14 times Carrie Fisher was the hero we were looking for

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May 4, 2017, 1:47 PM EDT (Updated)

“Her introduction to us was as a take-action, brave, fearless leader in charge of her own damn self. She gets captured by Stormtroopers in the very beginning of A New Hope, but not before she jumps into harm’s way and offs one while showing the world that women don't need to wait for a man to save themselves.”

Upon news of Carrie Fisher’s death, I was trading memories of my favorite princess with my friend Erin, who summed up Leia’s first scene in Star Wars with the above quote.

I don’t think I could have said it better. A hand sliding a disk into R2-D2, a couple stealthy glances, and then the sight of that Defender sporting blaster with the long barrel as she stepped from around the corner and took out a Stormtrooper. Before she spoke a line of dialogue, and before we knew who she was, we knew what Leia was all about.

Much like Leia, we know what Carrie Fisher was about. She left a lasting impression on both the public at large, and on fans across the globe – and maybe even in some galaxies far, far away – through a life of honesty, humor and incredible work.

To celebrate that life, we’ve rounded up our favorite Carrie Fisher moments from her performances and body of work, and included some of her very unique insights, and nuggets of wisdom.

Leia’s Escape from the Death Star
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Carrie Fisher’s role as Princess Leia in 1977’s Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) was obviously one of the most groundbreaking female characters in the history of film, nay, fiction in general. However, the importance of that role could arguably be distilled into a single bellwether moment that reshaped the collective industry’s approach to the female characters away from being either helpless damsels or exploitative sex objects. 

The scene in question was Leia’s rescue from Detention Block AA 23 on the Death Star. By this point in Star Wars, we already knew that Leia possessed a stronger mettle than her gorgeous countenance and bizarre bun-brandishing hairdo might have one think, especially since we saw her ambushing Stormtroopers on the Tantive IV. However, as Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie found themselves pinned down by Stormtrooper blasts with no solution at hand, Leia abruptly yanked the blaster from a clueless Luke’s clutches, provided her own cover fire and improvised the famous garbage chute escape! 

Contextually, in 1977, Leia’s sudden alpha eruption was a “twist.” While the idea of a badass female grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns is something easily taken for granted in today’s action and sci-fi films, this one moment – independent from the myriad things that made Star Wars such a cultural phenomenon – would forever reshape the female action archetype. Make no mistake, the profound nature of this moment hinged on the performance of a showbiz-bred newcomer in Carrie Fisher, who absolutely cemented her own iconic status. Her loss will be greatly felt by not only the generations-spanning Star Wars fan community, but by an industry that she helped shape. – Joseph Baxter

(Image courtesy artist Leka of PixelBloodbath on Etsy)

Carrie Fisher the Rebel

“They don’t want to hire all of me - only about three-quarters!” - Carrie Fisher in 2015 to Good Housekeeping U.K. 

Most actors tied to huge franchises are very careful not to bite the proverbial hand. But Carrie Fisher was never afraid to call BS when she couldn’t stand the smell. During the press tour for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fisher didn’t hold back when asked if she was ordered to lose weight to return to the role of Leia Organa. She said Disney told her to drop 35 lbs, and she did, but she made sure to speak out about Hollywood’s obsession with looks, and especially about the double standards actresses often face.

“Nothing changes, it’s an appearance-driven thing. I’m in a business where the only that matters is weight and appearance…They might as well say get younger, because that’s how easy it is.”

How many big stars today would speak out like that in the middle of promoting what was perhaps the most anticipated film of all time? Go ahead and think about it, I’ll wait.

But that was Fisher. She didn’t quite have F-U Money, but she had enough self-respect to and brass balls to speak up when she felt like it. In today’s PC-crazy, image-conscious society where most celebrities are media-trained into bland quote mannequins, Fisher was a breath of fresh air. 

