When a Franchise Honors a Fallen Star the Right Way

In the wake of Carrie Fisher's death, it is worth revisiting two examples of a late actor being honored onscreen.
Courtesy of Photofest

As Lucasfilm and the Star Wars family continue to mourn Carrie Fisher, they also must consider the future of her most beloved character, Leia Organa.

Leia was to have a larger role in 2019's Episode IX than in December's Episode VIII (which has already wrapped), with at least two key scenes featuring her planned for the franchise. As Heat Vision reported Thursday, Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow is due in Los Angeles next week to discuss options with Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy for Leia's onscreen future.

Giving a character a proper sendoff after the death of the actor who portrayed them is an emotional and challenging proposition. Though the situations were different, recent history has two examples of tributes done right.

Over the summer, Star Trek Beyond had an understated nod to the passing of Leonard Nimoy, showing the younger version of Spock (Zachary Quinto) learning of the death of his older counterpart, Spock Prime (Nimoy). The loss was written into the script, with the younger Spock questioning whether he should remain in Starfleet or dedicate himself to the preservation of Vulcan culture. Later, the younger Spock goes through the belongings of the late Spock Prime and finds a photo of the Nimoy-era Trek cast, a moment that got the thumbs-up from Nimoy's son Adam and earned big applause from the audience at the premiere in San Diego Comic-Con.

"It was so sweet to see Dad there, still resonating. Still present," Adam told Heat Vision in August.

People also point to Furious 7 as an even more challenging example of honoring a late star, with Paul Walker dying while the film was still being made. CGI — with help from his brother as stand-ins — allowed the film to be completed, and the surprisingly touching tribute at the end of the film stands as one of the franchise's most loved moments. Rather than kill Walker's Brian O'Connor, Furious 7 allowed him to drive off into the sunset to live a quieter life with his family.

In reaction to the news Lucasfilm would be meeting to discuss Leia's future, many readers objected to the idea that her Episode IX journey would be completed through CGI, similarly to how Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin was revived for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Others suggested the character be retired offscreen, in between episodes, similar to Nimoy's Spock. Whatever happens, there is plenty of time for Lucasfilm to give Leia, and Fisher, the sendoff they deserve.  

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