Hollywood star Carrie Fisher was fighting for her life on Friday after suffering a massive heart attack near the end of a transatlantic flight.
The 60-year-old Star Wars actress was preparing to land in Los Angeles when she went into cardiac arrest, and was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation by an emergency responder on board. Fisher collapsed 15 minutes before the plane, from London, landed at LAX around midday Pacific time, and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center on a ventilator.
Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Hollywood Reporter Fisher was “out of emergency” but he later denied media reports that she was in stable condition. He told Variety magazine his sister had been moved from the emergency room to the Intensive Care Unit, adding on ABC7’s Eyewitness News that she was “getting the best care she can receive.”
“She’s obviously a very tough girl who’s survived many things,” he added. “I encourage everyone to pray for her.”
TMZ, citing witnesses, said the actress’s eyes were closed and she appeared unconscious as she was rushed through the terminal, where paramedics worked for 15 minutes before they could get a pulse. The Los Angeles Times said her condition was initially reported as critical, quoting an unnamed source who said the actress was “in a lot of distress on the flight.”
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) and United Airlines did not refer to the actress by name but both confirmed paramedics had raced to help her as soon as she touched down, just after midday.
Fisher was catapulted to worldwide stardom as the rebel warrior Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, which has been a cultural phenomenon since the release of the films from 1977 to 1983. Steeped in Hollywood excess from an early age, she was the product of the four-year marriage of movie star Debbie Reynolds, best known for her role in Singin’ In The Rain, and singer Eddie Fisher.
The relationship, and the happy home in Beverly Hills, came to an end when Fisher left Reynolds for her close friend, the actress Elizabeth Taylor.
Fisher’s co-stars led tributes as Hollywood reacted with shock to news of her collapse. “As if 2016 couldn’t get any worse… sending all our love to @carrieffisher” tweeted Mark Hamill, who plays her on-screen twin Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga.
The American actress has talked and written frequently about her years of drug addiction and mental illness. Fisher is known for her brutally honest semi-autobiographical novels, including her best-selling debut Postcards from the Edge, which she turned into a film of the same name in 1990.
She has given various interviews over the years about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction to prescription drugs and cocaine, which she admitted using on the set of The Empire Strikes Back (1980). She has also discussed being treated with electroconvulsive therapy, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, to trigger brief seizures. The technique is used to treat some mental illnesses.
Writer and actress Anna Akana, who said she was on board Fisher’s flight, described the mid-air drama in a series of tweets, voicing her “shock and sadness.”
“Don’t know how else to process this but Carrie Fisher stopped breathing on the flight home. Hope she’s gonna be OK,” she said. “So many thanks to the United flight crew who jumped into action, and the awesome doctor and nurse passengers who helped. Feel weird even tweeting about it but I JUST finished her book and was fangirling out over seeing her dog Gary in person.”
Fisher’s famous Star Wars character features as part of the storyline to spin-off Rogue One, which is currently riding high in box offices around the globe, although the actress is understood not to have been involved in the production.
“Thoughts and prayers for our friend and everyone’s favorite princess right now,” said Peter Mayhew, who plays the Wookie Chewbacca in the saga. “The whole world is sending you so much love! Sending you the universe’s most powerful Force,” tweeted English actress Gwendoline Christie, who played Captain Phasma in Fisher’s most recent Star Wars episode, The Force Awakens.
There were also posts from Warwick Davis, who appeared in various Star Wars theatrical and straight-to-TV movies, Rogue One writer Gary Whitta, and Han Solo spinoff movie co-director Chris Miller.
Fisher’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.