1 Year After Carrie Fisher's Death, the Bittersweetness of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi's' Success - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

1 Year After Carrie Fisher's Death, the Bittersweetness of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi's' Success

"I didn't stop being Leia. I mean, it doesn't go away," Carrie Fisher said of reprising her iconic role

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Carrie Fisher Dies at 60

    Actress and writer Carrie Fisher, best known for her role as Princess Leia in "Star Wars," died Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. She was 60.

    (Published Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017)

    There was no doubt that "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" was going to be one of the biggest, most talked-about movies of 2017. There was also no doubt that it would stir up some deep sorrow along with the thrills, joy and unparalleled sense of pop-culture community that brings together "Star Wars" fans around the globe.

    Excitement for the film, which upon arrival prompted deep-dive analysis and sent fans scurrying to Twitter to give their two cents, was tempered by the fact that "The Last Jedi" marks the late Carrie Fisher's final appearance as Princess Leia in the franchise (flashbacks or any potential CGI trickery going forward notwithstanding).

    "It's very emotional," Daisy Ridley acknowledged, talking to E! News before the film's December 2017 release. "I think her performance is beautiful, regardless of anything else...but obviously there's more poignancy now because of what happened."

    (Mild movie spoilers ahead...)

    Corbis via Getty Images

    Carrie Fisher: A Life in Pictures

    While "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and, even more so, "The Last Jedi" have won kudos for opening the story up for more powerful, prominent female characters — first Ridley's Rey and, among others in the latest film, Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico and Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holo — there will always be the fact that Fisher's Princess (as well as Senator and General) Leia Organa is one of the all-time iconic female characters, dating to when she first appeared onscreen in 1977.

    Like many films, a lack of sexism was never "Star Wars'" strong suit historically, but Fisher's Princess Leia dug her heels into the cultural firmament at a time when lady heroes were hopelessly few and far between on any screen. She was brave, resilient, funny and magnetic.

    She had a face that launched millions of crushes and a gold bikini so memorable it was re-enshrined in the lexicon via a classic Friends episode 13 years later.

    Fisher's return as the founding general of The Resistance in "The Force Awakens" was one of the most anticipated parts of the whole they're-getting-the-band-back-together venture, and many fans sighed with relief when the plan encompassed the next episode as well.

    As expected, "The Force Awakens" was a box office force to be reckoned with when it opened in December 2015, bringing millions of fans home to roost as a new generation of enthusiasts was born.

    'Late Night': Laura Dern Pays Homage to Carrie Fisher

    [NATL] 'Late Night': Laura Dern Pays Homage to Carrie Fisher in Latest Installment of 'Star Wars'

    Laura Dern tells Seth Meyers it's "incredible" to be a part of the new generation of "Star Wars" films with so many strong, female characters. She says they had "the greatest muse possible" in Princess Leia, the late Carrie Fisher. 

    (Published Friday, Dec. 15, 2017)

    Asked what it was like to revisit her classic role after so many years, Fisher told JoBlo Movie Trailers at the time, "I didn't stop being Leia. I mean, it doesn't go away. It's like a persistent rash. No," she assured the interviewer, "but I am...I stayed in character for the last 35 years."

    She said she had her gripes about being forever associated with "Star Wars" but had come to terms with it (and so much more in her life) with the help of her self-deprecating, and often scathing, sense of humor.

    "People identify me with her so much, and I am the custodian of Princess Leia," she acknowledged, "so I try and keep her fit and ready for action."

    Star Wars: The Last Jedi Celebrity Cameo Guide

    Fisher was in fine form in "The Force Awakens," which saw her reunited with Harrison Ford's Han Solo (and she loved having daughter Billie Lourd on set in a small role as well). The film itself ended on an epic cliffhanger, making Dec. 15, 2017 — when "The Last Jedi" was due — seem ever so far away.

    With Rian Johnson taking the directing reins from J.J. Abrams, production got underway in early 2016 under a similar veil of spoiler-averse secrecy, with zero official plot points making it out of the hermetically sealed set.

    Unique Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher Items on Display at Comic-Con

    [NATL] Unique Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher Items on Display at Comic-Con

    An auction house is showcasing some unique personal items belonging to Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher. The items will go to auction on Sept. 23.

    (Published Friday, July 21, 2017)

    Behind the Scenes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Fisher, in addition to reprising the role of Leia, went to the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016 for the premiere of the documentary "Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds," about the famously close and just as famously fraught relationship between the actress and her screen-legend mother.

    She was also working on a new memoir, "The Princess Diarist," for which she mined the actual journals she kept while making the "Star Wars" trilogy. That took people's minds off "The Last Jedi" for a hot second with its revelation that she and Ford had an affair in the 1970s, which then became the focal point when she embarked on her press tour in November 2016.

    "I am surprised at the reaction," she admitted to Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show. "I don't think it's that surprising."

