Carrie Fisher's family still does not know Lucasfilm's plan for General Leia Organa in Star Wars: Episode IX. With The Force Awakens being Han Solo's sendoff and The Last Jedi closing the book on Luke Skywalker's story, Leia was supposed to have a significant role in the sequel trilogy finale as she led the Resistance against the First Order. Unfortunately, that all changed when Fisher passed away in December 2016. Lucasfilm revealed they started from scratch after the actress' death, and the film has only gone through more revisions since then with J.J. Abrams replacing Colin Trevorrow as director.
At the end of The Last Jedi, Leia is the lone member of the original trilogy's iconic trio still alive in-universe, so Abrams and company have a tough task ahead of them. The general's absence is going to have to be addressed in some way, and it's of utmost importance that whatever they do honors Fisher's tremendous legacy. Since Episode IX has a script in place and starts shooting soon, Abrams likely knows how he's tackling this. However, Lucasfilm is keeping things close to the chest for now.
In an interview with Variety, Fisher's brother Todd revealed Disney has yet to tell the family what they intend to do with the Leia character in Episode IX. Todd went on to say he hopes there's still a part for the fiery rebellion leader in next year's movie:
“Yoda came back in the last movie, so why not Carrie? In the first film, Obi-Wan says that if he dies, he’ll come back stronger than ever. I feel like that’s Carrie. She’ll never disappear entirely.”
The only ways Carrie Fisher could appear in Star Wars 9 is if Lucasfilm digitally recreates Leia a la Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One or repurposes old footage from previous movies. Both of those options are said to be off the table, which could explain why the Fisher family remains in the dark about what Abrams is doing. If the filmmakers wished to use Carrie's likeness, they would have to receive permission from her estate (Todd would likely need to sign off on anything). But since Lucasfilm has been quiet, it lends credence to the theory Leia has been written out of Episode IX and perhaps died offscreen at some point after The Last Jedi. Ideally, Lucasfilm won't be all that secretive about their plan for Leia. The mystery box is one of Abrams' trademarks, but this is one area where a little transparency would be appreciated by many.
Lucasfilm also seems to have wisely opted not to recast the Leia role with a different actress. A casting call made the rounds recently, detailing a role for a woman between 40-50 years old. That description certainly sounds like someone who could be an experienced Resistance leader, and it wouldn't be out of the question for the character to be some sort of Leia replacement. Additionally, there are rumors pointing to Billy Dee Williams returning as Lando Calrissian, which would allow Episode IX to feature an original trilogy legacy character. It's becoming less likely Leia has a physical presence in the film, but she could have a spiritual one as the heroes rally in her memory to vanquish darkness once and for all.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019