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Carrie Fisher: Actress, writer and addict recovery advocate

Carrie Fisher (as Princess Leia Organa) and Anthony Daniels (as C3PO) star in the CBS television "The Star Wars Holiday Special."
CBS | Getty Images
Carrie Fisher (as Princess Leia Organa) and Anthony Daniels (as C3PO) star in the CBS television "The Star Wars Holiday Special."

Carrie Fisher, the actress who made Princess Leia a household name, died last week at the age of 60. Although she was most famous for her role in the iconic "Star Wars" franchise, the actress, writer and producer left behind a more diverse body of work than many people may realize.

Fisher was Hollywood royalty, and died only a day before her own mother, actress and singer Debbie Reynolds. Despite her considerable off-screen interests, Fisher will always primarily be known to the general public as an actress—primarily because the original "Star Wars" trilogy and the 2015 franchise reboot, "The Force Awakens" were a runaway commercial successes.

A review of the receipts quickly explains why her association with "Star Wars" overshadows her other work. According to the revenue-tracking website Box Office Mojo, these films have grossed a collective $2.2 billion, or $4.1 billion after adjusting for inflation.

Filmgoers can expect that total to go up even more when the next installment in the "Star Wars" saga lands in theaters at the end of 2017. The currently untitled movie picks up where "The Force Awakens" left off, and Fisher had completed all of her work on the upcoming movie, according to a recent report in The New York Times.

Given the huge sums of money involved and the enduring popularity of the "Star Wars" franchise, it's understandable that so much attention has been focused on this single aspect of her career since her passing. But Fisher's acting career tended to focus more frequently on supporting roles in comedies, such as "When Harry Met Sally," Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" and an uncredited role as a family therapist in 1997's "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery."

Together, those movies grossed an inflation-adjusted $394 million, a comparatively light take by Hollywood blockbuster standards but outweighed by their enduring cult popularity.



However, a broader look at her career shows how Fisher distinguished herself numerous times behind the scenes, as a writer.

Behind the scenes, Fisher acted as a "script doctor," secretly administering upgrades to the text of several blockbuster films—particularly when it was necessary to improve the dialogue of the female characters. In a 2008 interview with the Phoenix New Times, Fisher cited her script doctoring included 1991's "Hook," 1992's "Sister Act," and 1992's "Lethal Weapon 3." All were commercial hits that earned hundreds of millions at the box office during their runs, according to Box Office Mojo data.

Fisher was also the author of eight novels. These included 1987's semi-autobiographical bestseller, "Postcards from the Edge," which was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in 1990. Her other books included 1990's "Surrender the Pink, 2001's "Hollywood Moms," 2008's "Wishful Drinking," which was adapted for the stage, 2011's "Shockaholic" and 2016's "The Princess Diarist." She was on her way home from the European leg of her book tour for "The Princess Diarist" when she went into cardiac arrest.


Actress Carrie Fisher signs copies of her new book 'The Princess Diarist' at Barnes & Noble at The Grove on November 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Paul Archuleta | FilmMagic | Getty Images
Actress Carrie Fisher signs copies of her new book 'The Princess Diarist' at Barnes & Noble at The Grove on November 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Yet one of Fisher's most significant accomplishments is one that went largely unsung—and often unpaid—throughout her career: She spoke publicly and frequently about her struggles with substance abuse and bipolar disorder.

According to Anna David, a bestselling author and founder of the addiction and recovery website AfterParty Magazine, the actress' role as an outspoken advocate for recovery and mental health may have been her most important work, despite the fact that it was mostly pro bono.

"In the 70s and 80s, people weren't out there broadcasting their problems," David told CNBC. "In doing that, she gave legions of addicts, who might have otherwise been too ashamed to admit their problems, permission to come clean."

Unsurprisingly, Fisher's passing has led many "Star Wars" fans to wonder how it will affect the franchise. Fisher gave Leia Organa a humor and feistiness that made her integral to the franchise, and something that can't be easily replicated or replaced.