I'll never forget when Princess Leia turned around in Rogue One. Carrie Fischer had been hospitalized after cardiac arrest just a few days before and fans everywhere were in suspense, hoping for her survival. CGI Leia smiled and spoke that word, hope, in one of the last scenes of the film that had already torn us apart with the deaths of every major character. When I got home from the movie, we learned that Carrie Fischer had passed away, and we waited in suspense once more to see her semi-resurrected in Episode 8.
Episode 8 was dedicated to Carrie Fischer, our Princess Leia and General Organa, and at the end we were left glad to see her again, but questioning if and how she would return in Episode 9. Han and Luke were now killed off, leaving Leia as the last of the three main characters from the original trilogy, but with her actress gone, what could be done?
After the massive amount of CGI in Rogue One, fans wondered if Leia would be animated into the film. Would killing her off screen be easier? How would that change the intended plot? Would it be disrespectful to animate her to keep the plot?
Last week, the cast of Episode 9 was announced, and Carrie Fischer was included. With the blessing of her daughter Billie, director J.J Abrams (who also directed Episode 8) decided to use unreleased footage from Episode 8 for Episode 9 instead of animating her into the film or killing off her character.
I'm nervous that this decision will force the plot of Episode 9 away from the original plan. No doubt Abrams would have had more creative freedom if Carrie Fischer was alive to shoot whatever scenes he needed. But I am grateful that they are going to use the real Carrie Fischer, not a CGI version of her, to finish the Star Wars series that fans have loved so dearly for so long, in part because of her wonderful character.
Since Episode 4, Princess Leia has been inspiring girls and women of all ages to take initiative and work hard. She wasn't just a princess that someone else had to save— she withstood torture, shot guns, made plans— and was promoted to general in Episode 7. Courageous, commanding, and calm under pressure, the Princess Leia I knew as a child became the General Organa I admire as an adult.
It will be heartbreaking to know that the woman who inspired me when she was both in and out of character is not really participating in this film, but I am glad that we will see her on the big screen one last time.
May the force be with you, Carrie Fischer, and may it be with us all.