By the way, the last line of that quote — “They might as well say younger” — is particularly interesting, given the talk about Rogue One and its groundbreaking use of CGI to bridge the gap between the film and A New Hope. We can only guess as to what Fisher would have said about that. But we can be sure that she would have been blunt. Because no matter what, Carrie Fisher was always, ALWAYS, going to speak her mind. –Mike Avila

Leia and Han's First Kiss
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back  

While getting her hands dirty helping to repair the Millennium Falcon, a skill most princesses seldom display, Leia and Han share an incredibly tender, sexy, intimate moment leading to the wilting of Leia's guarded will and she allows her emotions to rise to the surface, if but for one moment, before being interrupted by a certain gold-tinted protocol droid. The scene is brilliantly timed, edited and executed by director Irvin Kershner, whom most actors thought was a gruff curmudgeon, and showcases the palpable on-screen chemistry between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, exhibiting perhaps some of the real-life carnal knowledge the two enjoyed during the filming of the original film, as revealed in Fisher's recent autobiography, The Princes Diarist.  Her reciting of the "I like nice men" is pitch perfect in tone and timing and is one of the many reasons The Empire Strikes Back is considered the finest film in the Star Wars saga. There is a natural unfolding of this vulnerable moment as she stammers and trembles while Han rubs her hands that transcends mere acting and we love her for it.  After viewing a montage of Star Wars kisses at last year's Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Fisher reacted by saying, "My God, I never realized that. I was quite the space slut.  But they look pretty good." – Jeff Spry

On That Bikini (and the rest of her space wardrobe)

The Star Wars franchise is full of odd and memorable costuming choices, but Fisher probably suffered the most (except for the droids) in her outfits. Fisher's cinnamon bun hair in A New Hope took two hours to assemble and required her to be in the makeup chair at 5 a.m. "Then later on, I did Saturday Night Live, and they just clumped a hairpiece on that looked exactly the same. And I was upset," Fisher wrote.

Then there was George Lucas' insistence during the filming of that movie that "there's no underwear in space." That meant a 19-year-old Fisher was braless under her white gossamer Princess Leia robes, with only gaffer tape keeping the movie from an unintentional R-rating.

The metal bikini Leia wore in Return of the Jedi has long been a cosplay favorite — Jennifer Aniston even sported it in an episode of Friends. Fisher wrote in The Princess Diarist that she was initially nervous about the barely-there outfit. “I had to sit very straight because I couldn't have lines on my sides, like little creases,” Fisher wrote. In The Making of Return of the Jedi, Fisher told the author, “When I laid down, the metal bikini stayed up, so Boba Fett could see all the way to Florida.”

These days "Slave Leia" has caused some headaches for the the family-friendly Disney Company. At the same time, Fisher leaned into the armor class zero vulnerability of the costume juxtaposed with Leia's "Huttslayer" moment. "I sawed his neck off with that chain that I killed [Jabba the Hutt] with," Fisher said. "I really relished that because I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight, and I couldn't wait to kill him."

At a recent appearance at Wizard World Chicago, Fisher also said if she had the powers of Jedi, “The Force would eliminate bikini waxing forever.” —Denny Watkins

"Someone Who Loves You"
Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi  

Although Fisher is remembered for that gold bikini in Jedi, it's her role as the bounty hunter Boushh who shows up at Jabba's palace with a captive Chewie that shocked me as a kid, and continues to thrill me as an adult. Leia/Boushh presents a legitimate threat to the Hutt with her thermal detonator (Or "ay yato yato," if you prefer), then turns out to be our warrior princess setting out to defrost and rescue a certain smuggler. Boushh removing her helmet to reveal Leia to Han is still one of the series' best moments, and ranks up there with the tenderness of the "I love you"/"I know" scene. It showed how Leia is simultaneously strong and tender, and instead of a damsel in distress, she's the one doing the rescuing. - Aaron Sagers

“You Contemptible Pig”
The Blues Brothers

While it didn’t enjoy precisely the same level of replay as the Star War sagas, The Blues Brothers was another oft-quoted film in my childhood home. And Carrie Fisher was perfect as the homicidal mystery woman on the hunt for deadbeat Jake and his brother Elwood. I already knew Fisher as Leia, so it delighted me to no end to see the princess take the gloves off and break bad.

