A new Star Warsfilm, heralded as the “best since Empire”, is about to be released. For fans of the franchise, however, a sadder date is approaching. December 27 will mark a year since the tragic death of Carrie Fisher, adored for her role in the space saga as Princess (later General) Leia Organa – and adored too for her wit, wry humour, and honesty about her mental health and addiction struggles.
In the year since her death (which was cruelly followed by the death of her mother, the actress Debbie Reynolds, just a day later) Fisher, never one to shun attention, has held on to her rightful share of the headlines. Here’s a round-up of all the posthumous revelations and tributes that have helped her outrageous, compassionate spirit live on in 2017.
She loved ‘ugly children portraits’
The HBO documentary Bright Lights gave us a first glimpse at Fisher's collection of old-fashioned (and, yes, pretty ugly) portraits of children, all of which she kept in the home she shred with Reynolds. Fisher would name the vintage portraits after different celebrities, claiming to see a resemblance – and refers to one, in the documentary, as “Shia LaBeouf as a Dutch underage prostitute”.
She once saved her half-sister’s life
In November 2017, Fisher’s younger half-sister Joely Fisher, who has struggled with her own addiction problems, reveals in a new book that sister Carrie effectively saved her life after a 2004 phone call.
“She talked me off the ledge,” the autobiography Growing up Fisher: Musings, Memories and Misadventures recounts. “Take a shower, drink a beer. She was the only one I could talk to who wouldn’t judge me, who knew the experience I was having. One junkie to another.” Joely and Carrie shared a father, singer Eddie Fisher.
She wanted to die in a very specific way
December 27, 2016. As the shock of Fisher’s death at the age of 60 sets in, fans take to social media to express their sorrow – and, in some cases, to honour the actress’s own wishes. Fisher, who died in hospital in Los Angeles following a collapse on a flight, famously stated: "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".
On June 16, the Los Angeles county coroner’s office reveals that Fisher died of sleep apnea with complications, with medical experts unable to pinpoint an exact cause of death. It is also revealed that traces of heroin, cocaine and other drugs were found in her body, although it is unclear exactly when they were taken in relation to her death.
Again, however, Fisher fans are having none of it: on Twitter, they insist that no matter what the autopsy says, they know the star “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra”.
Even Leia's home planet paid tribute
On December 28, thousands of players of the game Star Wars: The Old Republic decide to honour Fisher in their virtual galaxy far, far away, making their in-game characters congregate en-masse in House Organa on the planet of Alderaan (the home of Leia).
Unfortunately, so did Cinnabon
On a less meaningful note, outrage is sparked after baked goods company Cinnabon tries to pay tribute to Fisher (read: makes a tacky grab for retweets) with a powdered cinnamon image of Leia, complete with a “Cinna-bun” roll standing in for one half of the famous Star Wars hairstyle. A day after Fisher’s death, the company apologises and takes down its "RIP Carrie Fisher, you'll always have the best buns in the galaxy” tweet.
She lived her life 'bravely’
Mark Hamill, who will later pen a longer tribute, initially responds to news of Fisher’s death by simply tweeting: “No words #Devastated.”
“Carrie and I have been friends most of our adult lives,” says Star Wars creator George Lucas. “She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colourful personality that everyone loved.”
“Carrie was one-of-a-kind…brilliant, original,” says Harrison Ford. “Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life bravely.”
Just a few months earlier, of course, Fisher had sensationally revealed in her autobiography that she and Ford had an “intense” affair while filming Star Wars together in 1976. The news was eagerly seized upon, and fans delighted in the fact that the on-screen chemistry had indeed been for real. For Fisher, however, the secret relationship with the married actor, who was 33 to her 19, was an emotionally raw time – something she discussed with moving honesty in her book.
She owned a Prozac urn
A private joint memorial service for Fisher and Reynolds take places on January 4 – and Fisher’s ashes are interred in an urn shaped like a giant Prozac pill. The quirky antidepressant-themed receptacle is a tribute to the star’s sense of humour and, according to her brother Todd Fisher, actually belonged to the actress. "It was a porcelain antique Prozac pill from the '50s that was one of Carrie's prized possessions," he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
There will be no ‘CGI Carrie’ in Star Wars Episode 9
Star Wars fans are aware that Last Jedi filming has already been completed – although, in mid-January 2017, they don’t yet know that Episode Eight is going to be called The Last Jedi. But many are starting to worry about how the yet-to-be-filmed Episode Nine will handle the loss of one of its big stars (and crucial link with the original trilogy). Following the CGI-generated younger Leia seen in Rogue One, and the film’s CGI recreation of the late Peter Cushing, some are understandably afraid that Disney will digitally resurrect the actress for the movie.
