There was a great disturbance in the Force when Carrie Fisher passed in December 2016. A talented actress and arguably an even more talented screenwriter, she left a unique space in the film-industry and also left the makers of Star Wars with a practical problem. Though the new Star Wars entries had introduced a slew of new characters, each of the films also relied on some of the veterans. The Force Awakens pivoted around a fateful role for Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and the most recent, The Last Jedi, brought Mark Hammil’s Luke Skywalker full circle. It’s no secret tha Fisher’s Princess Leia was intended to have a no less important role in the next – as yet un-named – sequel but her death has meant that such plans will need some changing.
However it has been announced that Carrie Fisher will be a credited performer in that upcoming film and that director J. J. Abrams – with the full permission of Fisher’s estate and the backing of her family – will be using unseen footage shot for the previous entries so that the actor has a significant appearance and role. It may obviously be nowhere near as much as intended and the story will likely have faced major rewrites, but it does put a comma if not a full-stop on the concerns over how the film will handle the dilemma. There had been early talk of recasting the role but that was seen as something that wouldn’t be accepted by Star Wars fans and even the idea of creating a synthesbian version (a la Peter Cushing’s appearance in Rogue One) had its problems.
“As we, her family, as well as her extended family of fans around the world so believe, Carrie’s Princess Leia is forever entrenched in the franchise and her indelible presence is fundamental to the film,” Carrie’s brother Todd Fisher said in a statement. “J.J. Abrams understood Carrie’s iconic role, and he has masterfully re-crafted this final entry to include this unused and very last footage of Carrie ever taken, without resorting to CGI or animatronics. Our family and her fans will look forward with great anticipation for this one! Her force will forever be with us!”
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” director J.J. Abrams said via StarWars.com “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie [Lourd], we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
The film which will begin primary shooting in August at Pinewood Studios has also announced some additions to the cast. Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) will be reprising his original trilogy role and actors Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant and Naomi Ackie will join the returning ensemble which includes Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Daniels and Carrie’s daughter Billie. Mark Hamill is also on the cast list which indicates that we may yet see some more Luke Skywalker.