'She was Princess Leia to the world but a very special friend to all of us,' said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

By Anthony Breznican
December 27, 2016 at 11:13 AM EST

Lucasfilm has expressed grief at the death of Carrie Fisher, calling her a “cherished” member of the Star Wars family who provided hope to generations of little girls who dreamed of becoming a hero and saving the world.

Fisher died Tuesday at age 60 after suffering a heart attack on Friday while aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles.

“Carrie holds such special place in the hearts of everyone at Lucasfilm it is difficult to think of a world without her. She was Princess Leia to the world but a very special friend to all of us,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “She had an indomitable spirit, incredible wit, and a loving heart.”

Fisher was also credited with paving the way for a new kind of female hero, one who was not just a damsel to be rescued but a force for good in and of herself. Princess Leia cleared a path for other powerhouse women in pop culture.

Kennedy said the actress “defined the female hero of our age over a generation ago. Her groundbreaking role as Princess Leia served as an inspiration of power and confidence for young girls everywhere. We will miss her dearly.”

Fisher went from being the sassy older sister of the Star Wars family to its tart-tongued tell-it-like-it-is aunt.  She was anything but precious about the galaxy far, far away and never failed to take jabs at her character’s unusual hairdo and costumes. But as much as Fisher teased or tormented, there always seemed to be deep affection for both Princess Leia and the fans who loved her.

Fisher was only 19 when she first played the royal adventurer with the cinnamon-bun hair in 1977’s original Star Wars, and her most recent on-screen appearance in last year’s The Force Awakens saw Leia shed the princess moniker for the title “General,” still leading the forces of good against an army of galactic fascists. (Fisher cracked that her new costume looked like “a fancy gas station attendant.”)

She had already completed work on next December’s Episode VIII, which is being directed by Rian Johnson. But her unexpected death will likely require changes to filmmaker Colin Trevorrow’s Episode IX, which doesn’t open until 2019 and is still only in the script phase. It isn’t believed to begin filming until a year from now. Lucasfilm hasn’t commented on that as yet, with many of her colleagues and friends still grappling with the personal loss.

She was also credited with thanks on the recent Rogue One film for allowing her image to be used, with a digital recreation of Leia looking as she did in the 1977 original.

Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, the parent company for Lucasfilm, said Fisher was “one-of-a-kind, a true character who shared her talent and her truth with us all with her trademark wit and irreverence.”

“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 as well as all of us who were lucky enough to know her personally,” Iger added. “She will be sorely missed, and we join millions of fans and friends around the world who mourn her loss today.”