The Star Wars “sequel trilogy” has changed a dozen times since its announcement way back in 2012, much of it out of the necessity that arises when you lose directors or cast members. But this latest admission may be the cruelest cut of all: Leia was supposed to be “the last Jedi” in Episode IX.
“She [Carrie Fisher] was going to be the big payoff in the final film,” Todd Fisher, the late actress’ brother, told Yahoo Entertainment this week. “She was going to be the last Jedi, so to speak. That’s cool right?”
What Fisher means by “the last Jedi, so to speak” is clearly open to interpretation. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi uses this term somewhat literally; it is uttered in Luke Skywalker’s last living words, making it part of the culmination of his character arc throughout the saga. (“I will not be the last Jedi.”) But seeing as the word Jedi is both singular and plural, and we see more Force-sensitives by the end of the film, how “the last Jedi” pertained to the rest of the series was still unknown.
It seems likely that Todd Fisher is describing a version of the sequel trilogy that saw Leia pick up Rey’s training where Luke left off—or possibly a version where audiences saw an expansion of the abilities she showed in The Last Jedi (think of that sweet Force-ride she gave herself back to the Resistance flagship ship after being tossed out into the cold black of space). And of course there’s thematic resonance to Leia being “the last”, in that she would have been (and still may be) the final figurehead from her generation of heroes left to pass the torch on to the next generation.
Todd Fisher’s remarks align with what we know was the initial approach to the Star Wars sequel trilogy, as evidenced in the 2014 Sony email hack, where Columbia Pictures head Michael DeLuca mentions that Luke and Leia were the focus in Star Wars episodes 8 and 9.
No one knows what they’re about but Boba Fett is rumored to be the subject of one. Rian Johnson as you know is doing [one of] the main ones, episodes 8 and 9 of the Luke and Leia story lines, after JJ.
Carrie Fisher herself was excited for Leia being centralized in Episode IX, according to her daughter Billie Lourd.
One of the last times we spoke on the phone, she talked about how excited she was that the next movie in the trilogy was going to be Leia’s movie. Her movie.
This also aligns with comments Daisy Ridley made in 2018 regarding J.J. Abrams’ stewardship of the sequel trilogy:
“Here’s what I think I know. J. J. wrote Episode VII, as well as drafts for VIII & IX. Then Rian Johnson arrived and wrote TLJ entirely. I believe there was some sort of general consensus on the main lines of the trilogy, but apart from that, every director writes and realizes his film in his own way.”
Abrams, of course, returned to close out the trilogy and given the speed with which he was able to jump into production, it seems likely that Abrams was able to still utilize elements and storylines from his initial draft of Episode IX.
Storylines that Abrams may have originally seeded into The Force Awakens: According to Todd Fisher, Abrams was able to use “eight minutes” of unused Leia footage, “reverse-engineering it” into The Rise of Skywalker so that it would fit the story “the right way.”
“This is, in its own way, a payoff. … It’s Carrie talking to us all from beyond,” Fisher added, to Yahoo Entertainment. “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.”