someone come back from this place?’ … And the woman said, ‘Sometimes.’”

But Carrie herself was not healthy. A journalist had to reschedule an interview twice because she had bronchitis. Her fear of sleep apnea was such that she regularly asked people to platonically share her bed. She earnestly took bipolar medications that friends worried were potentially dangerous. Then there were the long-term consequences of her intermittent drug abuse, begun to a goodly extent to quell her bipolar disorder. After an almost fatal overdose of tranquilizers in 1985 landed her in the hospital, she embraced rehab and recovery with “blissful” zeal, a friend said. Carrie wanted sobriety badly, but her sober periods often gave way to relapses, according to friends.

During this privately fraught time, Carrie spent a day with an old friend, Selina Cadell, whom she hadn’t seen or spoken with in years. When they met, Selina was startled by the difference that age and circumstances had wrought. “On the one hand, she was Carrie, my friend, whom I had always known, and we picked up where we left off. On the other hand, she looked older,” Selina says, then pauses, as if not wanting the next words to sound mean, just worried. “Much older. She had taken on the mantle of an old Hollywood dame. Her voice had changed, and her walk had changed.”

At the time Carrie was worried about being named a secondary codefendant in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of a 21-year-old would-be actress named Amy Breliant who had died of a heroin overdose months after briefly boarding in Carrie’s guest house while under the care of an unorthodox drug interventionist. Filming Wonderwell in October in Rome, Orian Williams, the film’s producer, saw Carrie’s strength and world weariness. “She was smart and witty and wonderful” he says. “Though she had her 60th birthday during the filming, I was very surprised by her age. I thought she was somewhere in her late 70s.”

The actor Vincent Spano, who was playing a fashion photographer in the film, became quite close to Carrie during the shoot and saw how worried she was about Harrison Ford’s reaction to her soon-to-be published The Princess Diarist. Spano could tell that her early intense and unrequited passion for Ford still exerted a hold on her. “The affair with Harrison—it had really affected her,” he says. “She was whooshed into this thing, and it was bigger than she was. It was one of those life experiences that sweeps you off your feet, and it meant a lot to her.” Carrie shared with Spano her worry that Ford wouldn’t like the fact that she wrote the book. “She was sensitive,” he recalls. “She was concerned if he would be OK with it.”

Fisher adapted her one-woman play into a best-selling memoir, one of eight books she authored

Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images

On October 21—Carrie’s 60th birthday—there was a huge party on the set. Says Williams, who hosted the party: “There was a ruckus until 4 in the morning.” Carrie tweeted that the party started at 2 a.m., and the police were called because of noise at 5 a.m.—“always the sign of a successful evening.” Her official 60th bash was now rescheduled to November 19, after the movie wrapped and she was back in L.A. Richard Dreyfuss, starring in a play in Connecticut and unable to attend, wrote Carrie, “OK, look, it may seem hard but it’s really easy. If you change the date of the party, I can make it. Otherwise, I can’t.” He never heard back from her.

And what a party it was! Oscar-winning American Beauty producer Bruce Cohen remembers there was a glow to it. It’s not as if people expected it to be Carrie’s last party, but “I had wonderful, deep catch-up moments with all of the friends. There were a few people”—like Dreyfuss—“who couldn’t make it, but almost everyone else was there, and we all embraced the momentous occasion: Carrie was 60! And the Coldwater Canyon house never looked more beautiful. Because of the Star Wars money, she had the resources to collect even more things. And she had just opened a new wing of her bedroom, which was a physical representation of her brain and her creativity. We all kind of realized, ‘Oh, we’re all here!’ Carrie and Nina Jacobson and Bruce Wagner and Gavin de Becker and Meg [Ryan] and Meryl [Streep] and Beverly D’Angelo and Helen [Fielding].” Some events have a mystical prescient significance, and this was one. “We knew Carrie was leaving the next day”—for signings of The Princess Diarist in New York City bookstores and then to London to film final episodes of the current season of Catastrophe. “And being there together with her in the beautiful house ignited some special happiness. Little did we know we’d be there, again, a month later—without her.”

While shooting Catastrophe, Carrie’s kindness and melancholy were evident to all. One night, “when she was going up to her room after dinner, she was mocking herself for her slow pace, her ‘old lady body.’” Horgan recalls, “She looked back at me and said, ‘If I’d known back then that I had something worth looking at, I’d have looked after it better. I was in good shape.’” That regret, long privately expressed to Dreyfuss, was now too top of mind to hide. A few weeks earlier, in late November, Carrie had told Rolling Stone, “The worst part is being criticized [on the internet]. … I’m not someone that can sort of just not look.” Rushdie saw the same vulnerability. “Carrie was very sensitive about her looks,” he says. As she turned heavier, “in her later years, if you wanted to see her, you basically had to go to Coldwater Canyon.” The fat shaming had deeply affected her. “She was very aware of what people thought and said,” Horgan says. “I didn’t like that she felt so hurt by it. I didn’t like that she criticized her own looks so much. But her feelings were hurt permanently, and there was no more hiding that fact.” As Carrie lamented to Kelly McEvers on NPR. “It used to be that you’re your own worst enemy. No longer. The internet is.” For any young actress, she warned, “Eventually it’s going to say, ‘You look old. You look fat. It’s over.’”

On December 13 she appeared as a guest on her friend Graham Norton’s morning talk show to promote The Princess Diarist and shoot the breeze with the man through whom she had met her Catastrophe costars and friends. Though she was feeling ill the day before, she rallied for the show and spoke of how bad she felt that because of her book Harrison would now be asked about his long-ago affair with Carrie for the rest of his life. At her dinner with Rushdie and Horgan on her last night in London, “We sat and drank and talked till 11:15,” Rushdie recalls. “ And then she said, ‘I have to go. I have a plane to catch in the morning.’”

Fisher and daughter Billie Lourd with Debbie Reynolds. The day after Carrie’s death, 84-year-old Debbie died of a stroke

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

When reports of Carrie’s heart attack broke after her flight from London landed at LAX, her immediate family raced to the hospital. Meanwhile Carrie’s friends scrambled for news. Rushdie says, “After seeing her in such good shape the night before, I was shocked that this had happened. Helen [Fielding] and Bruce [Wagner] and I were on the phone constantly to try to find out what was going on.” Dreyfuss called Ed Begley Jr. “I said, ‘I’m in San Diego. If I come up now, can I get in the hospital?’ Ed said, ‘No. The family is trying to keep people away,’ ” Dreyfuss says. “I was so fucking angry at myself” for missing her birthday party because of his play.

Carrie was in the ICU for three and a half days. On Christmas Day, Debbie tweeted, “Carrie is in stable condition. If there is a change, we will share it. For all her fans & friends. I thank you for your prayers & good wishes.”

Many suspected that it was only a formality that she was kept on life support. When on the morning of December 27, Simon Halls solemnly and simply announced Carrie’s death, the cause was heart attack; no toxicology report was in the immediate offing.

Carrie’s death made war-worthy newspaper headlines and generated a social media landslide. Among the early tweets was from the usually very private Paul Simon: “Yesterday was a horrible day. Carrie was a special, wonderful girl. It’s too soon.” (Simon was criticized for calling her a “girl,” but he had known her as a girl.) Mark Hamill tweeted, “No words #Devastated.” After he had composed himself he wrote a longer tweet. Harrison Ford released a statement: “Carrie was one-of-a-kind … brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life bravely.” J.J. Abrams, who directed her in the latest Star Wars trilogy, wrote, “You didn’t need to meet Carrie Fisher to understand her power. She was just as brilliant, tough and wonderful, incisive and funny as you could imagine. What an unfair thing to lose her. How lucky to have been blessed with her at all.”

Debbie had braced herself for imminent news of her daughter’s fatal overdose for four decades, and their closeness over the last year and a half had been profound. Three months later Todd would tell the media about his talk with Debbie the night that Carrie died. “She was setting me up for her leaving the planet” is how he put it. Debbie told Todd she wanted her own funeral plans changed, from a low-key cremation to a burial with Carrie. “She was, like, asking my permission to go,” Todd says. “She literally looked at me and said, ‘I want to be with Carrie,’ and closed her eyes and went to sleep.” Todd says that when the two of them left the hospital right after one of their last visits with the dying Carrie, he was the one who was crying while their mother “truly understood” what had transpired.

On Wednesday, December 28, the day after Carrie’s death, as Debbie was helping Todd plan Carrie’s funeral, she collapsed: another stroke—this one fatal. The entire country reacted to the tragedy of a beloved famous mother dying one day after her beloved famous daughter. That night a cross-country light-saber vigil to Carrie was held; incited by social media, thousands of Princess Leia fans lifted their sabers into the darkened sky in tribute to their fallen heroine.

“Come to the house on Thursday [the 29th],” Richard Dreyfuss says Ed Begley Jr. told him. A private memorial service was taking place for Carrie and Debbie. About 200 people assembled. “It was so crowded I barely got into the living room, but I sat next to Penny [Marshall],” for a long time Carrie’s closest friend, Dreyfuss says. So shocked and saddened that he wouldn’t be able to break down and fully cry for another three months, he told Marshall, “‘Let’s just pretend Carrie’s in Australia.’ That’s when I thought, ‘Who are we? Who are we without Carrie?’ We were really a lot of interesting people, but we were not tied together—except by her.”

Penny Marshall and Bryan Lourd at Fisher’s funeral in 2017

Reed Saxon/AP/Shutterstock

Decades earlier, in Delusions of Grandma, Carrie had written: “Without William there was no cause to intensely connect them. Without William they’d be together alone.” Dreyfuss now felt this; Carrie was their William, several dozenfold. Bruce Cohen had said virtually the same thing after the postfuneral gathering, seeing Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep, Buck Henry, Beverly D’Angelo, Bruce Wagner, Candice Bergen, and all the rest: “We are all here because of Carrie.” Courtney Love attended with her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain; Eric Idle was there. Sarah Paulson was there. Carrie had created a world; not many people can do that; a world including the most accomplished, celebrated people, almost no one can do that. Gloria Crayton made the food that had been the staple of all of Carrie’s birthday parties, including the one the month before, her last: fried chicken, collard greens, and corn bread. Billie spoke briefly, as did Stephen Fry, Tracey Ullman, and Streep, who sang “Happy Days Are Here Again” to close out the occasion. It was Carrie’s favorite song.

