Tragedy struck in December of 2016, when Carrie Fisher, known to many as Princess Leia of the Star Wars series, passed away at the age of 60. While The Last Jedi had already debuted to audiences and had our princess alive at the end, ready to continue her fight alongside the Resistance, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had to be retooled entirely around her very noticeable absence. Director J.J. Abrams, however, greatly respected Carrie Fisher and immediately pulled a possible CGI rendering of her off the table.
So, with that in mind, how will Leia be in Episode IX? “You can’t replace her,” J.J. said to Stephen Colbert, host of this year’s Star Wars Celebration. Continuing on, the director added:
“Me and co-writer Chris Terrio…we all talked about how to move on. You don’t recast her, and you don’t replace her…but the magical thing about having worked with her on The Force Awakens is that we have a number these scenes that had gone unused. Looking at those scenes, I am starting to realize that there is a way to use those scenes to continue her story.”
According to the leader of Star Wars herself, Kathleen Kennedy, Leia was originally supposed to be the main hero of the original three to be focused on in The Rise of Skywalker. “She was having a blast,” Kennedy said during a Vanity Fair cover story. “She grabbed me and she said ‘I better be at the forefront of IX!’…she thought IX would be her movie, and it would have been.”
This line of thinking makes sense, seeing as how Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker were the prominent original characters featured in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, respectively. I, personally, was very much looking forward to seeing Carrie Fisher tear it up as maybe a Jedi Master or Force Leader or something. I suppose that’s still possible, but unlikely.
By using deleted scenes from The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, Chris Terrio, and others are now writing around her absence while still “working with her,” according to the director. “Princess Leia lives in this film,” a beaming J.J. concluded, to thunderous applause from a happy, appreciative audience.
Honestly, this amount of respect by what’s essentially become an entertainment monopoly gives me pause. I applaud Abrams and Kennedy for using restraint and for how they seem to genuinely care for Leia’s legacy. This seems like the most proper way to honor one of the best parts of the Star Wars franchise while not trivializing Carrie Fisher’s untimely departure.