The tragic passing of Carrie Fisher in December 2016 was a devastating blow to the Star Wars community, and Lucasfilm has spent the months since trying to determine how they should handle the remainder of General Leia Organa's arc in the sequel trilogy. After having a minor role in The Force Awakens, Leia is set to have a significantly larger role in this year's The Last Jedi and was supposed to come back again for the finale. Star Wars 9 director Colin Trevorrow has met with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy about this matter, and the studio already announced they will not use CGI to recreate Fisher's likeness. Beyond that, there seems to be some confusion behind-the-scenes.
Recently, it was reported that unused footage of Fisher from Force Awakens and Last Jedi would be repurposed for Episode IX to allow Fisher to appear once more. However, at Star Wars Celebration Orlando, Kennedy confirmed that Fisher will actually not be in the film, raising more questions about Leia's future. It's a difficult situation because there is no "right" answer, and each one has its various pros and cons. The onus is on the filmmakers to find the least controversial option that best serves the story and Fisher's legacy.
Since The Last Jedi will not be altered to address Fisher's passing, there's a possibility there are some dangling story threads that need to be resolved in the next installment, almost requiring Leia to have a part in some capacity. With this in mind, an argument can be made for recasting the character, but there could be a far more touching and poignant choice on the table. Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd, who plays Resistance Lieutenant Connix in the sequels, could be elevated to a principal player in honor of her late mother, moving into more of a leadership position for the group.
Recasting was always going to be a bitter pill for fans to swallow, even more so following the moving tribute to Fisher during the 40th Anniversary panel at Celebration. The video montage that played and statements from George Lucas, Kennedy, and Lourd made it clear Leia and Fisher are synonymous with one another. Finding another actress to come into the part would be a daunting proposition to say the least, and borderline impossible even if a tremendously talented thespian was brought onboard. Nobody can replicate what Fisher did as Leia, making a new actress a very difficult sell for audiences. As unceremonious as an off-screen death for Leia might sound on-paper, it may ultimately be the best way to go. It's similar to how Star Trek Beyond handled the passing of Leonard Nimoy, which went over very well with audiences. Leia could still influence the story even though Fisher is no longer with us.
In this scenario, during the beginning of Episode IX, Resistance figures learn of Leia's death, which threatens to only set them back further following the First Order's assault in The Last Jedi. But instead of giving up, the surviving members of the group rally together in Leia's memory, using her principles and words of guidance to drive them forward to victory. And it would be a nice gesture to have Lourd's Connix become an integral piece of the puzzle in what could be the saga's final episode. Lourd cameoed in The Force Awakens and reportedly has more to do in The Last Jedi, so expanding her role further in Star Wars 9 wouldn't be out of place, and the story group could find a way to make it feel natural. In all likelihood, fans would be very understanding if this happened, since the real-world story is known by all.
Lourd received a warm reception from those in attendance at the 40th Anniversary panel, taking to the stage to remember Fisher and posing for pictures with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. She's already part of the Star Wars family, with Hamill himself saying that spending time with Lourd was "almost as if we were cuddling with our Princess again!" There's obviously no replacing Leia in the saga, but having Connix step up to fill a similar role has the potential to be both heartwarming and emotional. Since there's so little known about the remainder of the saga trilogy's narrative, it's hard to say at this point in time just how major Lourd's role would be, but Trevorrow wouldn't need to make her the singular focus (this is Rey's story, after all). Connix could just be a close ally of Poe Dameron and Finn as the war rages on, stepping up during the fight and aiding the two on a mission. Of all the ways Lucasfilm can handle Fisher's death, passing the torch to her daughter would most likely earn the most approval.
It's true Lourd has but a brief filmography in her young acting career, but that should not be held against her. Star Wars has a long and storied history of taking unknowns and transforming them into overnight sensations - including Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. Lourd has primarily acted on the small screen in shows like Scream Queens and American Horror Story, but she's demonstrated talent and could be a lead in a movie if presented an opportunity. Also, Lourd would be part of a larger ensemble and wouldn't be expected to carry the entire production on her shoulders, which certainly helps matters. She's mentioned in the past how more relaxed she was working on The Last Jedi when compared to The Force Awakens, so the pressure of being in a Star Wars movie wouldn't faze her.
As for Leia, it will be truly heartbreaking seeing this modern trilogy end without her being there, but fans can take solace in Kennedy's quote that there is some semblance of a conclusion in The Last Jedi, implying that there may not be as many loose ends as originally thought. If Episode VIII is to be Fisher's final appearance in the franchise that made her an icon, it's fitting that she has a sizable role and will be featured heavily throughout the film. There's no easy way to deal with what happened - especially since Leia was always intended to come back - but having Finn, Poe, Connix, and the rest of the Resistance surge to victory in the Princess' memory would allow Trevorrow and company to pay their ultimate respects to what Fisher created and be a fitting tribute to both the character and actress.
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