Monday, June 19, 2017

Ask JKM a Question: Re-cast General Leia?

Last week, a friend on Facebook, Brad, posted an article about General Leia’s future in Star Wars, and asked me to respond with my thoughts about it, about what should be done.

I decided to write those thoughts here on the blog.

Basically, the issue is this: Princess Leia is a crucial character in the Star Wars mythos, and yet Carrie Fisher has, tragically, passed away. She was not able to complete any scenes for the final film of the third trilogy: Episode 9.

The filmmakers have already ruled out the creation a CGI version of the character, for which I am grateful. The technology for digital recreations of humans is not quite where it needs to be, as Rogue One (2016) demonstrated. I don’t know that a simulacrum, at this point, would remind audiences of anything except what has been lost.

So what are the remaining options?

By my estimation, they are as follows:

Rewriting to either kill off the character, or to position Leia elsewhere (“off-screen”) during the central action.


Re-casting the character, and having Leia continue to be a fully-fledged, legitimate participant in the movie’s narrative.

I know which path I favor.

I believe that the most respectful -- and most appropriate -- thing to do here is recast the role. General Leia, formerly Princess Leia, is a pop-culture icon, and the character’s importance is bigger than any one person at this point.  I don’t deny that Carrie Fisher left big shoes to fill, or that she is darn near irreplaceable. 

Or that we will miss her terribly.

But Leia is a fictional character of cultural import, and one who deserves to see her remarkable story completed, after forty years.  I believe this path is what Carrie Fisher would want, as well: to see Leia continue to live, so that her mythic story arc can be completed. 

I firmly believe that the respectful thing to do is, indeed, to treat the character with that dignity, and feature here in a substantive role.

Killing Leia off-screen is insulting, and will feel contrived.  Because no scenes can be shot to make it different, the death will be seen as a useless death (and ask Star Trek fans how that felt. See: Tasha Yar).

And having Leia elsewhere as the rebellion carries on (and the battle for her son’s soul is waged…), isn’t believable in the slightest. Where else would she be?

Those two paths are the least respectful, and the least logical, in my opinion. They don’t serve the overall narrative, or the artistry of the franchise.

The answer is to recast the role of Leia with an excellent actor, one capable of giving the character the end point or closure that Leia Organa abundantly deserves.

I don’t have anyone specific in mind at this point, but Sigourney Weaver, Sally Field, Stockard Channing, Mary Steenburgen, or Andie McDowell all leap to mind as possibilities. They could step in, and give Leia life in dramatic, competent fashion.

We know that Dumbledore had to be re-cast in the Harry Potter films because the character was simply too important to the narrative to dispense with. I would submit the same thing is true here.

Leia was created, and made unforgettable by Carrie Fisher, yes. 

Ms. Fisher was caretaker of the role for forty years, yes. 

But the character deserves to see her story arc completed, and re-casting is the only pathway that permits the filmmakers to dramatize the story that they intended, and keep Leia at the center of the action.

I know it isn’t easy. 

But I believe it would be a double tragedy if the actor’s death caused the character’s death, and pop culture -- and the genre -- is thus robbed of one of its most memorable and unique female characters.

People will understand, even if begrudgingly.

Dedicate Episode 8 to Carrie Fisher’s memory.

And re-cast Princess Leia for Episode 9.

Don’t forget to ask me your questions at


  1. Yes, I understand the re-cast for the proper treatment of the character. This was done throughout the James Bond OO7 films. We have even seen it in the last three Star Trek films. R2D2 continues without Kenny Baker inside. The Leia character is so important in the Star Wars universe.


  2. While I agree with you from a storytelling standpoint, I just think there will be a tremendous backlash from the fans. For many Gen-Xers, Carrie Fisher was their first crush. They associate her with the character in a way that they might not with other characters like Superman or James Bond. If she had died before the third trilogy had begun, recasting might've worked, but having a new actress pop in for the final film will feel very strange for most fans, I believe. Of course, whatever the filmmakers decide, the fans have to accept it, so it will be interesting to see which way they go.

  3. I completely agree that recasting is the best way to solidify both the character's legacy, and Carrie Fisher's. And what better way than to meld two of the most iconic strong female characters in the history of cinema by casting Ellen Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver, in the role. If they're going to recast, it must be with someone befitting the role, not just a lookalike.

    While it is likely that many will view casting someone indeed as iconic as Sigourney Weaver as a sort of "wink" to the audience, there's just no avoiding the elephant in the room. instead, it should be embraced.