Sure, Fisher played the jilted ex stood up at the altar, but she was no victim. She kicked all sorts of ass, and did so with heavy artillery. After confronting the brothers in the tunnel scene, she briefly succumbs to the charms of Jake/John Belushi when he removes his shades -- but also served as a surrogate for the audience at that moment since no one could resist the funnyman. Immediately after he uses her again, she gets right back up, and is ready to kill the bastard.

As a boy not quite 10 years-old it made me realize that not only did I have a crush on Princess Leia, but also on the woman behind the character. And it provided a revenge quote (along with Inigo Montoya's promise) at home: "So, for me, my mother, my grandmother, my father, my uncle, and for the common good, I must now kill you." – Aaron Sagers

On "Having It All"

“The thing about having it all is, it should include having the ability to have it all. Maybe there are some people who know how to have it all. They're probably off in a group somewhere, laughing at those of us who have it all but don't know how to.” - Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge 

The phrase ‘having it all’ is overused to the point of annoyance these days. But as always, Carrie Fisher was ahead of the curve. In 1987, she wrote the above paragraph in her semi-autobiographical bestseller (and later wrote the screenplay for the 1990 movie, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine). As would become her style, she laid bare all of her issues, vulnerabilities and fears in that book, often with biting sarcasm and downright funny passages. She would quickly master that blend of gallow’s humor and stark honesty in her writing and her many interviews, and I think that helped many people, including myself, identify with her.

Here was this big star, known across the galaxy for playing Princess Leia Organa, talking about her drug addiction and bipolar disorder. That makes a difference. People talk about how celebrities are just like us and their voices shouldn’t matter more. But the harsh truth is, yes, they may be just like us, but their voices are louder. And Fisher understood that and used her platform in a way that wound up reaching a great many people with similar afflictions. As time went on, I obviously never forgot that she was one of my heroes from Star Wars. But my admiration and respect for her grew from seeing her grace under pressure, and brutal, unflinching honesty. - Mike Avila


"You're Right. You're Right. I know You're Right"
When Harry Met Sally

As the best friend to Meg Ryan's Sally, Fisher played Marie in the 1989 movie -- and stole every scene she was in. In this scene, she's talking about her relationship with a married man, before trying to set Sally up with a roster of guys, and potential husbands. Not only was Fisher's timing in the scene spot-on, she also delivers a performance as a believable woman who is receiving sound advice from friends, even as she chooses to ignore it. The relationship between these women feels authentic, even though it's damn funny to watch. On another note, it's worth re-watching Fisher's work in The 'Burbs, released the same year. In that one, Fisher plays a rare straight woman opposite the zany Tom Hanks. - Aaron Sagers

Defending Rey's Hug
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

In what we hope isn’t Fisher’s last scene ever in Star Wars (her Episode VIII scenes are reportedly wrapped), Leia hugs a distraught Rey after she returns from the Starkiller base. Many fans were miffed that Leia didn’t head straight to comfort Chewbacca, who just saw Han Solo die. When asked if that bothered her as a longtime (mostly uncredited) Hollywood script doctor, Fisher mentioned that “no one listens to me,” but defended that moment. “That was noticeable to me, [that Leia] hugged Rey before Chewie,” Fisher said. “But [Rey] had a harder time than Chewie did, I think. And I knew deep down that she had.” - Denny Watkins

"I Was Up for Princess Leia. I Was This Close. You Know Who Gets It? The One Who Sleeps with George Lucas."
Scream 3

