Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has opened up about Carrie Fisher’s involvement while making the film, specifically when it came to General Leia Organa’s portrayal. The arrival of a new film set in the galaxy far, far away is always an emotional occurrence for fans, but Episode VIII will be even more so due to the tragic passing of Fisher. The franchise icon died late last year, and ever since then, people have been curious to see her character’s role in the highly-anticipated sequel. Fisher completed filming The Last Jedi prior to her death, and it’s already been confirmed nothing in the final product was changed.
What Fisher brought to the films as an actress is incomparable, but her talents went well beyond that. It’s no secret she was a fantastic writer, and she served as a script doctor on The Last Jedi, working with Johnson to polish up the dialogue in the screenplay. The director was very appreciative of Fisher’s help through the whole process, as he feels it made Episode VIII stay true to the character of Leia and what she stands for.
In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, Johnson discussed is collaboration with Fisher, revealing how she acted as a “compass needle” of sorts to ensure he was always moving in the right direction:
“She was so conscious of the place that Leia had, not just broadly in the culture, but very specifically in terms of girls who grew up watching Star Wars when Leia was the only female hero on the screen. She really wanted to do right by that, drawing the character forward. That was something that she would always be pulling us back to. And for me it was fantastic, because besides all the other benefits of having a fantastic writer like Carrie there by my side while we’re making this movie, just having a voice that was like a compass needle that would always pull it back in the right direction of, this is what this character means and this is what we always have to make sure that she’s serving, with her strength and also with her weaknesses — showing a fully realized character who is going to be inspiring to the folks who grew up with Leia.”
More than anyone, Fisher knows why Princess Leia is such a beloved figure in Star Wars lore, and it was obviously very important that her latest appearance maintain that. It would be a shame for her to return to her most famous role and have little of value to contribute. While Fisher had but a small part in The Force Awakens, General Organa was very much the same Leia audiences know and love, as illustrated by her interactions with Han Solo. It’s been said Leia has more to do in The Last Jedi, so hopefully she is an integral part of the story as the Resistance tries to gain the upper hand against the First Order. Fisher certainly left nothing on the table in her performance, with Johnson promising it provides fans with catharsis and Oscar Isaac teasing an intense scene where Leia slaps Poe Dameron in the face.
The key comment here is that Fisher wanted to draw “the character forward,” implying that there is a continued evolution that builds off her arc in the original trilogy. The sequel trilogy is being established as the story of youngsters Rey and Kylo Ren, but if the veterans are returning, they can’t be flat characters or there simply for nostalgic purposes. Much has been said about how Luke Skywalker changed in the years since Return of the Jedi, so it only makes sense his twin sister would be a little different as well. Leia is the leader of the Resistance and as tough as she’s ever been, but she has endured numerous personal traumas, which will no doubt affect her as the saga continues.
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