For her most recognisable role, that of Princess Leia in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Carrie Fisher appeared for a total of 13 minutes on screen.
A New York Magazine article last year discovered she was one of just four women to have a speaking role in the entire original film trilogy.
It was only her second film appearance, after a few brief scenes in Shampoo two years earlier.
Leia would be the role that defined Carrie Fisher. The role that made her a cultural icon. The role that was, and still is, important to an incalculable number of people.
Watch Carrie Fisher’s audition for Princess Leia:
“I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever,” she wrote in her 2016 memoir The Princess Diarist.
“I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.”
Director George Lucas began auditions for Star Wars in August 1975.
At the time, Lucas invited Fred Roos, a colleague who was the casting director on American Graffiti (Lucas’ second feature film), to consult during the audition process.
It was Roos who had known Fisher, and more importantly remembered her charm and wit from several meetings.
But Fisher missed that first casting call that August, as she had been enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
Roos pressed her again to attend an audition and on December 30, 1975, in Lucas’ Hollywood lot, Fisher began the journey of Princess Leia.
Her audition video centred around the ‘droid’ R2-D2 carrying the plans of the Death Star.
Pay attention to her interpretation of the character – she’s not being passive, but rather aggressive, commanding towards Harrison Ford’s pestering.
As the only major female character in the whole original trilogy, the impact of Leia kicking butt, side by side with her male co-stars, cannot be understated.
It’s no surprise social media was flooded with memories of how impactful the powerful princess was to children and teenagers in the 1970s and ’80s.
Carrie Fisher. Her story reminds me there is grace in owning your struggles just as powerfully as your strengths. Always need reminding. pic.twitter.com/kHp9DYMm73
— hayley from Paramore (@yelyahwilliams) December 28, 2016
As a kid, I sent Star Wars cards to all the actors, hoping for their autographs. Carrie Fisher was the only one who signed & returned hers.
— C.B. Cebulski (@CBCebulski) December 28, 2016
Right back at ya, Carrie Fisher.
— Danielle Binks (@danielle_binks) December 28, 2016
She was as important as any of the other characters in the saga.
She stood up to Darth Vader in the opening scenes of Star Wars, introducing us to her determination and forthrightness.
Yes, we can’t forget her cinnamon bun hairstyle, or more spectacularly, her metal bikini, but also think back to our preconceptions of how princesses were portrayed in literature and film.
The storyline of a princess held captive in a castle at the hands of a villain had been kicking around for centuries. They were helpless and almost always rescued by others.
In Return of the Jedi, wearing the bikini, tethered as the slave of Jabba the Hutt, Leia was vulnerable, but not defeated.
She fought back, strangled Jabba, won her own release and literally broke the chains that had been holding back princesses like hers through history.
Watch Princess Leia escape from Jabba the Hutt:
At the end of 2017, Fisher will appear again, posthumously, as Leia in Star Wars Episode VIII. All her scenes have been filmed, and there’s still life left in her story.
If you saw 2015’s The Force Awakens, set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, you will remember Fisher making her triumphant reappearance, this time as General Leia Organa, leader of the Resistance.
Much older, her face showed the tragedies she had experienced over the years. Her family, her close friends, even a planet had been destroyed.
Yet there she was, dressed in military outfit, still focussed, still determined, still ready to lead a rebellion. Still fearless.