It’s not unusual for an actor to try to distance themselves from their more famous roles, afraid of getting typecast. Elizabeth Berkley went from squeaky clean Saved By the Bell to Showgirls. Steve Carell got away from The Office by doing serious drama and dramadeys like The Way, Way Back, showing he was more than just Michael Scott. And Miley Cyrus… well.
As someone who’s done a bit of acting, I get that. Acting is an art and no artists really want to do the same thing over and over forever and ever. They want to branch out, show their range, prove what they can do. But I ask you, if the character you’re indelibly associated with is one that people love, one that inspires people, one that matters to people… is that such a bad thing? Leonard Nimoy was Spock, and eventually he learned to embrace that. Alan Rickman was Hans Gruber for one generation and Professor Snape for their children, and that was great for all of them. And since word came of Carrie Fisher’s heart attack last week, the responses from people have shown she was another such performer. She had entertaining roles in a lot of movies, and for years she was one of Hollywood’s greatest secret weapons, as a mostly-anonymous script doctor on Hook, Sister Act, and a number of other films for which she never received credit. But for most people who have been praying for her the past few days, it was her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars films that made her a part of their lives.
While it’s true that Leia was essentially the only significant female character in the original Star Wars trilogy, what a character she was. She was brave, strong, and an incredible force for good — she stood toe-to-toe with Darth Vader and didn’t blink an eye, grabbed a blaster and led her own rescuers on the escape from the Death Star, took the lead of the rebellion in later films. Even in Return of the Jedi, when Jabba the Hutt placed her in the much-maligned “Slave Leia” outfit, Carrie Fisher’s character was a pillar of strength, fighting against and ultimately killing her oppressor with his own chain.
She was tough as nails, is what I’m saying. And from all indications, that’s something that could also be said of Carrie Fisher herself. Her life may not have been easy, but she made the most of it, telling stories and creating a character that can and should be seen as an inspiration to people everywhere.
The last few days — the last few hours in particular — have seen fans coming out of the woodwork to talk about what both the actress and the character mean to them, that she’s someone to be admired, someone to be imitated. One could do far worse with their life than to be remembered as Princess and General Leia Organa.
I only hope that Fisher herself knew that people felt that way.