While we’ve been waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to land in cinemas for a while now, there is a bittersweet edge to its arrival, as it’s the final time we’ll ever get to see Carrie Fisher as General/Princess Leia, following her tragic death last December.
The production team faced a difficult challenge in the wake of Fisher’s passing, as they had to decide whether to edit the film to wrap up Leia’s story in some way or to preserve her final performance as it was intended. In the end, director Rian Johnson took the latter path and didn’t make any edits at all to Leia’s scenes in the film.
While talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson made clear that this was the only decision he entertained as any alternative would have just been a “horror.”
“That was the very first conversation I had with [Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy] after we came back, after New Year’s. I kind of looked through the footage. That was the very first question. I felt really strongly that what we have here is so beautiful and the way that the character develops, the way it’s paid off, and not only that, the horror of trying to manufacture something that — I don’t even know what it would have been, but something for the end of this movie that leaves it in a place where the transition is easier, the idea of, ‘Oh God, how would you fake something like that, and how would it not be terrible?’”
The director went on to explain that he feels the best thing he could have done was preserve Fisher’s last “beautiful, complete performance” in The Last Jedi. He’s confident, though, that J.J. Abrams, who’s set to direct Episode IX, will find the perfect way to handle the absence of Leia.
“Given that we have a beautiful, complete performance from her that I think audiences deserve to see, and I think it will mean a lot for them, that ray of hope from Leia. For all of those reasons I felt really strongly that we had to let this fly. Luckily we have a fantastic storyteller in J.J. Abrams who is going to figure out a way to bring it home in the end, that’s going to be satisfying, I know he’s going to. With this movie I just wanted audiences to have this performance.”
Anyone who’s seen the film will surely agree that Johnson made the right choice here, as The Last Jedi acts as a testament to Fisher and her iconic character. Not only do we see Leia as a tough Resistance leader, but she also demonstrates her latent Force abilities for the first time ever and reunites with her brother Luke. Though it’s heartbreaking that we can’t spend any more time with the character, at least Star Wars: The Last Jedi ended Leia’s story as best it could.