In the immediate aftermath of the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher, the last thing we wanted to think about was what happens to Star Wars. Though that is what brought her into most of our lives, it was inconsequential to the loss a daughter, mother, friend, and to the many she helped by championing mental health advocacy. With Episode IX now having finished its first draft and time to come to terms with the loss we are going to look into how we think Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow will handle the loss of Carrie and what happens to the character of Leia.
We know through statements from Kathleen Kennedy that Episode IX “started over” after Carrie’s passing and that they will not digitally recreate Leia or use previous footage There were reports that Leia would have a larger role in IX however that may have been unfounded as Kathleen Kennedy also stated that they did not yet have a script when those reports were circulating. So that leaves us with two possibilities, one, recast Leia, or two, there will be no Leia in Episode IX.
The first option is a tough one. How do they recast Leia? What actor could fill those shoes? You may be surprised to hear that I believe that Leia should be recast. I think Tricia Barr and B.J. Priester at Fangirlblog.com did a great job explaining why its a good choice already so go read that. Briefly, I think that the character of Leia is so integral to the stories of so many other characters like Kylo Ren and Luke, that not including Leia would impact their story in addition to Leia’s arc.
The second option inevitably raises the question: how do they deal with her death?
We had to deal with tragedy at the end of 2016. Carrie appears throughout VIII. We are not changing VIII to deal with her passing. Her performance remains as it is in VIII. In Rogue One, we had some digital character, [but] we’re not doing that with Carrie. -Disney CEO Bob Iger
With this statement from Bob Iger and the fact that they started over after Carrie’s passing we know that Leia should live through The Last Jedi. So Leia lives through TLJ and won’t be in Episode IX which means they have two ways to address her death. The first would be to address her death in the opening crawl. Perhaps a mention mourning as the Resistance laments the loss of their leader General Organa and how they now are regrouping around Poe and whoever Laura Dern ends up playing. I personally find this idea a disservice to the character and Carrie Fisher.
The second would be to have her ship attacked and destroyed in the opening frames of Episode IX, you won’t even have to show her to show her death. Start the movie just as A New Hope started, a cruiser being attacked by a First Order Star Destroyer or better yet Snoke’s command center ship. Cut to the interior with BB-8 and C3PO hurrying to the hanger bay to get into a ship. Poe is the pilot and says the General wont leave and ordered him to take the information gained to the new Resistance base/Luke. They escape and we see Leia’s ship destroyed with her and most of the crew still on board. This would work as it pays homage to the first onscreen encounter with Leia and it honors what she did then and would do now. The difference is the First Order is even more ruthless than the Empire.
I must say I am glad I am not the one that has to make these choices. While I personally believe a recast would be the best for both the story and the character I understand why Lucasfilm would choose not to. There is so much attached to Carrie Fisher and the role of Leia in the films that it would be an near impossible task to take that role. This is the biggest film series in the world and Carrie Fisher as Leia is a part of our culture at this point, no matter what the actress that would take the role would have had every choice questioned. We must trust Lucasfilm to do what is right.