Carrie Fisher: R.I.P.

If I had known a week ago, when I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, that actress Carrie Fisher would die of complications from Sudden Cardiac Arrest, when I reviewed the movie, I would given out the spoiler that Fisher appears at the very end of Rogue One, as her younger self, Princess Leia.

 

Thanks to the marvels of technology, the moviemakers discovered that they were able to transpose an actor’s face onto someone else’s body. In the case of the character Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars IV:  A New Hope, they took the long-since dead Peter Cushing’s face and placed it on actor Guy Henry’s body.

 

The effect is eerie, unsettling, and absolutely amazing. In the case of Princess Leia, as it turns out, they took 19 year-old Carrie Fisher’s face and placed it on Carrie Fisher’s own approximately 60 year-old body.  Unless you come from a galaxy far, far away, watching Rogue One, you can hardly be surprised at Princess Leia’s appearance.  In fact, given the storyline, you should rather expect it and would have been disappointed if she didn’t turn up at the end.

 

That was before Carrie Fisher’s death on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Movie-goers post-mortem were shocked to see her and tweeted that they wished they’d been given a spoiler-alert on this one.  One movie-goer saw the film on Tuesday.  They came out of the movie delighted, only to learn that Carrie Fisher had died.

 

When the news broke last Friday, all of us fans were hoping and praying that she would recover. Someone surviving a sudden heart attack is not unheard of and the patient can survive if they receive treatment pretty much instantly.  Evidently, she did.  Two passengers on her flight knew CPR.  However, Fisher really didn’t respond to the treatment.  In order words, she still wasn’t breathing.

 

According TMZ.com, the pilot of the plane radioed that he had a female passenger in distress, asking that a medical team stand by on the tarmac. Fisher was in such bad shape that the EMS performed “advanced emergency” resuscitation on the spot, presumably using an electronic defibrillator in an attempt to get her heart started.

 

Twitter was instantly alive with RIP Carrie Fisher hashtags. But the indomitably hopeful insisted on waiting until the news was official.  Fisher’s brother, Todd, and her daughter, Billie Lourd, sent out cryptic messages stating that the actress was in “stable” condition.  But soon, Todd told the press that the Associated Press report was inaccurate: his sister was neither better or worse, and that doctors weren’t telling them anything.

 

As the Christmas holiday approached, no more news than that was available. One could still hope – heart attack victims take at minimum 24 hours before they’re considered out of danger.  Why the actress’ family or the hospital didn’t list her condition as “guarded” can only be owed to the proximity to Christmas.

 

Would Carrie Fisher have wanted to ruin everyone’s Christmas? Carrie Fisher, who was always full of fun and vivacious wit?   Once the twenty-four hour period passed with no news, the situation became worrisome.  Was the family keeping silent until after the holiday was over?

 

That prospect became more and more likely.

 

Still, for those of us who were of Carrie Fisher’s generation, who were teens or a little older when Star Wars first came out, it was like a part of lives was slipping away. Mortality was looming over us.  None of us was nineteen, anymore.  We wanted to hope just a little longer.

 

Carrie Fisher famous mother, Debbie Reynolds, finally took over the public relations duty, apparently when Fisher’s brother and daughter balked at the idea of lying to an adoring public, especially the children.

 

Princess Leia was in stable condition, Reynolds firmly told us. Well, okay, then.

 

But the next day, the bad news struck. Carrie Fisher was dead at age 60.  She had never regained consciousness after the heart attack aboard the plane.  Fisher had had a busy autumn, leading up to her untimely death.

 

To celebrate her 60th birthday in October, she held an all-night party.  Most of us would be happy to celebrate all night – in bed.  Then she finished up her work for the next Star Wars film, as yet unnamed, other than Star Wars VIII.  She also did the work for the cameo appearance in Rogue One.  Then, while she was in London, she filmed a television episode, and went on tour to promote her new book, A Princess Diarist, in which she admitted to having an affair with Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford when she was 19, and he was a married 32 year-old with two kids.

 

That was some schedule for a sixty year-old. She had also undergone a dramatic weight-loss to do the two Star Wars films.  That’s really her in Rogue One, not some other actress with a face transplant.  Then she got on the plane, evidently with her daughter and her precocious French bull terrier, Gary, for a ten-hour flight from London to Los Angeles.

 

Some television medical experts suspect that during the long flight, Fisher developed deep vein thrombosis, a potentially life-threatening blood clot that, if loosened or not treated, will sent the clot directly to either the heart or the brain (usually the heart), causing instant death.

 

If Fisher didn’t move during that entire flight and then suddenly got up, perhaps to use the facilities, it could have dislodged the clot. Her heart may also have been weakened from her rigorous schedule.  In her last posted tweet, she wrote of the weight of the motion capture suit and how she thought it would be the death of her (rather than being strangled by her bra, as she wrote in one of her memoirs).

 

Whatever caused her death – overwork, anorexia, a drug-filled past – she’s gone now, and the galaxy of Star Wars fans is sadder for it. In the last few years, fanboys had been giving Fisher grief for the grave sin of growing older.  Her answer was the middle finger.

