After Carrie Fisher tragically passed away in December 2016, her shadow has loomed large over the franchise that cemented her status as an icon.
While speaking on the podcast Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, Johnson revealed the earliest discussions with Lucasfilm included considering potential changes to the plot of The Last Jedi in order to deal with Fisher's passing.
"It's impossible not to change watching it, the filter you watch it through and all of her scenes just become a lot more complicated watching them back. Absolutely it did," said Johnson. "And then, obviously, her scene with Luke [Skywalker], suddenly it becomes a goodbye scene in a much more profound way than it was before.
"She passed away around New Year's. We got back after the holiday break and went in the edit room and looked through all of her scenes and had a conversation with [Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy] and the question briefly arose, 'Do we try and do something? Do we try and manufacture an ending for the character or something?' I felt strongly and we decided pretty quickly no, we're gonna let this performance stand."
Johnson thought whatever they attempted to conjure up in post production would not be as effective as what the next film in the saga could do, but he had another important reason.
"And also because her performance, I thought, was beautiful and I thought that if we did that, we'd have to lose some element of it," Johnson said. "Whether it was the scene with Luke or the scene at the end with her and Daisy [Ridley] in the Falcon. I want, especially now, I want to leave the movie with Carrie Fisher having told me the words of hope at the end of this movie. I wanted the world to have this performance of hers."
Fisher's scenes in the film were much more resonant, sadly, knowing the actor's ultimate fate. But Fisher's portrayal of Leia Organa, much like her own personality, were larger than life, and her words underscore the message presented in the film's final scenes.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now playing in theaters.