Carrie Fisher meant different things to different people: Daughter of Hollywood royalty. Charming raconteur. Brilliant author. Ruthlessly honest chronicler of her own struggles. Most iconic film heroine of all time. All of the above.
But to daughter Billie Lourd, she was Mom, or Momby—and Fisher considered her only child her greatest-ever production. Her “most extraordinary creation.”
“To my DNA jackpot—my daughter, Billie,” reads the dedication in Fisher’s 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking. “For all you are and all you will be. I want to be like you when I grow up.” And in the acknowledgments of her final book, 2016’s The Princess Diarist, Fisher wrote, “For Billie—for turning out better than I could deserve or imagine. But please get a housekeeper. Vegas will always be there.”
Lourd gave the self-deprecating star a new lease on life when she was born in 1992, and they were thick as enviously clever thieves until Fisher died two years ago today. She was only 60, had just been all over the world promoting her latest book and was fresh from shooting Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It was the most unwelcome twist she could’ve thrown at her legions of fans after a career built on never failing to surprise.
Only adding to the surreality of the whole thing was the death of her mother, screen legend Debbie Reynolds, the next day.
“I’ve always kind of lived in their shadows, and now is the first time in my life when I get to own my life and stand on my own,” Lourd said last year, talking to American Horror Story co-star Sarah Paulson for Town & Country. “I love being my mother’s daughter, and it’s something I always will be, but now I get to be just Billie.”
She also revealed that she was, if not the only, then definitely one of the few people whom Fisher would agree to tone it down for when it came to publicly digging into their tumultuous family history. Fisher’s close yet complicated relationship with Reynolds, which weathered a long estrangement to come back quirkier and closer than ever on the other side, was basically part of the Hollywood firmament for 40 years.
“Debbie did it to her, so anytime I came up to her and said, ‘Please tone this down,’ she would, because she went through it with Debbie and knew how hard it was,” Lourd recalled. “Now, looking back and watching her interviews, I try to model what I do after her. She was so good at it. She would get so annoyed with me if I ever did a fake interview. She’d say, ‘Tell the real story.'”
Part of the real story was that Debbie Reynolds couldn’t wait to have a grandchild and she hoped that becoming a mom would do for Carrie what it had done for her—given her the best reason yet to survive. Reynolds, of course, has her own place in the history books—as an actress and entertainer, and as the sweet-faced star left behind when husband Eddie Fisher jumped ship to become Elizabeth Taylor’s fourth husband.
Reynolds, though blindsided, tended to approach that rough time in her life with humor, even comparing herself to the infamously jilted Jennifer Aniston later in life. She and Taylor ended up becoming friends, and Fisher wrote the 2001 comedy These Old Broads for them.
Carrie was 2 and her brother, Todd Fisher, was barely a year old when their parents divorced. Suffice it to say, Fisher’s relationship with her father was all over the place, but ultimately she was able to view the situation through her signature lens.
“True to form, my father continued to neglect his parental duties in death as he did in life,” she wrote in Wishful Drinking (she later dedicated the 2010 HBO special adapted from her one-woman Broadway show of the same name to Eddie, who died in 2010). “No last will and testament was found. There was a piano, an assortment of sheet music, a closet full of clothes, a watch and the one item ultimately worth coveting: my dad’s diamond pinky ring that he had worn for as long as any of us could remember.”
In a whopping metaphor, the stone turned out to be fake.
“I loved my father,” Fisher concluded. “The man was beyond fun to hang out with, appreciative, playful and eccentrically sweet. But this was also a man who—though he genuinely meant to give bona fide diamonds of only the finest color, cut, and clarity—ultimately was only able to offer cubic zirconium.”
Fisher wrote that she was “probably rebounding” after the end of her brief marriage to Paul Simon in 1984 when she met talent agent Bryan Lourd.
“Bryan took such good care of me that I thought, ‘this guy will make a good father. And I was right, he made a great father—and he still does.”
Billie Catherine Lourd was born on July 17, 1992. Fisher recalled the birth announcement: “Someone’s summered in my stomach / Someone’s fallen through my legs / To make an infant omelet / Simply scramble sperm and eggs.”
A year later, Bryan ended the relationship to be with another man.