The Star Wars family lost Carrie Fisher earlier this year, but they got one more chance to see her onscreen as Leia in The Last Jedi.
That said, it wasn't a foregone conclusion. Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson wanted to include as much of her as he could in the final product, but a few steps had to happen first, including a discussion regarding changing the film.
"That was the very first conversation I had with [Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy] after we came back, after New Year's," Johnson told THR. "I kind of looked through the footage. That was the very first question. I felt really strongly that what we have here is so beautiful and the way that the character develops, the way it's paid off, and not only that, the horror of trying to manufacture something that — I don't even know what it would have been, but something for the end of this movie that leaves it in a place where the transition is easier, the idea of, "Oh God, how would you fake something like that, and how would it not be terrible?" Given that we have a beautiful, complete performance from her that I think audiences deserve to see, and I think it will mean a lot for them, that ray of hope from Leia. For all of those reasons I felt really strongly that we had to let this fly."
Leia's story does not conclude with The Last Jedi, and Johnson is effectively passing the baton to J.J. Abrams to wrap that up.
"Luckily we have a fantastic storyteller in J.J. Abrams who is going to figure out a way to bring it home in the end, that's going to be satisfying, I know he's going to," Johnson said. "With this movie I just wanted audiences to have this performance."
It will be a somewhat challenging task for Abrams, but Johnson seems to have faith that he'll make it happen.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters now.
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