Carrie Fisher’s death leaves a huge hole in the Star Wars franchise – and now filmmakers will be forced to grapple with a big question: what does this mean for Leia’s future?
The actress had been set to appear as Princess Leia (now grown up and leading the Resistance as badass General Organa) in the next two Star Wars movies, Episode VIII (due December 2017) and Episode IX (2019).
The first of those shouldn’t be much of a problem: director Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII has already finished shooting. But when it comes to Episode IX, it is unclear how Disney plans to cope with Fisher’s sudden death – particularly given her rumoured central role in the upcoming film.
Insiders have told The Hollywood Reporter that (spoiler alert!!!) Leia has at least two key scenes in Episode VIII: a reunion with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), last seen standing moodily on his solitary island while Rey tries to hand him his lightsabre, and a confrontation with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), her son who killed his dad Han Solo (Harrison Ford) at the pivotal moment in The Force Awakens.
Leia was also reportedly set to be a bigger part of Episode IX than VIII, but it is now unclear how that could happen.
The movie likely will not begin shooting until early 2018, though scriptwriters Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly will have to tackle the issue sooner. Trevorrow will meet with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy to explore options later this month.
Could Leia be written out of Episode VIII, with scenes re-shot to re-direct the narrative? (That seems like it wouldn’t go down well with Star Wars fans, who will be looking forward to seeing Fisher in all her glory one last time.)
Or could Leia be resurrected using CGI? That’s not as outlandish as it might once have been: filmmakers were able to bring back Peter Cushing and the younger Princess Leia in Rogue One.
Another option would be to re-cast the role – not as unlikely as it sounds: the late Richard Harris was replaced by Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter films, to general success, though it would be a hard part for any other actress to make her own.
Star Wars: Episode VIII will be released in December 2017