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Carrie Fisher dies at 60: An outsized, unpredictable personality that will be missed

She was, as they say, a "character".

Whenever Carrie Fisher sat down at a talk show, she was funny, profane, eccentric and always quotable.

When she was speaking to talk-show host Conan O'Brien last year to promote Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), she appeared, as she usually did at talk shows, with her French bulldog Gary, a creature she says emits gas clouds so potent, she "could hang a painting on them", as she told the host.

"I think we have 35 pull quotes from this interview alone," O'Brien said.

To me, Fisher was always at her most memorable playing Carrie Fisher, rather than Princess Leia or other parts.

No role - least of all Leia - could capture her outsized, unpredictable personality.

 
 
 

It is tempting to see her life in her novel Postcards From The Edge (1987), from which she fashioned a screenplay for the scathingly hilarious 1990 movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

Fisher denied that its story of a drug-addled actress and her overbearing mother was autobiographical, but as a fan of the movie, and as a journalist, I want to believe it was.

The writing is just that vivid and detailed.

One line from the film still makes me laugh, no matter how many times I think about it.

MacLaine, as the mother Doris, is defending herself from the charge that she damaged her daughter Suzanne (Streep) by constantly stealing focus away from her child.

Suzanne accuses Doris of flirting with the boys at her 17th birthday party by showing off her legs.

Doris' reply is: "I did not lift my skirt; it twirled up."

The absurdity of the twirl defence always cracks me up.

Fisher wrote that line and she doctored her own lines in her Star Wars role.

George Lucas can write for women - the women in his classic coming-of-age drama American Graffiti (1973) aren't too flat - but compare her sparkling Princess Leia with Natalie Portman's dull Padme in the prequel films (1999-2005) and the difference is night and day.

Her talent with words did not end there. She might have sprung from old Hollywood - her father was singer Eddie Fisher and mother, the star Debbie Reynolds - but the 60-year-old took to new media like she was born to it.

In a tweet from January last year, she dropped this typical Fisherism: "Why should I go crazy when I can just as easily wait for it right here. Who wants gum?"

She will be missed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'An outsized, unpredictable personality that will be missed'. Print Edition | Subscribe