this is "nightline." tonight, good-bye princess. legendary "star wars" actress carrie fisher icon has pass away at the age of 60 days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight. reaction from her co-stars and legions of fame and look back at her unforgettable screen moments. >> may the force be with you. >> reporter: plus, the main man. lions, tigers and this guy, a world-renowned big cat trainer staring in to the face of danger. >> good boy. >> reporter: and surprise, one of they are oldest fans, a 96-year-old world war ii veteran
thank you for zoning us. for fans in mourning this evening, carrie fisher dead at age 60. best known for princess leia in "star wars." she was an acclaimed writer. celebrated for her candid accounts of her battles with addiction and mental illness. her famous friends and co-stars are grieving tonight as we remember her extraordinary life. >> help me obi wan kenobi. you are my only hope. >> reporter: it was the role that defined her career, princess leia, the heroine of the sci-fi series that swept the world. she was just 20 and carrie fisher made the rebel leader larger than life. at age 59 she reprised the role for a new generation and enraptured audiences. >> some things never change. >> true. you still drive me crazy. >> reporter: she died this morning after suffering a heart attack. she was 60 years old. she leaves behind her mother debbie reynolds and brother and
father todd fischer. "i am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop" from her mother. and an emotional interview -- >> we were close friends. i was the younger brother. she drug me around the house like a doll. very strange place to be looking at the world without her. >> reporter: "star wars" costar harrison ford describing fisher in a statement, "carrie was one of a kind, brilliant, original, funny, and emotionally fearless. she lived her life bravely." it was four days ago when fisher fell critically ill aboard a united airlines flight from london to l.a. >> we have some passengers, nurses assisting the passenger. we have an unresponsive passenger. they are working on her right now. >> reporter: the los angeles fire department called to the gate for a patient in cardiac arrest. performing cpr before fisher was transported to ucla medical center. her family at her bedside and her beloved french bulldog gary,
her constant companion on the red carpet during interviews, like this "good morning america" appearance. >> this is gary? >> this is gary. he is very famous on twitter. >> he likes to look at himself. >> he really likes looking at himself, wouldn't you if you looked like that? >> reporter: fisher, like her "star wars" character, known for her fierce personality. >> there's one, set for stun. >> we were used to seeing characters, princess characters in science fiction movies as being decorative, right, not being strong or driving the action. she proved to be a princess leia who was feisty and indomitable, who gave as good as she got. >> someone get this walking carpet out of my way. >> reporter: her trademark dry wit on display in a conversation with abc's david muir, discussing the character she could never seem to get away from. >> carrie is leia, leia is carrie. through life. >> yeah. >> people have come up to you on
the streets for 30 years. >> that's my favorite, princess leia and i'm supposed to go, yes? you rang? >> do you answer to that? >> no. i very, very -- you know, i have a lot of pride. i don't answer to a space princess name when i'm in my actual life. >> reporter: she returned to the role officially in 2015, and the resistance again had its fearless leader. >> our sister is the next target. >> what do you think? >> the parts where i'm in it are distressing. but everything else is really great. >> when they hear the parts with leia in them are distressing? >> i got older and no one told me. and then they put me on a screen really, really big and they put me in hi-def. >> reporter: carrie fisher was born into a hollywood royal family 60 years ago in beverly hills. the daughter of debbie reynolds and eddie fisher. her career was prolific. first gracing the silver screen when she was just 18, playing a
teenaged temptress opposite warren beatty in "shampoo." >> are you? >> am i what? what are you talking about? >> making it with my mother? >> reporter: it was the iconic role of princess leia just two years later that catapulted her to super-stardom. >> somebody has to save our skin. >> reporter: back then this hollywood princess wasn't confident playing galactic royalty. >> i had a round face and they asked me to lose at that point 10 pounds. because they thought it was all in my face. >> at 19 years old, and they tell you that you have to lose weight for a film. >> you want to hide. you get on the set and you think they're going to say, oh, you didn't lose it, bring in jodie foster! >> which didn't happen. >> no, but i seriously was nervous. >> the irony is princess leia really inspired young girls right from the start -- >> but not to be pretty. >> she was really pretty. >> no, no. she -- and yes, and i didn't
know that. >> reporter: fisher struggled with the sex symbol label bestowed on her. after an unforgettable metallic bikini scene in "return of the jedi." >> if you are going to wear a slave outfit make sure a giant slug forces you to do it and make sure that you're 23. >> reporter: her on-screen chemistry with dashing costar harrison ford helped launch them and the franchise to cult status. >> afraid i was going to leave without a good-bye kiss? >> i'd as soon kiss a wookie. >> i can arrange that. >> reporter: their sexual tension led to one of the most famous scenes of all. >> i love you. >> i know. >> the famous moment where you say, "i love you." >> i know. >> that's what he says. >> i know. >> would he say that today? >> yeah, he would. >> not wiser? still a wise guy? >> he is still a wise guy. but we've all been through a lot and we're trying to get it together. >> i happen to like nice men. >> i'm a nice man.
