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How Carrie Fisher's Passing Will Affect The Future Of Star Wars

The late Carrie Fisher was a whole lot more than just Princess/General Leia. She was a fierce advocate for social causes, a bang-up script doctor on most of your favorite 1990s movies, and one heck of a biting author. But, she's still best known for her Star Wars role — and her tragic passing due to a heart attack before Christmas will almost certainly affect Disney's new-look Star Wars trilogy.

So what effect might Carrie Fisher's passing have on Episode VIII and Episode IX?

Her role in Episode VIII is apparently wrapped, but could it change?

Shooting on director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII actually wrapped back in July 2016, and it has since been confirmed that Fisher had already finished her scenes for the Star Wars film opening in 2017. So, however Disney decides to address (or not address) Fisher's passing, they have a decent bit of footage and a good bit of time to figure it out.

Productions this big obviously remain on a tight schedule, but as Rogue One showed us the past several months, it's not at all uncommon for these flicks to go back for extensive reshoots and editing in the months leading up to release. So, if Disney decides to address Fisher's passing in a more direct way (like having General Leia be written off into retirement or die heroically while saving the day), there is some time to tackle that. But, it might not be easy.

We won't see another CGI Leia

After bringing Grand Moff Tarkin back to life in Rogue One, it seemed Disney might at least consider using CGI technology to digitally recreate General Leia to wrap up her storyline in Episode VIII (via a new scene) or in Episode IX. But, the studio has officially put that option off the table. In an official statement, Lucasfilm has confirmed there are currently "no plans" to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher's performance as Princess or General Leia Organa. As fans are certainly well aware, they used CGI to show a young Leia in Rogue One—but Lucasfilm draws the line at literally "resurrecting" the dearly departed actress so soon after her passing. Studio execs said they chose to not consider this option as a way to "cherish her memory and legacy" as Princess Leia and to honor her contributions to the Star Wars universe.

They could go down the Paul Walker path

If we're looking for a modern example for how Fisher's death might be addressed on-screen, Paul Walker's tragic passing while filming Furious 7 could be a template. To finish Walker's character's story, the studio used a mix of CGI and human stand-ins (Walker's real-life brothers, who bear a striking resemblance) to wrap up his story. In that franchise, the producers opted to retire Walker's character and have him ride off into the sunset with his family, choosing a bright domestic life over the chaos and carnage inherent with being both fast and furious. This certainly seems like a viable concept to apply to Episode VIII, because Leia is obviously one of the most iconic Star Wars characters in the franchise. They'll have to address her absence at some point in Episode VIII or Episode IX.

How will the new movies reflect Fisher's passing?

This is the big question, and Disney has a few potential paths it could take. If there aren't a lot of reshoots required for Episode VIII (specifically scenes involving Fisher), it stands to reason Disney could let the actress' performance stand in that film and deal with her passing in the next sequel. The move could potentially provide the opportunity to jump ahead a bit in time and have the narrative choice happen off-screen between films, to be addressed early in Episode IX. It would also give Fisher one final, complete film in the saga. Of course, we don't know what Lucasfilm has planned for Leia's role in Episode VIII, so it's hard to guess how they'll react from a story perspective. But, it will no doubt have some fallout.

Who leads the Resistance next?

Leia was positioned as a key leader in the Resistance in The Force Awakens, and we learn she's grown into one of the most revered and powerful figures in the Resistance in the decades since the original trilogy. So, in the wake of Fisher's passing, who will lead the Resistance when Leia is gone? They've introduced a fair share of strong young heroes, and it's not crazy to think folks like Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Rey (Daisy Ridley), or Finn (John Boyega) could eventually step into that void in their own ways. Of course, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is another obvious option, considering he'll be returning for a major role in Episode VIII. So, if they're looking for a steady hand to take the lead, he'd certainly be a worthy successor.

How could this affect Luke's arc?

Speaking of Luke Skywalker, it stands to reason any changes they make to Leia's proposed arc for the next two films will almost certainly resonate with him. Luke and Leia have always shared a close sibling bond, and you'd have to imagine those two stories were closely connected in several ways on the storyboards and script pages hidden deep inside Lucasfilm.

Could this improve the odds of Kylo Ren being redeemed?

Thinking a bit further outside the box: The big story for Leia and Han in The Force Awakens was was the effort to turn their rogue son Kylo Ren back from the Dark Side. That ended with Kylo killing Han and seeming to double down with the Dark Side. But had Lucasfilm planned to pay off more of the mother-son story between Leia and Kylo? And if so, how might that story be changed now? If they do write Leia off a movie or two down the line, could that catalyst serve as a push to also change Kylo's fate before the new trilogy comes to an end? Could potentially losing both parents push him to the Light? Or further into the Dark?

Her Episode VIII and IX role was bigger than The Force Awakens

As the cast and creative team behind the next few chapters in the Star Wars saga continue to process Fisher's death, reports are starting to come out about the type of role the late actress was supposed to have in Episode VIII and Episode IX. According to the latest information out of Lucasfilm, Fisher was set to play an even larger role in the next two films, which isn't much of a surprise, considering The Force Awakens ended with her long-lost brother Luke making a triumphant return to the fold. Her arc in the next two films reportedly circled around two major events: Reuniting with Luke, and having a confrontation with her son Kylo Ren. No word on how much (if any) of those scenes are among the footage Fisher already shot for Episode VIII. Regardless, Lucasfilm is meeting now to figure out how to proceed from a creative point without Fisher in the mix. As we expected, the two options on the table are reportedly either writing the character off via an off-screen death or exit, or using visual effects (i.e. what we saw in Rogue One) to create a digital Leia to close out any unfinished scenes. Whatever they decide, there's no doubt the new trilogy will be greatly affected by Fisher's tragic passing.