Following Carrie Fisher’s passing at the end of 2016, Star Wars: Episode IX, which we now know as The Rise of Skywalker, had to be altered to account for the actress no longer being with us. While director J.J. Abrams and his team were able to ensure Leia Organa would still have a role in the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga through unused footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, that doesn’t take away from the fact that she was originally supposed to have a much bigger role.
In fact, according to Carrie Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, the original version of Episode IX would have seen Princess/General Leia Organa finally getting to be a full-fledged Jedi warrior, with lightsaber and all. As he put it:
She was going to be the big payoff in the final film. She was going to be the last Jedi, so to speak. That’s cool, right?
We’ve seen instances of Leia Organa using the Force in Star Wars movies, like when she sensed her brother Luke made it off the second Death Star alive in Return of the Jedi, or when she Force pulled herself in the vacuum of space back to safety in The Last Jedi. But we never got to see her show off her talents as a Jedi in the same way as Luke Skywalker did, and Episode IX would have changed that. There are undoubtedly a lot of Star Wars fans who’ve wanted to see Leia show off some lightsaber skills on screen.
As previously revealed by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, once Carrie Fisher was done shooting The Last Jedi, she told Kennedy that she “better be at the forefront” of Episode IX, as The Force Awakens highlighted Han Solo and The Last Jedi highlighted Luke Skywalker. Kennedy and the Lucasfilm brass were going to honor her request, and as Todd Fisher noted, Fisher would have been around the same age that Alec Guinness was when he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way the cards played out, but when J.J. Abrams succeeded Colin Trevorrow as The Rise of Skywalker, he decided to keep Carrie Fisher in the story via never-before-seen-footage from the last two Star Wars movies she appeared in, which was a surreal challenge. But just how much footage of the actress was available? Continuing in his conversation with Yahoo, Todd Fisher said:
They had eight minutes of footage. They grabbed every frame and analyzed it... and then reverse-engineered it and [got] it into the story the right way. It’s kind of magical.
We still don’t know specifically how Leia Organa fits into The Rise of Skywalker besides still being an important leader within The Resistance, and Todd Fisher wouldn’t elaborate on how J.J. Abrams “reverse-engineered” the Carrie Fisher footage. However, he did describe what was done as a “payoff” that feels like his sister “talking to us all from beyond.”
It’s a shame we never got to see Leia Organa go full Jedi in a Star Wars movie, and if ever there was a time to do it, The Rise of Skywalker would have been it. Still, it’s incredible that the character will still get to be involved in this end of an era, and perhaps in the years to come, there’ll be an opportunity in a novel or comic book series to spotlight her in a Jedi warrior light, which was done in the now-defunct Legends continuity.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20. In the meantime, don’t forget to look through our 2019 release schedule to plan the rest of your silver screen visits accordingly.