She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colorful personality that everyone loved. In Star Wars she was our great and powerful princess—feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think.
—director George Lucas
Fisher made her film debut at age 18 as the precociously seductive character Lorna Karpf in the Columbia Pictures comedy Shampoo (1975). Lee Grant and Jack Warden play the role of her parents in the film. Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn also star in the film. In 1977, Fisher starred as Princess Leia in George Lucas' science-fiction film Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) opposite Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. At the time, she believed the script for Star Wars was fantastic, but did not expect many people to agree with her. Though her fellow actors were not close at the time, they bonded after the commercial success of the film.
In April 1978, Fisher appeared as the love interest in Ringo Starr's 1978 TV special Ringo. The next month, she starred alongside John Ritter (who had also appeared in Ringo) in the ABC-TV film Leave Yesterday Behind. At this time, Fisher appeared with Laurence Olivier and Joanne Woodward in the anthology series Laurence Olivier Presents in a television version of the William Inge play Come Back, Little Sheba. That November, she played Princess Leia in the 1978 TV production Star Wars Holiday Special, and sang in the last scene.
Fisher appeared in the film The Blues Brothers as Jake's vengeful ex-lover; she is listed in the credits as "Mystery Woman". While Fisher was in Chicago filming the movie, she choked on a Brussels sprout; Dan Aykroyd performed the Heimlich maneuver and "saved my life". She appeared on Broadway in Censored Scenes from King Kong in 1980. The same year, she reprised her role as Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and appeared with her Star Wars co-stars on the cover of the July 12, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film. She also starred as Sister Agnes in the Broadway production of Agnes of God in 1982.
In 1983, Fisher returned to the role of Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi, and posed in the character's metal bikini on the cover of the Summer 1983 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film. The costume later achieved a following of its own. In 1986 she starred along with Barbara Hershey and Mia Farrow in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters.
In 1987, Fisher published her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. The book was semi-autobiographical in the sense that she fictionalized and satirized real-life events such as her drug addiction of the late 1970s and her relationship with her mother. It became a bestseller, and she received the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Also during 1987, she was in the Australian film The Time Guardian. In 1989 Fisher played a major supporting role in When Harry Met Sally..., and in the same year she appeared with Tom Hanks as his character's wife in The 'Burbs.
In 1990, Columbia Pictures released a film version of Postcards from the Edge, adapted for the screen by Fisher and starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid. Fisher appeared in the fantasy comedy film Drop Dead Fred in 1991, and played a therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). During the 1990s, Fisher also published the novels Surrender the Pink (1990) and Delusions of Grandma (1993). Fisher wrote an episode of the television sitcom Roseanne entitled "Arsenic and Old Mom", in which her mother Debbie Reynolds made a guest appearance. Fisher also did uncredited script work for movies such as Lethal Weapon 3 (where she wrote some of Rene Russo's dialogue), Outbreak (also starring Russo), The Wedding Singer and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
In the 2000 film Scream 3, Fisher played a former actress, and in 2001 she played a nun in the Kevin Smith comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. She also co-wrote the TV comedy film These Old Broads (2001), of which she was also co-executive producer. It starred her mother Debbie Reynolds, as well as Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins and Shirley MacLaine.
In addition to acting and writing original works, Fisher was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood, working on the screenplays of other writers. She did uncredited polishes on movies in a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2005. She was hired by George Lucas to polish scripts for his 1992 TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the dialogue for the Star Wars prequel scripts. Her expertise in this area was the reason she was chosen as one of the interviewers for the screenwriting documentary Dreams on Spec in 2007. In an interview in 2004, Fisher said she no longer did much script doctoring.
In 2005, Women in Film & Video – DC recognized Fisher with the Women of Vision Award.
Fisher also voiced Peter Griffin's boss, Angela, on the animated sitcom Family Guy and wrote the introduction for a book of photographs titled Hollywood Moms, which was published in 2001. Fisher published a sequel to Postcards, The Best Awful There Is, in 2004.