>> no you're not. >> reporter: that allure, according to fisher, was not all acting. in her memoir "the princess dirist," fisher claims she had a brief affair with the 33-year-old married ford while filming the first "star wars." her life was punctuated by a struggle with bipolar disorder and addiction. >> i'm mentally ill. i have a chemical imbalance in its most extreme state will lead me to a mental hospital. >> reporter: she told diane sawyer it was her mental illness that fueled her drug abuse. >> each day you wake up and decide what you need that day in order to feel, what? >> less. just feel less. >> carrie fisher was important on screen for embodying an iconic character. off screen she was also very important for coming out and talking about her fight with being bipolar, with drugs and addiction and rehab.
and i think that demystified those problems and made it acceptable for people to say, yes, i do have a problem with addiction. >> reporter: she channeled her own story of struggle into creative work. her book "postcards from the edge, tale of an actress hooked on pills" turned in to a movie starring meryl streep. >> i'm dropping someone off, isn't this an emergency room? >> reporter: she dove in deeper," wishful drinking," a one-woman stage show on hbo. >> i was invited to go to a mental hospital. [ laughter ] well, you don't want to be rude, right? so you go. >> reporter: she also battled the stigma of mental illness offscreen. harvard awarded her the outstanding lifetime achievement award for activism this year. her real life loves included a tumultuous marriage to paul simon, musical legend. his song "hearts and bones" inspired by their relationship. ♪ hearts and bones
>> reporter: and later a relationship with her agent brian lord. but last year she delighted "star wars" fans by rekindling her on-screen bond with harrison ford in "the force awakens." >> you changed your hair. >> same jacket. >> reporter: cementing her legacy as a trail blazer in the world of science fiction, appearing not as a princess but a general. >> excuse me, princess -- general, sorry. >> i love this. >> reporter: jenna bush runs "legion of leia," a blog dedicated to women in sci-fi. >> she was princess leia. she was the only role model that most of us had as little girls in the '70s. women were decoration. they were draped over the hero. this woman stood up to darth vader. basically fixed her own rescue. i had never seen anything like that before. >> reporter: the role considered revolutionary in a male-dominated genre. >> i recognized your foul stench when i was brought on board. >> all of a sudden we started to see women who did more than sit there once princess leia was out
there. you also saw little girls starting to demand that. we wanted more than barbie. >> reporter: that legacy, bush says, will live on. >> seeing leia changed my entire life. i think that little girls, decades from now, watching episode four are going to fall in love with her just the way i did. >> reporter: tonight an outpouring of grief from fisher's costars. mark hamill tweeting "no words, devastated." and george lucas, the creator of "star wars" said in a statement, in "star wars" she was our great and powerful princess, feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think." >> the people that worked on "star wars" with her, they adored her. they just adored her. she was an idol worth looking up to. >> reporter: bob iger, the ceo and chairman of disney said "millions fell in love with her as the indomitable princess leia. she will always have a special place in the hearts of "star wars" fans."
