A representative confirmed to Bustle on Tuesday that Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher died following a severe heart attack she suffered a few days earlier. Soon after, The Force Awakens director, JJ Abrams, paid touching tribute to Carrie Fisher with a beautiful handwritten message.
"You didn't need to meet Carrie Fisher to understand her power," he wrote. "She was just as brilliant and beautiful, tough and wonderful, incisive and funny as you could imagine. What an unfair thing to lose her. How lucky to have been blessed with her at all."
Abrams, a talented director and proven sci-fi film guru, was chosen to direct the Star Wars reboot in 2013 after a lifelong fandom of the series. Before Abrams had even written the script for TFA, Fisher had joked about reprising her role in the new film. "She’s in an intergalactic old folks’ home,” Fisher joked, before making her real prediction for her character's future. “I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle.” It came true almost exactly as she said — Abrams wrote Fisher as a successful general in the Rebel army, and gave her daughter a small cameo in the film. Abrams praised Fisher's “free-associative mind” and “divining rod for wordplay,” showing his respect for Fisher's intellect and wit.
Princess Leia will always be part of Fisher's legacy, but she was so much more than the one character. The daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds, Fisher was always destined to take Hollywood by storm. At just 19 years old, Fisher landed her role in Star Wars as the fierce and powerful Princess Leia Organa.
Mental illness and substance abuse slightly derailed her career, though she still starred in such beloved movies as Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally. She later used those difficult life experiences to advocate for people suffering through the same problems she dealt with — her books The Princess Diarist and Wishful Drinking told frank stories of her life with bipolar disorder to raise awareness for the reality of the disease.
Fisher's comeback to the Star Wars universe in The Force Awakens was one of the most highly anticipated parts of the reboot. Princess — and then General — Leia was an iconic figure for sci-fi fans, and particularly young girls, around the world since the original film's release in 1977. Her bold and unapologetic social media presence also made her an icon to a new generation of fans, which she recently used to fight the ageism she experienced upon her resurgence in Hollywood.
Fisher will always be remembered by the millions of fans who loved her as Princess Leia, but her most meaningful legacy was her powerful advocacy for mental illness. Until the very end of her life, she continued to disprove stereotypes across the board — that women don't belong in sci-fi, that mental illness is permanently debilitating, and that older women can't be beautiful and have prolific careers.
Fisher will be deeply missed for her talent, charm, poise, wisdom, and honesty. For her friends, including Abrams, the loss can be no less than crushing. Fisher's death is a heartbreak for millions around the world, but those who knew her best lost more than an icon.