Carrie Fisher completed filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi before her passing, allowing the film to keep the role of Leia as it was originally intended, but the actress' brother Todd claims that one of the original intentions with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was to see Leia fully embrace her Jedi abilities to become the "Last Jedi" of the Skywalker Saga. In lieu of altering The Last Jedi to explain the character's absence from the upcoming sequel, director J.J. Abrams was able to utilize unseen footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to reverse engineer an organic way for those sequences to be incorporated into the new film.
“She was going to be the big payoff in the final film. She was going to be the last Jedi, so to speak. That’s cool right?” Fisher shared with Yahoo Entertainment. “People used to say to me, ‘Why is it that Carrie never gets a lightsaber and chops up some bad guys?’ Obi-Wan was in his prime when he was Carrie’s age!”
It's unclear if the original plan would have included seeing Leia wield a lightsaber, but Fisher's comments confirm remarks made by Mark Hamill, who previously claimed Leia was supposed to be the key figure in the upcoming film.
"I know they’re going to try and find a way to close her story in [The Rise of Skywalker] that gives her the respect she deserves, because [Han Solo] was more prominent in [The Force Awakens], Luke’s a little more prominent in [The Last Jedi], and certainly Leia was meant to be more prominent in [The Rise of Skywalker]," the actor confirmed in 2017.
Fisher went on to explain that one reason he supported Abrams repurposing the unseen footage was due to the connection he had with the actress.
"The truth is that J.J. Abrams was great friends with Carrie... he had an extraordinary sense of love for her,” Fisher shared. “They had eight minutes of footage. They grabbed every frame and analyzed it... and then reverse-engineered it and [got] it into the story the right way. It’s kind of magical.”
He added, “This is, in its own way, a payoff. ... It’s Carrie talking to us all from beyond. The beautiful thing about the concept of the Force is that there is no real death; you just exist in another dimension. So Carrie is looking down or sideways or wherever and is still part of us. To be able to see that — it’s magical stuff only in the movies.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lands in theaters on December 20th.
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