Since Carrie Fisher’s untimely death on Dec. 27, 2016, Star Wars fans have wondered how the franchise would handle her absence in Star Wars: Episode IX.
Initially, there were fears that the filmmakers might use CGI to recreate the character, like they did with Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (which also ended with a de-aged version of Leia, sparking more concern). Those rumors were shot down by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who initially said that Fisher wouldn’t appear in Episode IX at all. However, it was revealed in late July that we will see General Leia Organa in the film, thanks to unused footage originally shot for The Force Awakens.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” said writer-director J.J. Abrams in the official news release announcing the cast and start of production. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
Abrams wasn’t specific about what bits of Carrie Fisher’s performance as Leia were left on The Force Awakens’ cutting room floor, or how they might it be used in Episode IX. But there are enough deleted scenes and unused snippets of footage from the Force Awakens trailers that, before the finished film hits theaters on December 2019, we can make a few educated guesses.
At the end of the The Last Jedi, her brother Luke having created a distraction by Force projecting himself into battle with Kylo Ren, General Organa and her troops boarded the Millennium Falcon and escaped the abandoned Rebel Alliance base on Crait. While in hiding, the rebels sent out a distress call to their allies in the outer rim. However, as they were hunkered down in the base, two of the rebel fighters informed the general that their call went ignored:
Kaydel Connix: Our distress signal’s been received at multiple points, but no response.
Larma D’Acy: They’ve heard us, but no one’s coming.
Part of Luke’s plan in confronting Kylo Ren was to rally the base. After his time with Rey and his chat with Yoda, Luke finally realizes the benefit of being seen as a legend. It’s a powerful recruitment tool when looking to rebuild your depleted army. It could, to paraphrase Poe, be the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down.
Which leads us to the following deleted scene from The Force Awakens:
Included in the bonus features for the 3D Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the film, the scene shows General Organa preparing her emissary, Korr Sella, to speak to the Senate. Leia tells Korr, “I need you to go see the Senate right away. Tell them I insist the Republic take action against the First Order.” She adds, in classic Carrie Fisher style: “Not all the senators think I’m insane. Or maybe they do. I don’t care.”
The opening crawl of The Last Jedi informs us that General Snoke has “decimated the peaceful Republic,” however it seems plausible that there could still be senators alive and in hiding somewhere who heard Leia’s distress call and ignored it. This scene could easily be repurposed in Episode IX to show Leia taking action to rebuild the Resistance’s army. (Update: As noted in the comments, Korr Sella appears to be a victim of the Starkiller Base blast, but the footage stands: using Leia’s half of the conversation could leave room for another actor to be swapped in, and a lovely way to show the audience that General Organa is still around and in charge, even if we aren’t able to see more than a fleeting glimpse of her in the film.)
The second teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, there is footage of Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata interacting with General Organa that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film. It’s brief, but you can see it around 50 seconds into this trailer, right as Luke says, “My sister has it.” Maz hands Luke’s lightsaber to Leia:
Fans noticed that scene was missing from the finished film, prompting Abrams to explain the omission to Entertainment Weekly: “That was a scene actually filmed, but we took out. At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to be sitting around.”
This footage creates an intriguing possibility. Originally, Maz had nothing “of value” to do at the base. But since the lightsaber she hands Leia is destroyed by Rey and Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi, Maz could factor back in to the weapon’s arc. The preexisting footage could be used to show Maz presenting the rebuilt lightsaber to Leia, who could then hand it off to Rey (footage which may already exist since Rey ultimately ended up with the lightsaber in The Force Awakens).
There may be additional pieces of Carrie Fisher’s Leia performance that we haven’t caught glimpses of yet — including in The Last Jedi, which released over 30 minutes of deleted scenes on its Blu-ray, none of which included Leia. But the first cut of The Force Awakens clocked in around two hours and 40 minutes, with about a dozen scenes cut from the final version, according to Abrams’ interview with Collider.
Whatever is in store, it will ultimately be comforting to see actual footage of Carrie Fisher — and not a CGI recreation or a recast actress — giving General Leia Organa the sendoff she deserves. Based on an August 1 tweet from Abrams, his first on the platform, we’re not the only ones who think so.
Bittersweet starting this next chapter without Carrie, but thanks to an extraordinary cast and crew, we are ready to go. Grateful for @rianjohnson and special thanks to George Lucas for creating this incredible world and beginning a story of which we are lucky to be a part. #IX pic.twitter.com/FOfnGwVut5— JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) August 1, 2018
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan.com. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow him on Twitter @FreeMisterClark.