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Carrie Fisher dies at 60

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The actress suffered a heart attack just before Christmas

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Carrie Fisher, the actress best known for portraying Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, has died. She was 60 years old.

Family spokesperson Simon Halls confirmed Fisher’s death in a statement to People.

“It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” the statement reads. “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”

Fisher suffered a heart attack while flying from London to Los Angeles on Friday. She was rushed to hospital by paramedics as soon as the plane landed, but attendants had to administer CPR midflight, sources told TMZ. The actress was in London as part of a tour to promote her new book, The Princess Diarist, chronicling behind-the-scenes moments that occurred while she filmed the original Star Wars trilogy.

Fisher seemed like someone born to be a movie star. The daughter of musician Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, she was born in Beverly Hills on Oct. 21, 1956. Growing up, she was described by friends and family as a “book nerd,” but at the age of 15 she appeared in a Broadway rendition of Irene, kickstarting her acting career.

In 1975, Fisher made her big-screen debut in the movie Shampoo, alongside Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn, but it wasn't until 1977 that she would become a household name. That's the year that George Lucas introduced Carrie Fisher to the world in Star Wars as Princess Leia, a member of the Imperial Senate and a key figure in the Rebel Alliance. Together with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), she helped destroy the Galactic Empire’s first Death Star.

With her Star Wars co-stars, Fisher helped define what a blockbuster movie was and what sci-fi could be in cinema. Princess Leia was also seen as a championing character for gender equality in sci-fi, moving away from the damsel in distress trope or more passive roles. Instead, she was a key component in the war against the Empire and took charge of multiple situations, becoming a leading figure in the franchise.

Following the release of Star Wars in 1977, Fisher would play the character four more times: in the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978); 1980’s Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1983’s Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; and last year’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The actress also recently finished filming Episode VIII, which is scheduled to be released in 2017.

Fisher wasn't just an actress; she was also a prominent activist for mental health issues. In 2010, Fisher told Diane Sawyer in an interview that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since coming out publicly about her disorder, Fisher has been credited by mental health professionals for her openness in discussing her condition and helping those suffering from the same disorder.

Fisher has also spoken at length about her struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism. Earlier this year, Harvard College presented Fisher with the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism.

Fisher is survived by her daughter Billie Lourd, also an actress; her mother, Debbie Reynolds; her brother Todd Fisher; and her stepsisters Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.