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Why Rian Johnson Didn’t Change Leia’s Last Jedi Arc After Carrie Fisher Passed Away

Leia poster for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, director Rian Johnson revealed why he couldn’t bring himself to make changes to Leia’s arc in The Last Jedi after Carrie Fisher passed away in December of 2016. As Kathleen Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly back in May, Lucasfilm and Episode IX director J.J. Abrams “pretty much started over” after Fisher’s passing, rather than trying to shoehorn existing footage into the planned arc.

The Hollywood Reporter recently asked Johnson: “Did you ever consider changing the film?”

“That was the very first conversation I had with [Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy] after we came back,” said Johnson, “after New Year’s. 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,” he continued, “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. 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. With this movie I just wanted audiences to have this performance.”

Johnson has previously spoken about Fisher’s role in rewriting and honing Leia’s arc. Fisher helped Johnson with the script, putting her well-honed skills as a writer to work. “She was so conscious of the place that Leia had,” he said, “not just broadly in the culture, but very specifically in terms of girls who grew up watching Star Wars, when Leia was the only female hero on the screen. She really wanted to do right by that, drawing the character forward. That was something that she would always be pulling us back to.”

He also said that her voice in the writing process was “like a compass needle that would always pull it back in the right direction of This is what this character means, and this is what we always have to make sure that she’s serving, with her strength and also with her weaknesses — showing a fully realized character who is going to be inspiring to the folks who grew up with Leia.”

Given how much of Fisher’s thoughts and insights went into Leia’s character in The Last Jedi, I’m really glad that they kept her performance intact – even if it sets up a tricky task for the Episode IX team.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter; image via Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm)

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