In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing last year, the Star Wars powers-that-be at Lucasfilm decided shortly after her funeral to rework Episode IX to account for Carrie’s passing. General Leia Organa would not be recast and would be written out of the movie. They made this decision a little too hastily after Fisher’s death, I think, while everyone was in shock and deep grieving and perhaps a little anger. The time to reconsider this mistake is now, before Episode IX gets too far along.
(Episode IX was apparently supposed to be a very heavy-Leia film. The rumored framework is that VII was Han-heavy, VIII is about Luke, and Carrie and the studio believed IX was about her character. The director admits they pretty much had to start over.)
But Carrie’s not here any more. And I suspect that the director, Colin Trevorrow, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and the other Lucasfilm folks are still contorting themselves to overhaul a Leia-centric script to make it not have Leia. If you’re having a difficult time imagining how that story unfolds, join the club. If you’re hard-pressed to see how they deal with her death in IX without something more offscreen than Uncle Owen’s and Aunt Beru’s death, also, welcome to the club. Should they try to rip up Episode VIII and somehow kill off the character? That would be absolutely terrible.
Even if they started over, and come up with some great non-Leia story, it’s a mistake. Leia was always the most underdeveloped character, often shoved aside to make room for some male character’s trials and tribulations. Having her in Star Wars matters and giving the character her due matters. It matters to society to see an older female action hero not just appear on screen in a cameo but to be the Winston Churchill of her cause, at the center of the film.
The clear solution is to keep the Leia story and recast her. They could digitally resurrect age 60 Carrie Fisher as they did for Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. Heck, it was also done with age 19 Carrie Fisher in Rogue One. That worked out pretty well (better than Tarkin, IMHO), even if it was rough around the edges. This is a recasting of sorts as another actor steps in to at least provide the motion capture, if not do the entire performance.
A true recasting could be done instead. She just has to look like Leia as if she had aged from Return of the Jedi. A voice actress could even dub the voice if need be. They don’t have to match age 60 Carrie Fisher. Honestly, Leia Organa in Force Awakens didn’t look like real life Carrie Fisher or how Princess Leia would have looked if she aged from Return of the Jedi. Some actors morph completely out of their younger self, and Carrie fell into the same camp as Kathleen Turner and Gil Gerard. It was almost as if Lucasfilm already miscast Leia just by having Fisher in Force Awakens for nostalgia sake.
What’s Sela Ward doing these days? Or Kate Mulgrew? There are many actresses who could step in and do a great job. Recasting one of the franchise’s major stars would not even be a precedent for Star Wars:
- Han Solo (a younger version).
- Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew’s legs weren’t capable).
- R2-D2 (Kenny Baker died).
- Lando Calrissian (younger).
- Even Yoda (replaced with CGI in Phantom Menace) – and he’s not even real!
Is recasting disrespectful to Carrie or her family? No. This is show business and if the major lead for your film dies before it’s filmed, you find someone else. Beloved actors are replaced all the time long before the cameras roll and often for much more mundane reasons. Furthermore, Fisher didn’t exactly help the cause of keeping Leia tied to her. She took horrible care of herself and managed to die with a grab bag of drugs in her system. Ecstasy, heroin, alcohol, and coke were in her system when she died. I think she forfeited any claim to take down Leia with her, which I sincerely doubt she would have wanted to do.
Mind you, I say this with the deepest respect and admiration for Carrie Fisher. She was amazing on screen and off. Funny, smart, a hell of a writer and student of life. I adored her as a kid and more so as an adult. But the show must go on.