Family, friends, and fans are still mourning the tragic death of Carrie Fisher, but the folks at Lucasfilm are also faced with the unenviable task of deciding how to proceed with its Star Wars franchise without one of its key performers. We previously learned that Fisher had completed her work on writer/director Rian Johnson’s sequel Star Wars: Episode VIII, which will reportedly see General Leia taking on a larger role than the one she had in The Force Awakens. But according to THR, Leia was poised to have an even bigger role in Star Wars: Episode IX, and Lucasfilm is at a crossroads.
The report states that at least two major scenes are planned for Leia in Episode VIII and IX: a reunion with Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, and a confrontation with son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). It’s unclear which of these scenes takes place in which movie, but it certainly presents story issues for Episode IX.
Per THR, Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow is due to arrive in Los Angeles next week, at which time a series of meetings will take place with Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy to decide how to proceed. It’s still early in the Episode IX development process as Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly are presumably still working on the script, with production’s not expected to begin until very late 2017 or early 2018. That means it’s possible Leia could be written out of Episode IX entirely, at which point the Lucasfilm team would have to decide how to explain Leia’s absence—does Leia die offscreen, or get a sendoff into the sunset a la Paul Walker in Furious 7?
Which raises another option: CGI effects could be used to include Leia in Episode IX without Carrie Fisher. Lucasfilm just completed technically stunning work resurrecting a character via CGI in Rogue One to controversial results, and thus certainly has the capability to bring Leia back even though Fisher is no longer with us.
But should they? Is it ethical to digitally recreate an actor to star in a film without his or her knowledge or permission? Fisher obviously was planning to return for Episode IX, but would she want to be digitally brought back just to serve a fictional story? That is, obviously, tough to say, and Lucasfilm and Trevorrow have some very difficult decisions to make, no doubt with the input and involvement of Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd.
THR notes that Lucasfilm is no stranger to rewriting and reworking these Star Wars films extensively, not only because of the lengthy reshoots on Rogue One, but because J.J. Abrams’ extensive post-production changes to The Force Awakens forced Johnson to perform a major rewrite on his Episode VIII script—he was working off of earlier drafts The Force Awakens, but Abrams tweaked the story and characters throughout post-production with some extensive (and highly secretive) reshoots.
This is all ethically tricky territory, and a source tells THR that while Lucasfilm is meeting to address the story/production problems, everyone over there is still in great mourning over Fisher’s death. I understand Star Wars means a lot to many people, and folks are curious what will happen to the production of Episode IX, but it’s vitally important to remember that Carrie Fisher was not just a character in the movies. She was a person—a vibrant, whip-smart, hilarious, passionate human being, and she’s no longer with us, and that hurts.