 

Now she has died and left a hole in the Star Wars universe. She completed filming Star Wars VIII.  But Disney revealed that she had been scheduled – spoiler alert! – to appear in the final Star Wars film, Star Wars IX , which is scheduled to come out sometime in 2019.

 

Some fans are already angered at the notion that they might use advanced CGI to reprise her role in that last movie. Still, it’s three years away.  No one raised a fuss about resurrecting Peter Cushing.  Someone else is now in the R2-D2 costume since Kenny Baker passed away (this year).

 

Three years from now, we might not be quite so unnerved by the proposition that a dead actress could be resurrected to finish her role. It’s a weird concept:  death imitating art.  For all we know, George Lucas and Mark Hamill won’t be here, either (God forbid).  Harrison Ford wasn’t taking any chances:  he had himself killed off in The Force Awakens so he can kill off his other iconic characters –  Rick Deckard and Indiana Jones – before he himself dies.

 

Lucas waited too long to make the prequels and the final installment of his series. He didn’t count on his leading lady dying prematurely (60 is a little young to be taking leave).  At the time, he was Star Wars’d out and wanted to work on other projects.  He left the rest of Star Wars to the future.

 

The prequels could have been filmed last. And, as I’ve written before, Star Wars didn’t need sequels after the original three movies – it needed to fill in the huge hole in the center, the gap between Star Wars III and IV.  They needed to be filmed while the original movie’s stars were still young – and alive.  Still, the technology is now available to make them young again.

 

Carrie Fisher had an incredible career as a writer, almost as legendary as her iconic role as Princess Leia. She co-starred in a number of movies, including The Blues Brothers, Hannah and Her Sisters, and personal favorite, When Harry Met Sally.

 

But it was her autobiographical and semi-autobiographical books that gave her fame as a writer. She was beautiful and witty, her sardonic style making people grieving over her passing laugh out loud in spite of themselves.  That’s probably the way she would have wanted it.

 

Fisher was Hollywood and inter-galactic royalty – a true princess. She was also a Liberal.  But it’s cruel to speak ill of the dead.  To loyal fans who didn’t care about her politics, she’ll always be the double-bunned galactic princess, firing away at Imperial Stormtroopers with her eyes closed, hitting the target every time.

 

Fisher had many funny lines in Star Wars, bouncing off co-star Harrison Ford. But the best, and unintentionally comedic line, came from Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) in the next-to-last scene of the movie.

 

As he’s climbing out of his X-winger fighter, a cheering crowd comes running towards him, with Princess Leia joyfully leading the charge.

 

“Luke!” she yells happily.  “Luke!”

“Carrie!” he shouts back, as they embrace and he twirls her around.

 

My mind always goes back to that theater in August of 1977, when I first saw the movie. I looked at my brother and he looked at me and shrugged.  “Carrie?” I mouthed.  “Who’s Carrie?”

I thought the character’s name was Princess Leia.

 

The audience, equally puzzled, fell silent. Up front, some young guy asked his friend the question on all our minds.

 

“Who’s Carrie?”

 

“Carrie Fisher. The actress who plays Princess Leia,” the friend replied.

 

Still…who?! (Which is what Princess Leia asks when Luke Skywalker introduces himself.)

 

Over the years, Carrie Fisher, despite her other roles, became indistinguishable from Princess Leia. She’ll always be the heroine role model for generations of young girls and women who admired the Princess’ feisty come-backs, wit, and courage.  She was beautiful, funny, and spunky.  After I saw the prequels, I wondered how Padme and Anakin could have produced such a firecracker.

 

Only Debbie Reynolds could have given the world such a daughter, for anyone who remembers “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Watch that movie, and you’ll know where Princess Leia really came from.  Thank you, Debbie Reynolds, for giving us your daughter, Carrie, and ultimately, Princess Leia.

 

Goodness knows how Disney thinks it’s going to replace Carrie Fisher. That’s impossible.  They might find her equal in beauty (I have a former co-worker who could be Fisher’s double).  But it would be hard to replicate her comic timing, her deep alto voice, and her irreverent outlook on life.

 

“We have no time for our sorrows,” Princess Leia tells a general on Yavin IV, as the Death Star approaches.

 

“Movies were meant to stay on the screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of story, carrying you rollicking along to the end, then releasing you back into your unchanged life. But this movie [Star Wars] misbehaved.  It leaked out of the theater, poured off the screen, affected a lot of people so deeply that they required endless talismans and artifacts [merchandise] to stay connected to it.”  From “The Princess Diarist.”

 

And finally, from a post on WebMD in which she answered questions about her battles with fame, drinking, drugs, and bipolar disorder:

 

“Have I gotten past it? [Being Princess Leia]  I wasn’t aware that I had!  I am Princess Leia, no matter what.  If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn’t say I wrote “Postcards [From the Edge, her best-selling novel]”.  Or, if I’m trying to get someone to take my check and I don’t have ID, I wouldn’t say:  ‘Have you seen ‘[When] Harry Meet Sally’?

 

“Princess Leia will be on my tombstone.”

 

 

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Published in: on December 28, 2016 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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