    Regarding the diary entries about Ford, she said, "I had forgotten that I'd written them. I write when I'm upset. So, I was upset — it is about two months or three months of upset."

    She also never planned on telling all, Fisher added. "I feel really bad about doing that to him," she said. "I told him I found the journals and that I was going to publish them. He sort of went, [apparently jokingly] 'Lawyer!'"

    'Late Night': Horgan Remembers Dinner With Carrie Fisher

    [NATL] 'Late Night': Sharon Horgan Remembers Dinner With Carrie Fisher

    Actress Sharon Horgan joins Seth Meyers to talk about the time she went out to dinner with Carrie Fisher, who Horgan remembers having a very gassy dog.

    (Published Tuesday, June 6, 2017)

    The 60-year-old actress and author was traveling back to Los Angeles from London on Dec. 23, 2016, when she suffered a heart attack aboard the plane. She was in cardiac arrest when she was rushed to the hospital, and she never regained consciousness.

    Just days removed from a whirlwind tour lighting up talk shows with her deadpan banter and characteristic larger-than-life presence, Carrie Fisher died on Dec. 27, 2016.

    The following day, Fisher's mother Debbie Reynolds suffered a stroke and died at the age of 84, having told her son, Todd Fisher, that she was going to be with Carrie — a heartbreaking ending to a truly Hollywood story.

    Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds' Singular Bond: Inside Their Complicated but Fiercely Close Relationship

    The outpouring of grief was immediate, in the Star Wars universe and beyond, and the appreciations poured in for everything that Carrie Fisher was — entertainer, actress, icon, shrewd self-critic, survivor. In various books, including 2008's "Wishful Drinking" and 2011's "Shockaholic," she wrote candidly — and both hilariously and humanely — about her nearly lifelong struggles with substance abuse and mental illness.

    It turned out that there were traces of drugs in her system, which helped bring about the cardiac event that killed her. Some demons win in the end, but Fisher will forever be remembered as someone who fought them honestly and openly, over the years becoming a major force in combating the stigmas attached to those issues.

    Fans Pay Tribute to Carrie Fisher at Lightsaber Vigil

    [NATL-NY] ‘Star Wars’ Fans Pay Tribute to Carrie Fisher With Lightsaber Vigil
    "Star Wars" fans gathered at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, to honor the late Carrie Fisher with a lightsaber vigil. A crowd of people lifted their lightsabers in salute as a band played and children battled Stormtroopers.
    (Published Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016)

    And then there were the inevitable questions about Star Wars. How would her death change the fate of the entire franchise, let alone the journey that Leia should have been destined to finish?

    Star Wars: The Last Jedi Global Press Tour

    Almost miraculously, Fisher had shot all of her scenes for "The Last Jedi," leaving less of a conundrum for Johnson and the overall production than some filmmakers have faced in the past when they suddenly lose one of their stars.

    With "The Last Jedi" bidding no discernible farewell to Leia, who at film's end is mourning more deaths of people close to her but is still leading the Resistance after her own (seemingly inescapable) close call, it's the next installment — the as-yet-untitled episode IX, due Dec. 20, 2019, which Abrams will return to direct — that will have to deal convincingly with Fisher's physical absence.

    In the meantime, she remains ubiquitous in spirit.

    Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Pics

    Actress Debbie Reynolds Dies at 84

    [NATL] Actress Debbie Reynolds Dies at 84
    Actress Debbie Reynolds died at the age of 84 on Dec. 28, 2016, one day after her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, passed away at the age of 60. Reynolds was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Wednesday night for shortness of breath before she passed away, according to her son.
    (Published Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016)

    "Obviously it wasn't engineered to be a farewell performance, but it now is, and so it's got that extra layer on it," Johnson told E! News while doing press for "The Last Jedi." "It's so complicated watching it, you know. 'Cause on one level, again, it' s just a beautiful performance; on the other level you're watching your friend who you're not going to see again — and for audiences it's going to be probably similar."

    "Beautiful" was how numerous members of the cast described what turned out to be Fisher's final onscreen performance in what many critics have described as the best addition to the canon since 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," which is usually one of the examples people offer when asked which sequels best their precursors. (The reactions from Star Wars super-fans and pop culture analysts have been far more mixed, but it's not as if they're not going to be showing up in 2019.)

    Gwendoline Christie said that watching the film and knowing Carrie was gone in the real world, "you could feel all of us, the second she appeared on the screen, everyone took a breath."

    Whatever your stance on the movie itself, it invariably succeeds at making us feel, at least for 2 1/2 hours — until the tribute in the credits reading "In Loving Memory of Our Princess, Carrie Fisher" flashes by — that the most beloved star of the show is still among us.

    "She's wonderful in the movie," Mark Hamill told us at the film's London premiere, adding, "I always think of her in the present, not the past."

    That's certainly an approach that the Force — as illustrated by "The Last Jedi" — would approve of.