On January 13, LucasFilm responds to these fears: "We don't normally respond to fan or press speculation, but there is a rumour circulating that we would like to address. We want to assure our fans that Lucasfilm has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher's performance as Princess or General Leia Organa.
"Carrie Fisher was, is, and always will be a part of the Lucasfilm family. She was our princess, our general, and more importantly, our friend. We are still hurting from her loss. We cherish her memory and legacy as Princess Leia, and will always strive to honour everything she gave to Star Wars."
She wanted Harrison Ford to sing a Wookie song at the Oscars
By late January, thoughts are turning to the forthcoming Academy Awards, and their annual tribute to all the Hollywood greats who have died in the past year (2016, of course, was famously brutal in this respect). But, it turns out, Fisher already had her own tribute planned out – and on January 28, an old 2010 Rebel Force Radio podcast clip of the actress discussing her scheme is unearthed.
“I saw [Harrison Ford} on Oscar night at some party,” Fisher says in it. “And I asked him – you know how they have the reel on all the people who how died? I asked him if he would be in my death reel, and if he would sing. It's just something I want. Because they did that thing with John Hughes, they brought out all these actors who worked with him. So I just figured they'll bring out, depending on, of course, when it happens, there's a lot of people they can bring out. He's going to sing Melancholy Wookie.”
In the event, Ford does not sing Melancholy Wookiee (which is not, as far as we’re aware, a real song) during the 2017 Academy Awards. But Fisher is, of course, still honoured on the night: she and Debbie Reynolds are shown at the very end of the night’s traditional In Memoriam montage section.
She had a cardboard cutout Leia guarding James Blunt
After Fisher’s death, one of the more unusual anecdotes shared about her comes from singer James Blunt, with whom she enjoyed a long, close friendship (he even recorded his breakthrough album Back to Bedlam while staying at her home). “She put a cardboard cutout of herself as Leia outside my room, with her date of birth and date of death on her forehead ” Blunt tells The Sunday Times in February 2017. “I’m trying to remember what the date was, because it was around now – and I remember thinking it was too soon.”
Her final TV role was largely ad-libbed
On April 4, Fisher makes her final television appearance, as the character Mia Norris, in an episode of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s comedy series Catastrophe. The season three finale, naturally enough, is dedicated to the late actress – and sparks a fresh outpouring of Carrie-love and grief on social media.
Later, Horgan reveals how Fisher’s final scene in the sitcom, in which the irritating Mia flicks to a show about a couple raising two schizophrenic children and dubs it “great TV”, was almost entirely ad-libbed. “We wanted to honour her, so that people really saw what great things she was doing,” Horgan tells IndieWire. “It’s moving, and it’s funny, and it’s all those things. Finishing on her ‘It’s great TV’ felt like a nice little swansong.’”
Her daughter Billie paid perfect tribute
On April 13, at the Star Wars Celebration event in Orlando commemorating the 40-year anniversary of the franchise, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd pays tribute to her mother – and makes headlines with her choice of red carpet outfit. With its high neck and long, draped sleeves, the white Tom Ford dress is a clear nod to Fisher’s Princess Leia.
As did her dog Gary
Carrie Fisher’s beloved (and very famous) French Bulldog also makes headlines at the same event, albeit in a much less glamorous way, after he makes a mess on the red carpet. Fans agree that Fisher herself, who often appeared on red carpets with Gary, would have found the incident “hilarious”.
She slapped Oscar Isaac silly
In a May 2017 Vanity Fair interview about the making of The Last Jedi, younger cast members John Boyega and Daisy Ridley share inspirational stories about Fisher; about how she encouraged Ridley to conquer her anxiety embrace her newfound fame, and urged Boyega to rise above the small but nasty backlash that marred his introduction to the franchise.
Oscar Isaac though, who plays pilot Poe Dameron, has a different anecdote to share. “We did this scene where Carrie had to slap me,” he tells the magazine. “I think we did 27 takes in all and Carrie leaned into it every time, man. She loved hitting me.”
