The trajectory of the Star Wars universe was altered dramatically with the untimely passing of Carrie Fisher last December. General Leia Organa was intended to play a major role in The Last Jedi following the discovery by Rey (Daisy Ridley) of her long-lost brother Luke (Mark Hamill) at the end of The Force Awakens, with her story carrying over into the as-yet-untitled Episode IX. Along with an outpouring of love and respect for Fisher and her family following her passing, fans also let it be known that they did not want to see her recreated as a digital character the way Peter Cushing‘s Tarkin was brought back to life in Rogue One. Fan response was so strong, in fact, that Lucasfilm issued a rare statement about Leia’s future:
We want to assure our fans that Lucasfilm has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa.
The statement brought a certain amount of comfort to the fan community, but the problem still remained regarding what to do about Leia’s role in Episode IX. Having her killed off-screen between movies would be just as bad or worse than having her digital ghost rise from the grave to tie up her story, but it appears as if Lucasfilm has come up with an idea that prevents both of those tragedies from happening. According to Fisher’s brother, Todd, he and Carrie’s daughter, Billie Lourd, have granted the studio the right to use “recent footage” of Fisher in the finale:
She’s as much a part of it as anything and I think her presence now is even more powerful than it was, like Obi Wan — when the saber cuts him down he becomes more powerful. I feel like that’s what’s happened with Carrie. I think the legacy should continue.
The director of Episode IX has yet to be announced, but Rian Johnson (Looper) directed The Last Jedi and is currently in post-production on the movie, which is slated for a December 15th opening. Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis return, joined by Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran.