“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.”
– Master Yoda
Samuel Bleifer and Andrew Zentgraf
Being the two resident Star Wars fanatics here at The Pitt Maverick, it is arduous to find the words necessary to convey the significance of the loss of Carrie Fisher, though we will certainly attempt to.
As we now begin to mourn the loss of someone who begifted so much to the cinematic world and our own, it is imperative to recall the best of days — but never forget the worst — as any ample eulogizer would. We lost a truly timeless figure whose strength, wit, honesty, talent and jovial attitude became an inspiration for generations of young girls and boys.
Carrie Fisher was not only a bold princess on screen, but an incredibly talented artistic thinker as well. Fisher’s edits to a page of the script of The Empire Strikes Back are shown in a photo recently retweeted by Pablo Hidalgo, a Lucasfilm Creator/Story Development Executive. Even her simple, handwritten notes and changes to the script can display her natural talent for character acting and film narrative.
She wrote profusely over script pages in red pen, editing the script to fit the bold, sometimes snarky personality of Princess Leia. Fisher’s character was not just a typical princess figure, she was a fighter and a leader. Princess Leia revolutionized the role of a female character in film due to her rough attitude and personal brilliance. Fisher furthermore paved the way for Natalie Portman’s Padme, Daisy Ridley’s beloved Rey and Felicity Jones’s fiery Jyn Erso to follow in her lead. Since Fisher portrayed Leia as a brave, unforgiving leader, the role of women in Star Wars movies became more significant than the role of women in other movies. George Lucas might be the writer of Star Wars, but Carrie Fisher’s emphatic portrayal of Leia throughout the saga propelled the character into Hollywood immortality.
Aside from her performances in the Star Wars films, Carrie Fisher was also a gifted writer and hilarious comedian. She was unafraid to be blatantly honest, even in front of peers and colleagues. She was the type of talent who could offend her best friends and herself in front of a crowd, and do so with grace and dignity. For someone to be able to make fun of their own life or that of their friend’s is an ability that is not easily acquired. However, Fisher had a knack for this type of comedy and it seemed to be a natural ability of hers. It is in these settings where her unending enthusiasm and lighthearted approach to life can be felt even when discussing deeply personal issues. While speaking at the AFI Life Achievement Award Ceremony for George Lucas, Fisher put her bold personality and comedic prowess completely on display. The event was supposed to focus on George Lucas receiving a prestigious award for his work in film, but when Fisher spoke she surprised everyone by filling with room with laughter while critiquing Mr. Lucas. Her talent to turn tragedy into comedy is exemplified in this quote from her unexpected roast of George Lucas:
“I’m an alcoholic because… George Lucas ruined my life, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.”
Fisher’s natural talents can been seen through her numerous books as well, the most recent of which was released in 2015. In The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher writes in a deeply personal tone like in many of her other works.
Fisher would often write about her personal struggles in order to encourage strength in her readers, such as she revealed later on in her adult life that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
While struggling with her disorder, Fisher was also battling her addiction to cocaine and prescription medication. In 2005, lobbyist Greg Stevens was found dead in Fisher’s home. Fisher was scarred by this experience, having said that after his death she commenced to do drugs once again. Her recurring battle with drug addiction was one of the most prominent obstacles in her life, one that she kept open about, unashamed. In a Hollywood landscape, where stars keep their personal struggles under wraps, Fisher nobly opened up about hers and despite her battles with drug addiction and bipolar disorder, Fisher returned to the cinema and the national spotlight just last year to critical acclaim.
One of the most stark moments of J.J. Abram’s The Force Awakens — and the one with which this piece draws its title — is when we are informed that the once Princess Leia, has now become a General in The Resistance. The role — in a sense — had matured. While her ubiquitous humor was still present, General Leia now resembled a leadership role in the mold of Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel. Possessing and projecting strength and wisdom, along with demonstrated grace and compassion.
Not even two weeks ago, the first audiences departed Rogue One after viewing a computer generated Princess Leia with Fisher’s 19 year old face. The both of us made an early preview showing, and could not imagine such a sorrowful day as this one would come so soon.
Alas, this is not the end. Just under a year from now — when the highly anticipated Episode VIII will be released — the Star Wars fandom will give another tearful goodbye to Fisher. Just as Star Trek fans said their final farewells to the magnificent Leonard Nimoy and the youthful Anton Yelchin in this past summer’s Star Trek: Beyond.
She will be remembered far past the film’s release. As fans future, present and past will laugh, weep and rejoice with her. While Carrie Fisher’s incredible talent will be missed on screen, her talent can still be appreciated by watching her movies, reading her books, or by viewing interviews featuring her.
Carrie Fisher taught us that even in the face of struggle you can always find a way to laugh. Fisher, despite her Hollywood royalty status, was so human and extremely relatable. She was unafraid to share her deeply personal struggles and was an advocate for mental health issues, but still never shied away from cracking jokes about herself. She showed that we can even find joy or laughter in our darkest hours.
Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for everything you have done. You will be missed, but never forgotten. May the Force be with you, always.
Follow Andrew and Sam on Twitter: @PizzaPartyAndy and @SamBleifer