Warning: the following contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Could the original plan for the story of Star Wars: Episode IX have seen Leia accepting the role of Jedi Master, training Rey, and being the one to bring the Jedi back to the galaxy?
The Last Jedi may be making its mark on the box office, just like The Force Awakens and Rogue One before it, but in recent memory, the typical moviegoer thought the franchise was dead. Sure, The Clone Wars animated series was slowly getting more appreciation as it went along and there were the typical Star Wars books, comics, and videogames landing on a regular basis, but after the divisive reception of the prequels, live-action Star Wars seemed to be a thing of the past.
Even after George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, the home of the well-received Marvel Cinematic Universe, it took a while for many fans to be convinced that getting new Star Wars movies was a good thing - at least until it was confirmed that the original cast of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill were returning. Their presence may not have allayed all concerns, but the promise of continuing the story of fan-favorite characters from the original trilogy in an aesthetic dominated by the real sets and practical effects that popularized the franchise in the first place really got people paying attention.
As it ended up playing out, Luke hardly had an on-screen role is The Force Awakens, as much of the plot centered around the quest to find him to get him to join the fight again. Leia was more prominent, but even she didn't have much of an arc. Instead, The Force Awakens was Han Solo's chance to shine, bringing Rey and Finn into the Resistance and sacrificing himself to try and save his son.
For The Last Jedi, it was finally Luke's turn. The disgraced Jedi Master got a quite a bit more focus, also sacrificing himself to Kylo Ren to save the resistance, making his sister the sole survivor of the original trio. While she got a respectable story arc in The Last Jedi, Episode IX was supposed to be her movie. Unfortunately, Carrie Fisher tragically passed away at the end of 2016. She had completed all her work on The Last Jedi, but Episode IX's production hadn't started yet. Since Lucasfilm is unlikely to recast the role or recreate her with CGI, we may have seen the last of live-action Leia.
Instead of altering the story of The Last Jedi to edit Leia's story to create a sensible end for the character, like Furious 7 did for Paul Walker, Rian Johnson wanted her final performance to stand as intended, putting the difficult task of writing out Leia on the shoulders of then Episode IX writer and director, Colin Trevorrow, and the script was thrown out and started from scratch again. Fans already had concerns about Trevorrow, and it appears they may have been well founded, as Trevorrow ended up being removed from the project and J.J. Abrams was brought in, with Batman v Superman writer Chris Terrio, to pen the saga's final chapter.
There's no official information available regarding the plan for Leia in IX was, but based on where her character is at the end of The Last Jedi and the little information we have from the original plan for IX, we can put together a pretty good idea of what IX could have done.
Given, as Rian Johnson showed with The Last Jedi, fan theories don't always pan out, so there's no knowing exactly what IX would have done until it's officially stated, but one thing's for sure, whatever the story was, it had a lot to do with Leia, and we're not going to see it in live-action.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019