The Star Wars community was dealt a crushing blow at the end of 2016 when franchise icon Carrie Fisher passed away from a heart attack. Reprising her legendary role as Leia Organa in 2015’s The Force Awakens, the actress was set to have an even bigger part in this year’s The Last Jedi before returning once again for Episode IX. Since Fisher’s death, many have been wondering how Lucasfilm will deal with the tragic situation. So far, the studio has only confirmed they will not implement the controversial digital effects from Rogue One to recreate the late Fisher’s likeness, so just about everything (including recasting) remains on the table.
Since The Last Jedi is not due in theaters until December, director Rian Johnson and his crew have plenty of time to retool the final picture as necessary, including any pickups. Rogue One infamously went through very extensive reshoots as the ending was changed late in development, so it’s been theorized any additional photography for Episode VIII would aim to provide General Leia with a new arc to account for Fisher’s passing. But according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, that is not in the cards.
According to THR, Iger revealed that the creative team is not going to change anything about Fisher’s turn in The Last Jedi and fans will get to see her final appearance as Leia as it was meant to be seen:
“When we bought Lucasfilm, we were going to make three films — Episodes VII, VIII and IX. We had to deal tragedy at the end of 2016. Carrie appears throughout VIII. We are not changing VIII to deal with her passing. Her performance remains as it is in VIII. In Rogue One, we had some digital character. We are not doing that with Carrie.”
This is a great way to honor Fisher’s legacy, and it has to be somewhat comforting for Johnson that he does not have to rewrite entire sections of the film with only nine months until the premiere. Still, it raises questions about what Leia’s future on film will entail after Episode VIII. Lucasfilm planned out a general outline for the sequel trilogy well in advance, and Leia (as a leader of the Resistance) was apparently a key part of it. Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow has reportedly been in meetings with Kathleen Kennedy to discuss the various options, and it will be very interesting to see what Lucasfilm ultimately does. Conceivably, Leia could be written out of the trilogy finale, but if she survives Last Jedi (as expected), that would be an unceremonious way of ending her contributions to the saga – even if the screenplay provided a sound and logical explanation.
For all the speculation on Rey’s parentage and Supreme Leader Snoke’s true identity, the biggest concern for some viewers in regards to these next couple of movies is how the filmmakers handle the Leia character. It’s obviously a major priority for all involved that Fisher’s memory is respected and remembered, and it sounds like Disney is on the right path by not altering her Last Jedi performance in any way. The real test comes when they reveal the plans for Star Wars 9. Since that installment won’t come out until 2019, Lucasfilm still has time to put something in place, but they are going to have to make a decision sooner or later.