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The world is still reeling from the sudden passing of Carrie Fisher last week. Whether you appreciated her best as an actress, as a writer or as a mental health awareness advocate, she touched a lot of people's lives over her 60 years on Earth. However, when it comes to the Star Wars franchise, Disney and Lucasfilm are now faced with how to continue the new trilogy without her. Leia Organa was supposed to have a major role in Episode VIII and Episode IX, and while the former movie won't be as much of an issue since Fisher already shot her scenes, the latter movie will need to be significantly altered. So the question now is, what will Star Wars do to deal with Princess/General Leia's absence in the near future?
Before going further, let's get something obvious out of the way: recasting is not an option. It's one thing having an actress come in to voice Leia for some video games or Star Wars Rebels, but when it comes to live action, that role belonged solely to Carrie Fisher for four decades (excluding the baby in Revenge of the Sith, of course). Casting another actress would be in poor taste, so let's just push that off the table. That leaves two more feasible, but still imperfect options: writing the character out or using digital technology to "recreate her" on the big screen for a few brief scenes. Bear in mind that both of these options still mean Leia will have a decreased presence in Episode IX (and possibly Episode VIII, too). Nothing will ever substitute for having Fisher on the screen alive, well and delivering her lines.
Let's address the digital technology approach first. As those who have seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story know, Wilhuff Tarkin was portrayed and voiced by Guy Henry during principal photography, but the likeness of Peter Cushing was digitally laid over Henry's face during post-production. Even more surprising was when Princess Leia appeared in the final minute of the movie, played on camera by actress Ingvild Deila, but with 1970s Carrie Fisher's likeness. So technically it would be possible to include Carrie Fisher in Episode IX by having another actress play her in front of the camera, and then use footage from The Force Awakens and Episode VIII to recreate her likeness, but that would be a huge mistake.
First off, many agree that Rogue One's Tarkin looked too artificial, not quite escaping the uncanny valley effect. We still have a lot of work to do to perfect these kinds of visual effects. But more importantly with regard to Leia, it would be walking over an ethical minefield. Digitally recreating Cushing, who has been dead for over 20 years, in Rogue One has drawn controversy, so just imagine the reaction of seeing a faux Fisher only a few years after her death. It's safe to say a lot of fans would see it as disrespectful, so it's best not to go down that route at all.
That leaves writing Leia Organa out, which is cheaper and easier to pull off. It's not a problem-free solution, but it's the one that's safest and least likely to anger fans. As mentioned earlier, Carrie Fisher already shot her scenes for Episode VIII, so we'll still be seeing her at the end of the year. Now even though Episode VIII has concluded its principal photography, there's still 11 months to go until the movie's release, and if it's following in the footsteps of Rogue One and other recent blockbusters, time has been set aside for reshoots. So will director/writer Rian Johnson figure out a way to write Leia out of the trilogy before Episode VIII concludes, or will that burden be passed to director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly for Episode IX?
I think the ideal situation is if this is nipped in the bud during Episode VIII, and handled in a similar way as how The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 dealt with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death. Hoffman had already shot most of his scenes as Plutarch Heavensbee, but there were a few substantial moments that hadn't been taken care of. With a few rewrites, not only were said moments passed to others, it was also was subtly explained why we weren't seeing Plutarch again. Obviously it's more difficult with Carrie Fisher since there's an entire movie that was depending on her presence, but if time allows, it would be better if during reshoots, Episode VIII found a way to give Leia Organa a graceful exit before the story concludes. Yes, include some lines in Episode IX about why Leia isn't around, but lay the groundwork in Episode VIII.
As for what Leia's final fate will be, the possibilities range from being killed offscreen to simply attending to other Resistance duties elsewhere. I doubt I'm alone in hoping it's something more in line with the latter, as having Leia die (ideally in a blaze of glory) without anyone seeing it would just feel wrong. Besides, just because Carrie Fisher is gone doesn't mean that Leia couldn't continue to appear in more books, comics or video games, where Fisher's involvement wasn't necessary. Whatever happens to the character, choosing the re-write path is the most satisfiable solution for both hardcore fans and casual moviegoers. The decision isn't perfect, but at least they'll understand.
You can see Carrie Fisher in the Star Wars universe one last time when Episode VIII is released on December 15. Make sure to let us know in the comments below what you think would be the best way for the franchise to handle Leia Organa moving forward.