'Star Wars' Braintrust Sets Meeting to Plot Leia's Life After Carrie Fisher's Death

Disney weighs options for the future of the iconic character as directors for the upcoming 'Episode VIII' and 2019's 'Episode IX' plan out how she will fit into the rest of the franchise films.
David James/Lucasfilm
Carrie Fisher in 'The Force Awakens'

Carrie Fisher's Dec. 27 death has left a disturbance in the Force. Her iconic Princess Leia is set to appear in the next two Star Wars films, and insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that at least two key scenes are planned for Episode VIII (Dec. 15) and Episode IX (2019): a Leia reunion with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a confrontation with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), her son who killed Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 2015's The Force Awakens.

Details of where those scenes fit into the movies remain unclear, but insiders say Leia was to have been a bigger part of Episode IX than VIII. Episode VIII director Rian Johnson has finished shooting, but Episode IX doesn't have a start date; both Force Awakens and Episode VIII began production at the beginning of a year so it is very likely that Episode IX will begin shooting in early 2018 for a December 2019 release. And the status of its script, being written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, is unknown. (Disney won't comment.)

Trevorrow, the filmmaker behind Jurassic World who is directing Episode IX, is due to arrive in L.A. the week of Jan. 10 for meetings with Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy to discuss options. But unlike in other cases where actors died during the filmmaking process — Paul Walker in Furious 7 comes to mind — it appears that the team has time to explore solutions.

(As well as time to grieve. As one insider puts it, "People are still deeply mourning Carrie's death over there.")

Leia could be written out and her scenes reshot, options not unheard of in the Star Wars universe. Rogue One went through a major overhaul and was met with glowing reviews and blockbuster box office. Episode VIII also went through a major rewrite with Johnson, who had to overhaul his script after he saw the significant changes J.J. Abrams made to the overarching Star Wars story thanks to his extensive postproduction work during Force Awakens. (Johnson had based his script on Force Awakens' earlier drafts.)

Another solution is to use CGI effects; a reduced role could mean Leia would only appear in glimpses. "Rogue One is the road map," says one Star Wars source, referring to Lucasfilm resurrecting Peter Cushing and making Fisher young again in the current hit.

"I have no doubt, given some of the recent work I've seen, there are filmmakers who will be willing to take up the challenge," says Michael Fink, an Oscar-winning VFX supervisor who teaches at USC. But, "so far, we have seen moments of success but not full performances." He says there's also ethics to weigh: "Should we create additional roles for Princess Leia? I don't think so."

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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