Carrie Fisher

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It is hard to express how I feel about the passing of Carrie Fisher. It is obviously always sad when someone goes so young and I clearly didn’t know her but for me and any number of other forty or fifty somethings this is the hardest celebrity death in a year in which we have lost many great people. Carrie Fisher, like Mark Hamill and to a lesser extent Harrison Ford, is not just an actor I admire, her face is one that figured significantly in my early years. 

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Many people in my generation had a childhood shaped by Star Wars. It wasn’t just the three movies that came out at three year intervals during the point at which I was starting to become the person (geek) I grew into but it was all the stuff that went with them; the books, the posters, the music and the toys. I would estimate that I spent around 70% of my life from 5 to 11 thinking about it and probably not a much lower percentage in the years since.

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It isn’t Princess Leia that I am mourning today though because that character would not have existed in anything like the form she does without Carrie Fisher. It isn’t that she was an attractive woman, although it probably was largely that when I was 12, it was that she was a confident, brave, heroic and sassy woman and all of that, especially the last part, came from Fisher. If you have seen or read any interviews with the actor, or read any of her books, you will know that she was never afraid to call out sexism, prejudice, hypocrisy or affectation. Like her famous character, if she thought it looked like junk she would say so. She was, for example, quite open about how she had been pressured into losing weight for The Force Awakens saying they didn’t actually want her in the film, they only wanted some of her. Sassy, witty and telling it like it is.

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This is how she differed from her co-stars; the other stuff you saw of her over the years built on what you liked about her in Star Wars. Mark Hamill you barely saw at all and Harrison Ford you saw too much of for him to be properly associated with just one part but with Fisher that same understated courage, dry humour and flawed confidence was always there. Her occasional film work, especially Hannah and Her Sisters, The Blues Brothers and When Harry Met Sally, cemented this. 

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Much has been said about how Peter Cushing has been digitally resurrected to reprise his part from Star Wars in Rogue One and how tragic that the same is now effectively true of Carrie Fisher. The end of this latest Star Wars was sad enough but watching it now is going to be properly heart wrenching. How great that Princess Leia appears in that film though, what a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher that will be. The fact that both Rogue One and The Force Awakens have strong female leads is absolutely a part of Fisher’s legacy. Her performance in the 1977 movie was hugely influential not only within this series but in contemporary cinema generally. It might be overstating it to say there would be no Ellen Ripley, no Black Widow or no Buffy Summers without her but she came first and really helped set the mould. 

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So I bid you a very very fond farewell Carrie Fisher. You were the most important Hollywood actress to me. You were my Marilyn Monroe, you were my Lauren Bacall, my Katherine Hepburn and my Elizabeth Taylor. To quote Max von Sydow at the start of The Force Awakens, you’ll always be a princess to me. Disney may have bought Star Wars but you stole the idea of what a princess is from them and made it totally, impressively and inspiringly your own.

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