Why Carrie Fisher's Death Didn't Change Leia's 'Last Jedi' Story [Interview]

Every moment featuring Carrie Fisher as General Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is far more emotional than it's intended to be. The passing of the actress after production ended means that we'll never see her reprise the iconic role in future Star Wars films, and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy has already said that they have no intention on bringing her back to life using CG.

The film works surprisingly well as a send-off to the character and the actress, but I wondered why they didn't close the loop storyline-wise, as there seemed to be more than a few opportunities to do so within the context of the film's story. During my spoiler-filled discussion with writer/director Rian Johnson, I asked if they had considered doing so and why he ultimately decided not to alter the original story of The Last Jedi to reflect the real-life death of Carrie Fisher.

Major spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow.

While watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it's hard not to remember that Carrie Fisher has passed away in the real world. A scene where Leia survive an impossible situation packs an even more emotional punch than anyone could have imagined. But as I left the world premiere screening, some people (myself included) were wondering why Johnson and company didn't change the film to reflect her death. They could have kept the character in a coma, but then the film would be missing some of the important later moments. A couple people I talked to wondered why they didn't swap the role of Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo and General Leia in those final moments of the film. It seems like it could have been accomplished with clever editing and minimal reshoots, and allow Leia to exit the franchise with an ultimate sacrifice.

So during my interview with writer/director Rian Johnson, I asked him if he considered other options and why he decided to keep the film as is. Here's what he had to say;

Sure.  I could have.  I had the discussion with Kathy [Kennedy] when we came back from New Year's after she had passed and looked through the scenes. We decided and I feel very strongly that even though it was going to be tricky in terms of how you handle it in the next chapter, we have this last performance from her.  I couldn't see of any way of engineering something like what you're talking about without losing the scene with her and Luke, or the scene with her and Rey at the end, or the scene with her and Holdo.  And then we'd be manufacturing something which would be manufactured and not great.  And I just felt like those scenes are such potent goodbyes to her.  I felt like we all deserve to have them up on screen.  And it's such a beautiful ending, the fact that she kind of gets the last word in the movie and that last word is one of hope.  We have everything we need.  I want Princess Leia to tell me that right now, you know.  So we decided to stick with what was there.