Carrie Fisher's brother, Todd, credits Star Wars: Episode IX director J.J. Abrams with finding a way to include General Leia Organa in the film. After Fisher passed away in December 2016, Leia's future in the Skywalker saga was in question. There was a point in time when she was going to be at the forefront of the finale, but Lucasfilm started from scratch after the tragedy. Long ago, the studio confirmed Fisher's likeness would not be recreated via CGI, and recasting the role seemed like too impossible a task.
Some people presumed Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio would write Leia out of the trilogy and tell a story that didn't need her in Episode IX. However, Lucasfilm's announcement of the official Star Wars 9 cast came with the surprise revelation that Fisher's Leia would indeed appear, via unused footage taken from Abrams' Force Awakens. For Todd, who once suggested this could be done, it was a very happy moment.
Speaking to THR, Todd Fisher commented on the Star Wars 9 news, expressing gratitude for Abrams' decision:
"J.J. really made this happen... If I was in anyway an inspiration for the final decision to keep Leia a part of the story, that's great. I must say at times I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness."
Update: Todd Fisher has elaborated on his feelings of Carrie Fisher appearing in Star Wars: Episode IX in an interview with ET Canada, saying:
“It is not easy, I could tell you. For me, I have to watch a lot of these old movies and it is heartbreaking sometimes to see your family that has left us. But if you believe in the way our family does – in the Force – we aren’t really apart at all and she will always be with us. But it is nice when you can put her back up on the screen and continue the story and continue the saga. That is important for all of us.”
In his statement, Abrams alluded to attempts to make an Episode IX sans Leia, but he felt the only way to properly end the Skywalker saga was to have her be there. Considering how important Leia and Carrie are to the Star Wars legacy, it's nice to see Lucasfilm is going to work with what they have and give the character a (hopefully) fitting sendoff. At the end of The Last Jedi, she was the only member of the original trilogy's main trio still alive, so there was clearly more story for her. Fans probably would have understood if Abrams had killed Leia offscreen, but that could have been considered an anticlimactic conclusion for a franchise icon. Even with the lessons Poe Dameron learned, Leia remains the Resistance's fearless leader.
It will be interesting to see how exactly Abrams pulls this off, but odds are he wouldn't go through with this unless he had a concrete plan in place. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, the director knows the significance of what he's about to embark on, and he will do everything in his power to ensure Episode IX is a rousing end for a story audiences have been following for more than four decades. The Force Awakens was well-received (save for complaints about New Hope similarities) and a massive box office hit, so Abrams has earned the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019