The funeral for Debbie and Carrie was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park on Friday, December 30. (That night, every Broadway theater went dark in their honor). A hearse carried Debbie’s body, clad in her favorite bright red dress. Todd carried Carrie’s cremated ashes in, of all things, a giant Prozac capsule—approximately eight inches tall and eight inches in circumference. This was a prized possession of Carrie’s that Todd and Billie decided was precisely what Carrie would have wanted. Carrie had once insisted Mark Hamill heckle her funeral. The grieving, single-file procession of black-clad mourners, most of them celebrities, was the precise opposite of heckling, but Carrie in Prozac conveyed her message in a way that only she would have been bold enough to deliver.

Debbie and Carrie were laid together in a handsome burnished-wood casket, with their names alongside each other on the front panel. A cluster of red roses capped the casket, which was placed in a white marble semicircle bearing a statue of two women. All those who had been at the memorial service were there, plus Gwyneth Paltrow and Jamie Lee Curtis. Bryan Lourd looked somber. Billie was with her boyfriend Taylor Lautner and their young fellow castmates from the TV show Scream Queens, Lea Michele and Emma Roberts. Carrie’s elegant daughter seemed to be taking control with astonishing maturity for a 24-year-old. Having graduated from NYU, now back in her hometown as an actress, Billie had read the book Adult Children of Alcoholics and appreciated that her mother was always honest with her. Despite her problems, Carrie raised a loved, emotionally healthy daughter, widely admired by those who know her. Soon after Carrie’s death, Lautner tweeted of Billie: “This girl is one of the strongest, most fearless individuals I’ve ever met. Absolutely beautiful inside and out.” The Monday after the funeral Billie would tweet: “There are no words to express how much I miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby.”

Fisher died just before her brand of raunchily self-styled feminism swept America.

On June 19 the internet came alive with the long-delayed results of the Los Angeles County coroner’s toxicology report. The official cause of death was, as had been stated in late December, “sleep apnea,” but now “and other undetermined factors” was added. “Based on the available toxicological information, we cannot establish the significance of multiple substances that were detected in Ms. Fisher’s blood and tissue, with regard to the cause of death.” Then came the headline-causing news: “Those substances, for which she tested positive, were cocaine, methadone, ethanol, and opiates.” She had apparently ingested the cocaine within 72 hours of her death. She had also been exposed to heroin, but the time and dose could not be determined, nor if the heroin or the ecstasy had contributed to her death. The report’s specificity and nuance were obliterated by the three drugs in the viral headlines: cocaine, heroin, ecstasy. The implication: Carrie had relapsed.

Todd Fisher said publicly that the news of the drug use did not surprise him. As for Billie, she issued a statement so forthright there could be no doubt that in the best sense she was her mother’s daughter. “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life,” Billie asserted. “She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases. She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom; she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you, Momby.”

Carrie’s inability to completely curtail her drug use should not have overwhelmed her virtues, and to those who knew her, it didn’t. When Jim Hart, Carly Simon’s second husband, was about to check into the Betty Ford Clinic, Carrie called him. “I so understand what you’re going through! You’re not going to be alone.” Perhaps most Carrie-like, when her friend Heather Ross was told by a Hollywood producer that she would “never make a movie in my town” if she resisted his advances, Carrie sent the producer a gift-wrapped Tiffany box containing a cow’s tongue. The attached note read, “If you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box!”

Fisher’s Princess Leia character became a feminist icon for the resistance movement after Donald Trump’s election

Carrie Fisher died just before her brand of raunchily self-styled feminism, a candor she possessed all her life, swept over her town, her industry, America. It had happened subtly over the years and was finally, just before her death, met with prideful ownership: Carrie Fisher was a major badass, as the approving term went—a feminist hero, with sweeping reach.

She was born into a fantasy world, with a brain and a sensibility that found comfort there, and she fought her way to reality. As Sady Doyle, the author of Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fearand Why, aptly pointed out, “Carrie Fisher could have made things easy on herself … but that wasn’t Fisher’s style. In fact, she refused to fit any of the stereotypical and limiting roles that the world tried to force upon her: Hollywood heiress, bimbo in a bikini, drug-addled train wreck, crazy showbiz reject, washed-up old lady. She managed to reclaim her own narrative by relentlessly confronting the world with the spectacle of her human complexity. By peeling back the edifice of her glamour and insisting we meet the messy, funny, flawed woman underneath, Carrie Fisher became her own legend.”

Adapted from Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge. Reprinted by permission from Sarah Crichton Books: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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