>> some things never change. >> true, you still drive me crazy. >> reporter: in july fisher finished filming the eighth installment of "star wars," which is currently in post production. in the meantime, she will no doubt be remembered by legions of "star wars" fans with that iconic line -- >> may the force be with you. next, the circus performer and big cat trainer who's lying around on the job. plaque psoriasis.severe chrc so i made a decision to talk to my dermatologist about humira. humira works inside my body to target and help block a specific source of inflammation that contributes to my symptoms. in clinical trials, most adults taking humira were clear or almost clear, and many saw 75% and even 90% clearance in just 4 months. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers,
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you see how this courageous lion tamer is risking his life for your entertainment, you'll understand how for some the circus is serious business. here's a look at this big cat trainer. ♪ >> reporter: there are 14 wild animals in that cage on the circus floor and just one man. dashingly handsome englishman in sequins, brave, stupid? watch as the tiger puts a paw in his direction, he doesn't flinch. what is life really like for one of the world's greatest lion and tiger trainers traveling with the famous ringling brothers and barnum bailey circus? this chilly morning in denver, colorado -- >> good boy. good boy. are you done? are you done? off you go. good boy. that's how he takes his
vitamins. we will give him the other leg, mom. >> you will understand why she is here in a minute. >> they eat up to 16 pounds of meat every day. >> that must cost a lot of money. >> 5,000 a week. >> the lions, tigers and lionesses, feline family. >> the lionesses get jealous, which may sound silly but th&-p. when they come in to heat, they rub themselves all over me. they expect me to do business because i'm the top cat. >> reporter: the cats hang here when they are not eating, sleeping, performing. it is clean and spacious but captivity. on the move they must be caged for everyone but alex's safety. >> stick your fingers in. that's my girly. good job. >> reporter: on to the stage, he's in. >> people are coming. here, here, here.
good boy. here, here, here. all right. good boy. i remember the first time i was in the cage with these guys without this netting in between. these guys seemed least ten times bigger than they really were and i was absolutely petrified. >> reporter: his parents owned a zoo, started to train the animals an then joined the circus. >> this is a human being controlling a 700 pound animal that could very easily kill you. >> exactly. but this is the secret. he doesn't realize he can kill me. >> he doesn't realize he could kill you right now. >> he doesn't because he's never been given the opportunity. he hasn't learned that. we don't declaw the cats or take their teeth out. >> do you think they enjoy it? >> if you are going to keep any animal in a captive environment you can't expect them to live in a beautiful enclosure the rest of their lives and do nothing.
>> reporter: that's alex's wife kate, she and her sister were acrobats and now kate trains what they call the fuzzies. >> i have been working with animals since about a year. >> clear for takeoff. >> reporter: most of the circus, 300 people travel the country and live on this train. alex and kate have a pickup, a motorcycle and a double wide. they live next door to their animals. >> everyone knows everyone. even if you haven't worked together but you have heard of that person or their families. >> reporter: it must be like a soap opera,s gossip. >> you wouldn't believe it. >> they should do a reality show. >> they should. >> she lives in the next trailer. >> someone told me you rode a polar bear. >> i fell off once. >> reporter: there are those that believe such captivity is fundamentally cruel. >> you think they are content. >> as long as you provide them with an environment that allows
them to eat, sleep and reproduce they are content people don't care about things unless they have smelled and felt it and seen it with their own eyes. that's what we do. >> reporter: aren't you scared one will creep up behind you. >> we train them to think that we have eyes in the back of the head. a spotter tells you and you bark orders and they assume you have eyes in the back of your head. all right. nearly show time. an opening number, some acrobats and then -- his 12 minutes of fame every day. pays the bills, allows him to spend all day, every day with his beloved wild animals that most of us would run from, screaming like babies.
i'm nick watt for "nightline" at the circus. up next -- ♪ a world war ii veteran gets serenaded by taylor swift. >> abc news "nightline" brought to you by -- (vo) a lifetime of your dog's nutritional needs... all in one. purina one. healthy energy, all in one. strong muscles, all in one. highly digestible, and a taste he loves, all in one. purina one smartblend is expertly blended... with 100% nutrition, 0% fillers, always real meat #1. lifelong smart nutrition. it's all in one. purina one. as after a dvt blood clot,ital i sure had a lot to think about. what about the people i care about?
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♪ finally tonight, every 13-year-old's dream just came true for 96-year-old world war ii veteran. ♪ shake it off >> reporter: 96-year-old world war ii veteran cyrus porter might be one of taylor swift's oldest fans, and now he's one of the luckiest, too. ♪ haters gonna hate hate hate >> reporter: the die-hard swifty got a surprise sing along with her after telling a local news station he is a big fan of her music.
♪ his excited family captured what they call a is christmas miracle. plenty of selfies. one tweeting taking selfies, hugging babies and leaving lipstick marks, taylor swift does it all. it was bono who said music can change the world because it can change people. thank you for watching abc news. as always we are on-line at abcnews.com and our "nightline" facebook page. thank you for the company, america. good night.