Episode Nine would have been ‘Carrie’s movie’
“She was having a blast,” Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy says of Fisher, in the same Vanity Fair interview. “The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”
She had a Christmas tree all year round
In June, after it is announced that the house Fisher shared with Reynolds will be going up for auction, along with their vast collection of memorabilia, a surprising – but typically off-beat – nugget of information about the late star makes the news. Fisher, according to brother Todd, kept a year-round Christmas tree going – a tradition apparently inspired by the actor Harold Lloyd. “My mum used to take us over to his house, and he had this giant Christmas tree living in his living room, and Carrie and I were little kids, and he said ‘Why can’t we have Christmas all year round?’” Todd Fisher tells Good Morning America. “And so that’s what happened and consequently it affected Carrie psychologically and now we have a Christmas tree all year round.”
She always kept the home fires burning
Another unseasonal Carrie quirk? Constantly burning log fires in every room. “That was a tradition of Carrie’s too, to always have the fireplaces going – not very ecologically friendly but she loved it anyway,” says Todd Fisher.
She wanted her death to mean something
Lourd, meanwhile, is open about the drugs found in her mother’s body, and bravely states: “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding 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,” she adds.
The Last Jedi gives her the perfect send-off
In August 2017, John Boyega implies that The Last Jedi will give the character of Leia a fitting final appearance and send-off. But he also makes it clear that, contrary to some fan speculation, Leia definitely won’t die on-screen in this film.
“This movie, it sends her off in an amazing, amazing way,” Boyega tells ABC News on August 2. “And she is still kept alive in this franchise. That’s the beauty of it. She lives forever in a sense.”
His words echo an earlier promise from director Rian Johnson, who previously said that he hoped Fisher’s scenes in the film would give “emotional satisfaction” to fans.
She tried to adopt another child ‘for Christmas’
“Sometimes when crazy things were happening, I wanted to ask ‘is this just me?’” Lourd reveals in an August 2017 Town and Country interview, speaking about her mother’s unstructured, impulsive lifestyle. “My mum tried to adopt a kid. You know when you ask for a puppy? I asked for a sister. One year I was like ‘Hey Mom, I want a sister’. We tried to adopt – like, we did a whole thing and no, the home study was not strong.”
Harrison Ford still can't talk about her
On September 14, in a GQ interview, Harrison Ford says: “it was strange for me”, when asked about the revelations Fisher made in her 2016 autobiography, and the subsequent media attention. The actor also says that he was warned “to a degree” that his 1976 affair with Fisher would finally be revealed. (Fisher herself previously said she had sent him extracts, but heard nothing back.) Ford is not, however, prepared to comment further. “You know, with Carrie's untimely passing, I don't really feel that it's a subject that I want to discuss," he says.
She sent a sexual harasser a very special gift
October 2017. The world is still reeling from the revelations about Harvey Weinstein being a sexual predator, and victims are speaking out about harassment across the industry, as the ugly extent of Hollywood’s abuse problem becomes clear. There’s a resilient ray of light from beyond the grave, however, after people begin sharing a story about how Fisher once sent a cow’s tongue to a Sony executive who harassed her friend, screenwriter Heather Robinson.
"I just saw [the executive] at Sony Studios. I knew he would probably be there, so I went to his office and personally delivered a Tiffany box wrapped with a white bow,” Fisher told Robinson in an email (shared by the latter in a radio interview). "It was a cow tongue from Jerry's Famous Deli with a note that said, ‘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!’"
Gary the dog loved watching the Last Jedi trailer
On October 10, a shot of Gary watching Fisher in the trailer appears on the latter’s Instagram page, along with the caption “Just watched the new trailer of The Last Jedi and my mom looks more beautiful than ever. #garymisseshismom #garyloveshismom #garyloveshisfans #garyfisher #thelastjedi #starwars”.
A post shared by Gary Fisher the Dog (@garyfisher) on Oct 9, 2017 at 7:36pm PDT
... Almost as much as he enjoyed appearing in it
On December 6, Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, confirms to eagle-eyed fans, who have spotted the famous pooch in a still, that Gary Fisher will indeed be appearing in the film, albeit in alien form. Bring on the #spacegary.
She's probably furious with Rian Johnson right now
This December, just ahead of the film’s opening in cinemas, it’s confirmed that Star Wars: The Last Jedi ends with a screen displaying the words: “In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher.”
“I want to dedicate tonight to Carrie,” Johnson says at the film’s premiere. “I know she’s up there right now flipping me the bird and saying ‘Dammit, Rian, how dare you bring the mood down and make this night a solemn tribute? So let’s all have a blast, together, for Carrie.”