Still think Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker was the “last Jedi” referenced in the title of the eighth episode of Star Wars’s Skywalker Saga? Think again. In the original version of the ninth and final installment, The Rise of Skywalker, his sister, Leia (played by Carrie Fisher), was going to emerge as a full-fledged Jedi warrior, complete with her very own lightsaber. That’s according to no less an authority than Fisher’s real-life brother, Todd Fisher, who filled us in on what the plan was for his sister’s iconic character prior to her sudden death in December 2016. “She was going to be the big payoff in the final film,” Fisher reveals exclusively to Yahoo Entertainment. “She was going to be the last Jedi, so to speak. That’s cool right?” (Watch our video interview above.)
Cool is an understatement: It’s positively wizard. Leia’s Force abilities were teased in a key scene of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and the Resistance general apparently would have had the chance to get even more physical in The Rise of Skywalker. “People used to say to me, ‘Why is it that Carrie never gets a lightsaber and chops up some bad guys,’” Fisher says, noting that Alec Guinness was roughly the same age when Obi-Wan Kenobi battled Darth Vader in A New Hope. “Obi-Wan was in his prime when he was Carrie’s age!”
Unfortunately, a version of The Rise of Skywalker where Leia picks up her father and brother’s chosen weapon can only exist in our imaginations. After Fisher’s death, her alter ego’s arc had to be re-conceived by returning director J.J. Abrams, who previously directed the actress in 2015’s The Force Awakens. “The truth is that J.J. Abrams was great friends with Carrie... he had an extraordinary sense of love for her,” her brother says. It was that love that led the filmmaker to make a bold, and creatively risky decision: take unused footage of Leia left over from The Force Awakens and make it part of The Rise of Skywalker. “They had eight minutes of footage,” Fisher tells us. “They grabbed every frame and analyzed it... and then reverse-engineered it and [got] it into the story the right way. It’s kind of magical.”
Fisher understandably declines to elaborate on how exactly Abrams “reverse-engineered” the unused footage into a satisfying farewell to such a beloved, and groundbreaking, character. But he does hint that Abrams has found a way to address both losses in an emotional way. “This is, in its own way, a payoff. ... It’s Carrie talking to us all from beyond. 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.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on Dec. 20; get tickets on Fandango.
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