It’s only just over a week since Carrie Fisher’s untimely death following a heart attack just before Christmas, and while we are all still mourning the loss of one of the brightest stars in the galaxy, plans for General Leia’s future in the Star Wars universe are in progress.
As was reported at the time of Fisher’s death, she had already wrapped her scenes for the as-yet-untitled Episode VIII. While it was likely that she would have been called back sometime this year to do pickups or additional shots based on preview screenings, her work on the second film in the latest trilogy had largely finished. And it’s not as if this is the first film that had yet to be completed before a leading figure passed away (Gladiator, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Furious 7 come to mind) so this could be worked around. However, with General Leia taking on a more prominent role in Episode VIII and rumours she will have an even greater role in Episode IX, a discussion on the future of her character, along with the direction the Episodes will take is planned over the coming weeks.
According to reports from insiders to The Hollywood Reporter, there were two key scenes in the upcoming films involving Leia. The first is her reunion with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – likely to occur in Episode VIII following Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) discovery of the Jedi Master at that end of The Force Awakens. The second is a confrontation with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), her son with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) who killed his father in The Force Awakens – this would likely have occurred in Episode IX and possibly along the lines of Luke’s interaction with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi or Han’s with Kylo Ren in last year’s film.
A date has not yet been announced for when filming on Episode IX begins, but with a 2019 release date and based on production on the past few films, it’s likely to begin early next year. Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow is writing the film together with Derek Connolly and will also take on directing duties. The Hollywood Reporter states that the status of the script is currently unknown, with Disney not commenting. However, Trevorrow is due in LA next week for meetings with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy “to discuss options”.
And there are a number of options available to the writers and producers. Firstly, Leia could be written out at the end of Episode VIII, have some scenes reshot, and (presumably) a different ending to the film.
Secondly, as seen with the recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the producers could choose to have a CGI-generated Leia. If they go down this route, they would probably give Leia a greatly reduced role in Episode IX (and likely see her killed off early in the film).
Whatever direction they decide to take the character of Leia in, there is bound to be plenty of fan discussion, debate, and conflict. At this stage, I would be extremely uncomfortable seeing a CGI-Leia in Episode IX and would hate to see significant changes to her involvement in Episode VIII, especially as its her last film. Although this is an immediate reaction days following her death. Episode IX is over two years away so we can only guess at the sentiment then. But at the same time, I could not stand to see Leia’s non-appearance be a footnote in Episode IX’s opening crawl. Neither Leia nor Fisher deserve that.
With production only just beginning on the final film, there is time to work out what is going to be best for the character and the franchise. No doubt Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd will be included in the discussion as well as the producers taking the pulse from the fandom. The more pressing matter is with Episode VIII, and I just hope we don’t lose too much of our fearless leader and Fisher’s brilliant work.