Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has revealed that the original plan for Star Wars: Episode IX was to have Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa be “at the forefront” of the movie. Star Wars fans continue to mourn the loss of Fisher, who passed away in December 2016 following a heart attack. The last handful of months have proven to be quite emotional as details of Fisher’s role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi emerge amidst touching tributes to the late actress. After a brief appearance in Episode VII, Leia reportedly has more to do in Episode VIII – including an intense scene recently teased by Oscar Isaac.
Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that Fisher’s last performance as Leia will not be altered in any way as Last Jedi director Rian Johnson makes his way through post-production, but the future of the character remains a great question that needs answering. As it stands now, it appears that Star Wars 9 will not feature Leia since Lucasfilm has nixed the ideas of digitally recreating Fisher’s likeness or repurposing unused footage from the other films. After Fisher died, the creative team essentially started from scratch, and now it’s been revealed why that is. Initially, Leia was going to be a major part of the sequel trilogy finale.
In Vanity Fair‘s preview of the upcoming blockbuster (hat tip CBR), Kennedy recalled a conversation she had with Fisher once she finished filming her Episode VIII scenes, saying Episode IX would have been more Leia-centric than the others:
“She was having a blast. The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”
With The Force Awakens serving as Han Solo’s last adventure and The Last Jedi being a direct reference to Luke Skywalker, it would only make sense for Episode IX to catapult the last of the original big three to the “forefront” and tell a story revolving around her. Sadly, that’s a movie viewers will never get a chance to see, and it remains to be seen how Lucasfilm will handle Leia’s probable absence in the next film. Many fans would be in support of something similar to how Star Trek Beyond tastefully integrated the passing of Leonard Nimoy into the story, making it an emotional plot point for Zachary Quinto’s Spock. In the likely event General Leia receives an off-screen death in Episode IX‘s first act, the other characters could rally in her memory, using her guidance and principles to fuel one final victory over the First Order. That way, Leia’s influence is still felt in the movie, even though she’s not physically in it herself.
No matter what Disney and Lucasfilm do for Episode IX, fans can take solace in the knowledge that Fisher’s turn in The Last Jedi operates as a testament to her talents and she’s not in the film simply for the sake of nostalgia. From the sound of things, Leia is going to have a significant role in Star Wars 8, so it should be a fitting and emotional sendoff for the legend. It’s heartbreaking that Fisher is no longer with us, and audiences will surely cherish whatever memorable Leia moments await when Last Jedi premieres in December.