Carrie Fisher, the actress, author and screenwriter who brought a rare combination of nerve, grit and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, died on Tuesday morning. She was 60.
A family spokesman, Simon Hall, confirmed the death in a statement, saying Ms. Fisher died at 8:55 a.m. She had had a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday and had been hospitalized in Los Angeles.
Ms. Fisher, the daughter of the pop singer Eddie Fisher and the actress Debbie Reynolds, went on to use her perch among Hollywood royalty to offer wry commentary in her books on the paradoxes and absurdities of the entertainment industry.
“Star Wars,” released in 1977, turned her overnight into an international movie star. The film, written and directed by George Lucas, traveled around the world, breaking box-office records. It proved to be the first installment of a blockbuster series whose vivid, even preposterous characters — living “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” as the opening sequence announced — became pop culture legends and the progenitors of a merchandising bonanza.
Ms. Fisher established Princess Leia as a damsel who could very much deal with her own distress, whether facing down the villainy of the dreaded Darth Vader or the romantic interests of the roguish smuggler Han Solo.
Wielding blaster pistols, piloting futuristic vehicles and, to her occasional chagrin, wearing strange hairdos and a revealing metal bikini, she reprised the role in three more films — in “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, in “Return of the Jedi” in 1983 and, 32 years later, in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” by which time Leia had become a hard-bitten general.
Winning the admiration of countless fans, Ms. Fisher never played Leia as helpless. She had the toughness to escape the clutches of the monstrous gangster Jabba the Hutt and the tenderness to tell Han Solo, as he is about to be frozen in carbonite, “I love you.” (Solo, played by Harrison Ford, caddishly replies, “I know.”)
Offscreen, Ms. Fisher was open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She gave her dueling dispositions the nicknames Roy (“the wild ride of a mood,” she said) and Pam (“who stands on the shore and sobs”). She channeled her struggles with depression and substance abuse into fiercely comic works, including the semiautobiographical novel “Postcards From the Edge” and the memoir and one-woman show “Wishful Drinking.”
For all the attention she received for playing Princess Leia, Ms. Fisher enjoyed poking wicked fun at the character, as well as at the fantastical “Star Wars” universe. “Who wears that much lip gloss into battle?” she asked in a recent memoir, “The Princess Diarist.”
Having seen both its light and dark sides, Ms. Fisher did not take fame too seriously, or consider it an enduring commodity.
As she wrote in “The Princess Diarist”:
“Perpetual celebrity — the kind where any mention of you will interest a significant percentage of the public until the day you die, even if that day comes decades after your last real contribution to the culture — is exceedingly rare, reserved for the likes of Muhammad Ali.”
Carrie Frances Fisher was born on Oct. 21, 1956, in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was the first child of her highly visible parents (they later had a son, Todd), and said in “Wishful Drinking” that, while her mother was under anesthetic delivering her, her father fainted.
“So when I arrived,” Ms. Fisher wrote, “I was virtually unattended! And I have been trying to make up for that fact ever since.”
In 1959, Ms. Reynolds divorced Eddie Fisher in the wake of his affair with Elizabeth Taylor, whom he married that same year. (Ms. Taylor later left him to marry Richard Burton.)
Any semblance of a normal childhood was impossible for Ms. Fisher. At 15, she played a debutante in the Broadway musical “Irene,” which starred her mother, and appeared in Ms. Reynolds’s Las Vegas nightclub act. At 17, Ms. Fisher made her first movie, “Shampoo” (1975), Hal Ashby’s satire of Nixon-era politics and the libidinous Los Angeles culture of the time, in which she played the precocious daughter of a wealthy woman (Lee Grant) having an affair with a promiscuous hairdresser (Warren Beatty).
She was one of roughly two dozen young actresses considered for the role of Princess Leia in Mr. Lucas’s marathon casting sessions for “Star Wars.” (Cindy Williams, Amy Irving, Sissy Spacek and Jodie Foster were among those who also read for the part.)
Many of Ms. Fisher’s line readings from that film have since become part of the cinematic canon: her repeated, almost hypnotic exhortation, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”; her wryly unimpressed reaction when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) arrives in disguise to rescue her from a detention cell: “Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?”
“Star Wars” became a financial and cultural phenomenon, launching more movies and a merchandising machine that splashed Ms. Fisher’s likeness on all manner of action figures and products while casting her into an uneasy limelight.
She partied with the Rolling Stones during the making of “The Empire Strikes Back,” hosted “Saturday Night Live” and had romantic relationships with Dan Aykroyd (with whom she appeared in “The Blues Brothers”) and Paul Simon. She and Mr. Simon had a marriage that lasted less than a year, and he was inspired to write his song “Hearts and Bones” about their time together.
As its lyrics go:
Two people were married
The act was outrageous
The bride was contagious
She burned like a bride.
In “The Princess Diarist,” she admitted what many fans had long suspected: During the filming of the first “Star Wars” movie, she and Harrison Ford (who was married at the time) had an affair.
Ms. Fisher acknowledged taking drugs like LSD and Percodan throughout the 1970s and ’80s and later said that she was using cocaine while making “The Empire Strikes Back.”
In 1985, after filming a role in Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters,” she had a nearly fatal drug overdose. She had her stomach pumped and checked herself into a 30-day rehab program in Los Angeles. Those experiences later became grist for her caustic, comic novel “Postcards From the Edge,” whose chapters are variously presented as letters, diary entries, monologues and third-person narratives.
As the main character, Suzanne, writes of her rehab stay: “Mom brought me some peanut butter cookies and a biography of Judy Garland. She told me she thought my problem was that I was too impatient, my fuse was too short, that I was only interested in instant gratification. I said, ‘Instant gratification takes too long.’”
The book was later made into a movie, directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Ms. Fisher. Released in 1990, it starred Meryl Streep as Suzanne and Shirley MacLaine as her movie-star mother.
On film, Ms. Fisher also played the scene-stealing best friend of Meg Ryan’s title character in the 1989 romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally…” On television, she played satirical versions of herself on shows like “Sex and the City” and “The Big Bang Theory.” She had a recurring role on the British comedy “Catastrophe” (seen here on Amazon) as the mother of the character played by Rob Delaney, one of the show’s creators.
Her survivors include her brother, Todd; her daughter, Billie Lourd, from a relationship with the talent agent Bryan Lourd; and her half sisters, Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher, the daughters of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens.
Ms. Fisher had a Dorothy Parker-like presence on Twitter, where she ruminated on the inexplicable mania surrounding “Star Wars” and her French bulldog, Gary, in playful messages filled with emoji.
Last year, after the release of “The Force Awakens,” she wrote, in part: “Please stop debating about whether OR not [eye emoji] aged well. unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have.”