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After initial denials from Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, it would seem that #CarrieFisher will indeed appear in Star Wars IX, courtesy of some unseen footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
No doubt fans of both Star Wars and of Carrie Fisher herself have breathed a sigh of relief at this bit of news. It was fairly common knowledge that Star Wars IX was likely to have featured Fisher's #GeneralLeia in a key role, as The Force Awakens was pretty much #HanSolo's story and #TheLastJedi was #LukeSkywalker's. Fisher's sudden death at age 60, just 11 days following the release of Rogue One in December 2016, stunned her friends, family, and legion of fans. It also left a gigantic question mark about the future of the current series of Star Wars films, which reunited the original cast and introduced the likes of Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), and Oscar Isaac (Poe).
When The Last Jedi was released in 2017, fans became more concerned. The ending seemed to suggest that Leia would most certainly be leading the charge to (hopefully) bring down her son Ben Solo, now the evil Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader of the First Order in the wake of Supreme Leader Snoke's death. Rumors abounded, ranging from a potential casting of Meryl Streep to recreating Carrie Fisher through CGI, as was done at the end of Rogue One. No solution was satisfactory to fans, and it would seem that Star Wars IX director JJ Abrams was stumped as to how to close out these sequels and appropriately end #Leia's story.
Thanks to Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd, some of that pressure has been alleviated.
“Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character,” Abrams said in a statement, according to Variety and several other news agencies. “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.”
It's a move that Fisher's brother Todd also supports. In fact, Todd Fisher had said in an interview last April that old footage of his sister would be used in Star Wars IX, but Kathleen Kennedy refuted those claims at the time. Now, though, Todd Fisher is happy to report that “Her force will forever be with us!”
There was just no elegant way to bring Leia's story to a satisfying conclusion without some sort of appearance by Fisher herself. While fans mourned and no doubt continue to mourn Fisher's death, they were also reluctant to see a Star Wars without her, it seems. Abrams no doubt knew how difficult it would have been to even acknowledge the death of the character on screen, as necessary as it is with Fisher's untimely death. There's simply no replacing Fisher or her character through CGI and fans would have ultimately been dissatisfied had her character's death been given only a perfunctory mention.
Certainly, there's no guarantee that the inclusion of this footage will suddenly make things better for Star Wars IX. This series of Star Wars films has been, to say the least, very critically received by fans, with complaints ranging from the films being a rehash of the original series (as was the case when The Force Awakens came out) to just being far too different from the originals (which happened when The Last Jedi was released). When it comes to a franchise like Star Wars, it's hard to please everyone.
However, Fisher's appearance for Star Wars IX makes General Leia's probable on-screen demise a little more palatable. Somehow, the thought of her presence being completely gone from the final film of this series seemed woefully wrong. Now that this unseen footage from The Force Awakens (and, one can only assume, perhaps some from The Last Jedi) is on the table, perhaps Abrams can bring the Skywalker saga to an appropriate end.
May the Force be with him.