The death of Carrie Fisher on December 27 2016 came as a huge blow to Star Wars fans. It also left many speculating wildly about how her loss will affect the coming movies in the series. Will she be clumsily written out of what appeared to be a growing and pivotal role in the future episodes? Could we trust a series that resurrected Peter Cushing for Rogue One to CGI her sensitively into later films? With the Star Wars machine characteristically tight-lipped on forthcoming plotlines, sifting through all the rumour and conjecture, here’s what we can gather so far.
Carrie Fisher will feature heavily in Star Wars: Episode 8
Fisher finished filming the un-named Episode VIII in July 2016, and Deadline report that her role is to be far more central than the cameo she made in The Force Awakens. It’s speculated that the next film’s script may be altered to explain her absence from the following episode, although…
She had signed up for Star Wars: Episode IX
Leia was definitely due to appear in Episode IX; director Colin Trevorrow said in a January 2016 interview that he wanted to “find new places that we can take those characters… They are icons, but they’re also people that have suffered tremendous loss and challenge over the course of all these films.” However, with filming not set to begin until 2018 and a Han Solo spin-off movie planned for the interim, there is plenty of time for Disney to alter the script to remove her role or, if they don’t want to touch the finished Episode VIII, explain her absence in the opening crawl of Episode IX. It would be a rather cold send-off for Leia, but some would argue better than the alternative…
Insiders think she’s unlikely to be CGI’d
Disney will definitely have the cash to digitally recreate Leia for the final film in the new trilogy, with Lloyds Of London looking to be paying out on a $50 million insurance claim over her sudden death. Also, owning copyright on her performance in The Force Awakens, they arguably have the rights to use images from that film in the process. The question is, would they dare? They’ve come in for no little amount of flack for creating a CGI Peter Cushing in Rogue One – 20 years after his death and with the full assistance of the Cushing estate – and Leia is undoubtedly a far more beloved character; it could easily be seen as stepping over a line of dignity and respect. “Based on the divisive way that fans have reacted to the effects in Rogue One and considering that her death will still be pretty fresh, I think they won’t go the CGI route,” said Erik Davis, managing editor of Fandango, in an interview with CNBC. “Unless, it’s to touch up a tiny bit, a fraction of a scene. Sort of the way Fast and Furious did it with Paul Walker. I think that that would be the only case that they would use effects.”
Star Wars visual effects supervisor John Knoll had also claimed before Fisher’s death that “it is extremely labour-intensive and expensive to do. I don’t imagine anybody engaging in this kind of thing in a casual manner. We’re not planning on doing this digital recreation extensively from now on. It just made sense [for Rogue One].”
She’s unlikely to be recast
Unlike Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, who was recast when Richard Harris died, it’s difficult to imagine another actress carrying off Leia, a part with which Fisher is so deeply intertwined. Instead, many fans are speculating that any appearance from Leia in Episode IX is most likely to be using held-back footage from Episode VIII. Flashbacks galore, then?