Did you know that Carrie Fisher slept with George Lucas to get the role of Leia? That's the rumor Fisher lookalike Bianca Burnette (played by Fisher herself) spreads in the 2000 movie Scream 3. The meta scene in the slasher spoof is a perfect one, and hands-down one of the best in the entire horror franchise. It is classic dry, sardonic Fisher -- even though her role as a roadtripping (and oral sex hinting?) nun in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back in 2001 is worth an honorable mention. - Aaron Sagers

The Honesty of Wishful Drinking

"Living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls ... so if you're living with this illness and functioning at all, it's something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication." - Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher’s career may have been launched with a set of hair buns, but it reached an apex when she took to her pen. Fisher, who suffered from mental illness and drug addiction, was able to write about her struggles in a straightforward, unsentimental, yet entirely sympathetic way—first as a stage play and then as a non-fiction book, Wishful Drinking. In the show, which aired on HBO and can be found on YouTube, Fisher lays bare her past as the daughter of Hollywood royalty, as a Star Wars icon, and as a survivor of multiple mental health woes.

I see Wishful Drinking as Fisher’s real career highlight, her way of showing the world how she learned to laugh at her life and her disease. It was her best medicine. As she said herself, to her daughter Billie Lourde, “Your mother is a manic-depressive drug addict. Your father is gay. Your grandmother tap dances, and your grandfather eats hearing aids. And my daughter laughs and laughs and laughs. And I said, 'Baby, the fact that you know that’s funny is going to save your whole life.'” - Carol Pinchefsky

Why, You Stuck-Up Half-witted, Scruffy-Looking Nerf Herder
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Leia was never the stereotypical entitled prissy-princess character despite her title. One of Fisher’s most memorable movie quotes is from Episode V when she calls Han Solo a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder" while the deluded “laser-brain” struggles to defend his machismo to the tune of Chewie and C-3P0 snickering in the background (as much as a Wookie’s "rwoooorwooo" sounds and a droid’s beeping can possibly have any semblance of human laughter). As Han strives to defend his alpha male status, Leia declares he just doesn’t know anything about women by brazenly kissing Luke in front of the man, the Wookiee and the droid. - Liz Rayne

Life with Gary

In a memorable interview for The Force Awakens, in which she remarked that she “wouldn’t be anywhere else at this hour, except on TV”, Fisher, now General Leia, sat down with ABC News and her Instagram-famous (not to mention ridiculously adorable) Boston terrier Gary. Gary’s galaxy-sized personality is known for more than just his trademark hanging tongue. While therapy droids don’t exist yet, this dog that bears a passing resemblance to Yoda was responsible for being a major force in helping Fisher cope with bipolar disorder. Gary and Fisher were inseparable to the point that he accompanied her to the screening of The Force Awakens and gave an enthusiastically panting “review” before ABC gave him his own celebrity chair for the interview. Check out an adorable, and now heartbreaking, gallery of Gary and Carrie together on red carpets, and around the world. - Liz Rayne

Life, Death, and the Legacy of Star Wars

In Fisher's script for Postcards from the Edge, Suzanne — played by Meryl Streep but often seen as an author avatar for Fisher herself — says, “Yeah, that’s me. I don’t want life to imitate art; I want my life to be art.” One example of imagining her life as art: In her autobiography (Wishful Drinking, again), Fisher described how you could die in the vacuum of space when your body expands but your underwear does not. “So I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra,” Fisher wrote.

She always knew that her role in Star Wars would overshadow everything else in her career. "If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn’t say I wrote Postcards," Fisher said.  "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 Harry Met Sally?’ Princess Leia will be on my tombstone." 

Fisher also understood the immortality granted by a role that was such a massive part of pop culture. At her August appearance at Wizard World Chicago, Fisher was asked about the passing of her Star Wars co-star Kenny Baker (the actor inside R2-D2) just a few days prior. “I don’t really connect with the fact that he is gone,” Fisher said. “If you’re in Star Wars, you really never go.” —Denny Watkins