Fisher wrote and performed in her one-woman play Wishful Drinking at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from November 2006 to January 2007. Her show then played throughout 2008 at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, San Jose, the Hartford Stage, the Arena Stage and Boston. Fisher published her autobiographical book, also titled Wishful Drinking, based on her successful play in December 2008 and embarked on a media tour. In 2009, Fisher returned to the stage with her play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Wishful Drinking then opened on Broadway in New York at Studio 54 and played an extended run from October 2009 until January 2010. In December 2009, Fisher's audiobook recording of Wishful Drinking earned her a nomination for a 2009 Grammy Award in the Best Spoken Word Album category.
Fisher joined Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne on Saturday evenings in 2007 for The Essentials with informative and entertaining conversation on Hollywood's best films. She guest-starred in the episode titled "Sex and Another City" from season 3 of Sex and the City with Sarah Jessica Parker. On October 25, 2007, Fisher guest-starred as Rosemary Howard on the second-season episode of 30 Rock called "Rosemary's Baby", for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. On April 28, 2008, she was a guest on Deal or No Deal. In 2008, she also had a cameo as a doctor in the Star Wars-related comedy Fanboys.
In 2010, HBO aired a feature-length documentary based on a special live performance of Fisher's Wishful Drinking stage production. At the time of her death, Fisher had been preparing a sequel to the one-woman play.
Fisher speaking at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International
Fisher appeared on the seventh season of Entourage in the summer of 2010. She was among the featured performers at the Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne, which aired in August 2012. In her monologue, Fisher poked fun at her own mental illness, and her fellow roasters' reliance on weight and menopause jokes. Fisher joked that she had no idea why she was asked to roast Roseanne, until "they explained that we were actually good friends, and that apparently we have worked together." Host Jane Lynch joked that Fisher was there to add perspective to Roseanne's struggles with weight and drugs. Fellow roaster Wayne Brady poked fun at Fisher's career, saying she was the only celebrity "whose action figure is worth more than you are."
She was selected as a member of the main competition jury at the 2013 Venice Film Festival. She filmed an appearance on the UK comedy panel show QI that was broadcast on December 25, 2014. Fisher starred alongside Sharon Horgan and comedian Rob Delaney in the British comedy series Catastrophe, that was first broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK on January 19, 2015. Her last appearance on Catastrophe, which aired in the UK on April 4, 2017, left many viewers in tears and earned her a posthumous Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series nomination.
In a March 2013 interview following the announcement that a new trilogy of films would be produced, Fisher confirmed that she would reprise her role as Princess Leia in Episode VII of the Star Wars series. Fisher claimed that Leia was "Elderly. She's in an intergalactic old folks' home [laughs]. I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle." After other media outlets reported this on March 6, 2013, her representative said the same day that Fisher was joking and that nothing was announced.
In a January 2014 interview, Fisher confirmed her involvement and the involvement of the original cast in the upcoming sequels by saying "as for the next Star Wars film, myself, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are expected to report to work in March or April. I'd like to wear my old cinnamon buns hairstyle again but with white hair. I think that would be funny."
In March 2014, Fisher stated that she was moving to London for six months because that was where Star Wars Episode VII filming would take place. On April 29, 2014, the cast for the new sequel was officially announced, and Fisher, along with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker, were all cast in their original roles for the film. Star Wars Episode VII, subtitled The Force Awakens, was released worldwide on December 18, 2015. Fisher was nominated for a 2016 Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal.
In Rogue One (2016), which predates the original trilogy, young versions of Leia and the character Grand Moff Tarkin appear through computer animation. Fisher had completed filming her role as Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) shortly before her death. Director Rian Johnson has stated that many of Fisher's own ideas made it into the film, and that she supplied a few of Leia's lines. Variety reported following her death that Fisher was slated to appear in Episode IX, and that Lucasfilm, Disney, and others involved with the film will need to find a way to address her death and what will become of her character.
Fisher's memoir, The Princess Diarist, was released in November 2016. The book is based on diaries she kept while filming the original Star Wars trilogy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her audiobook recording of the memoir earned her the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, awarded 13 months after her death.
Fisher and her mother appear in Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, a 2016 documentary about their close relationship featuring interviews, photographs and home movies. The documentary premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and broadcast on January 7, 2017.
She will be featured in the film Wonderwell with Rita Ora, which was filmed in the summer of 2016 in Italy.