Warning: spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi below!
Director Rian Johnson says he wanted to leave Carrie Fisher's complete performance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, instead of changing its story after her death. With Fisher tragically passing away on December 27, 2016, her filming of The Last Jedi has thankfully already wrapped. However, with the upcoming Episode IX reportedly being tipped as "the Leia movie" in early drafts, there were major questions over how/if The Last Jedi would handle the departure of the bun-haired legend.
Given the way the movie ends, Johnson's decision could potentially pass on some problematic story decisions to J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio as they write Episode IX, but Johnson's decision not to use some rewrites and trickery ultimately keeps the story of The Last Jedi, including Leia's arc and Carrie Fisher's performance, in its purest form. It undoubtedly is the best decision for the sake of The Last Jedi, with any consequences being borne by the sequel.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson revealed how he wanted to handle Fisher's exit from the franchise will all the care it deserved:
"That was the very first conversation I had with [Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy] after we came back, after New Year's. I kind of looked through the footage. That was the very first question. I felt really strongly that what we have here is so beautiful and the way that the character develops, the way it's paid off, and not only that, the horror of trying to manufacture something that — I don’t even know what it would have been, but something for the end of this movie that leaves it in a place where the transition is easier, the idea of, 'Oh God, how would you fake something like that, and how would it not be terrible?'"
With Kennedy repeatedly confirming that Fisher's likeness will NOT be used for Episode IX, fans already knew that heading into The Last Jedi, it would be Leia's last film. However, while many had expected the movie to feature Leia's tragic passing or possible exit storyline, the credits rolled with a very much alive Leia aboard the Falcon and leading her rebellion. It may be a confusing plot thread to leave hanging over for J.J. Abrams and Episode IX, but you can't help but admire Johnson's choice to keep the movie how he intended.
There is no doubt The Last Jedi carefully balanced its lead characters to give them all their own time to shine. Leia may have spent half the movie in a coma, but using her Force powers, outrunning the First Order, and continuing to be a marvelous military strategist, Fisher once again proves why the former princess is such a feminist icon. Speaking of which, Johnson continued that the importance of Leia had to come across in her Star Wars swansong:
"Given that we have a beautiful, complete performance from her that I think audiences deserve to see, and I think it will mean a lot for them, that ray of hope from Leia. For all of those reasons I felt really strongly that we had to let this fly. Luckily we have a fantastic storyteller in J.J. Abrams who is going to figure out a way to bring it home in the end, that's going to be satisfying, I know he's going to. With this movie I just wanted audiences to have this performance."
Rounding a legacy that has been some 40 years in the making, the decision to keep Leia alive certainly seems like the right one to make. Johnson had reportedly been working closely with Colin Trevorrow on where the story would go next, and with Abrams now taking over the reigns, expect that relationship to continue. Whichever way Episode IX carries Fisher's farewell, it will clearly be a sad day or the sci-fi space opera and all those who have come to admire Leia Organa over the decades. Thankfully for Johnson, he can rest easy that he did Fisher and the character the best justice he could considering such devastating circumstances.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018