Star Wars: The Last Jedi was never intended to be a farewell to Carrie Fisher. She died suddenly in December 2016, after The Last Jedi had already wrapped production; the plan was for her to continue her role in Episode IX.
However, the eighth Star Wars episode, which opened one year after Fisher’s death, ends up unintentionally serving as a cathartic experience for her fans and a fitting goodbye to the beloved actress. This is despite the fact that it was not altered in any way after her passing. Due to behind-the-scenes factors, as well as those in front of the camera, here’s why The Last Jedi is an unexpectedly appropriate final project for Fisher.
1. She wrote some of her character’s best lines
Outside of her acting career, Fisher was also a talented writer. In addition to publishing several books, she worked for years as a Hollywood script doctor. Naturally, The Last Jedi writer and director Rian Johnson sought her help with the screenplay, and she ended up coming up with several of Leia’s best lines. Johnson told The Daily Beast that when Leia reunites with Luke and notes that she changed her hair, this line was Fisher’s idea.
Fisher also added the line, “You go, I’ve said it enough,” which she says to Vice Admiral Holdo in place of “may the Force be with you.” Johnson hasn’t detailed every single line that Fisher contributed, but he has said that she loved wordplay and puns, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it was her idea for Leia to tell Poe, “Get your head out of your cockpit.”
“She was constantly pitching one-liners,” Johnson told People. “I would sit down with her for an hour and come back with like, 300 crazy wordplay puns written in my notebook.”
With The Last Jedi, then, we get one final example of Fisher’s brilliant writing abilities, which we can forever appreciate alongside her decades of published work.
2. She made at least one other contribution to the film
Fisher’s contributions to The Last Jedi went beyond the dialogue. You may have noticed that jewelry plays a big part in the film. For one, Rose Tico wears a medallion that reminds her of her late sister. But in addition, Leia wears a bracelet, rings, and earrings; Poe Dameron wears his late mother’s wedding ring on a necklace; Holdo wears bracelets from her home planet; and even Supreme Leader Snoke wears a ring containing obsidian from the catacombs beneath Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar.
Having all this jewelry throughout the movie was actually Fisher’s idea. Johnson revealed on Twitter, “In rehearsals Carrie grabbed my arm and told me with great urgency that we needed ‘space jewelry.’ I thought that was a fabulous idea.”
It’s appropriate, then, that Fisher’s final movie is one that she not only acted in, but helped shape in some small and some larger ways behind the scenes.
3. She inspired the cast and crew on set
Pretty much every member of The Last Jedi‘s cast has a story about Fisher inspiring them. In particular, Kelly Marie Tran has said that Fisher helped put her at ease on her first big movie set.
“Just by being who she was, she was looking after me, because she was just so unapologetically herself,” Tran told IGN, recalling a story of Fisher drinking a Coke and smoking a cigarette while walking on a treadmill during her workout routine.
Fisher was also constantly singing on set, brightening up everyone’s day. Oscar Isaac recalled in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “One of my favorite things that would happen from time to time on set would be when Carrie would sing old songs. Whenever that would happen I would offer her my hand and we would waltz around the set…For all of her delicious, wicked humor and fiery energy she also had such sweet grace. I miss her dearly.”
4. Her character inspires the next generation of women
The fact that Fisher was such an inspiration to so many people in real life is an idea that makes its way into The Last Jedi itself. Near the end of the movie, Leia says goodbye to Vice Admiral Holdo, her childhood friend who is staying behind in order to sacrifice herself. “So many losses,” Leia says. “I can’t take another.” Holdo responds, “Sure you can. You taught me how.”
This line, and Holdo’s subsequent sacrifice, makes clear that the bravery of Leia Organa has affected an entire generation of women. The scene also works on a meta level, reflecting the fact that women, like Laura Der,n followed in Carrie Fisher’s footsteps. In fact, Johnson told The Daily Beast that Dern herself came up with this line for exactly that reason, channeling “her deep admiration of Fisher and echoing the generation of fans who looked up to her.”
In real life, Fisher was an inspiration for many reasons, including her work in combatting the stigma associated with mental illness. She spoke openly about bipolar disorder going back to the 1980s, when she was first diagnosed. Just like Leia Organa motivates members of the Resistance to be brave in the face of the First Order, Fisher motivated millions to accept their mental illness as a part of themselves and not something to be ashamed of. In the film, Dern delivers a message of thanks to Carrie Fisher, speaking for millions of young men and women who wish they could have expressed their gratitude themselves.
5. Her daughter plays a character in the film, and her dog has a cameo
Fisher’s daughter can carry on her mother’s legacy in the Star Wars franchise. Billie Lourd, Fisher’s 25-year-old daughter, plays Kaydel Connix in The Last Jedi. She’s one of the first members of the Resistance who appears on screen during the opening D’Qar escape sequence. Later, she helps aid Poe Dameron in his secret plan.
Lourd’s character was introduced in The Force Awakens, though her role was more minor in that film. By the end of The Last Jedi, Connix is among the few surviving members of the Resistance. It would not be surprising if she gets a beefed up role in Episode IX due to the absence of Fisher. Lourd recently honored her mother on the one-year anniversary of her death by traveling to Norway to see the northern lights, something she says Fisher had an “otherworldly obsession” with.
In addition to Lourd, Fisher’s beloved dog also has an appearance in The Last Jedi. Well, sort of. There’s an alien in Canto Bight that is modeled after Fisher’s dog Gary, as confirmed by Johnson on Twitter. Gary reportedly watched The Last Jedi and perked up whenever Fisher came on screen.
6. Leia gets to use the Force for the first time
Leia Organa is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker. Yet unlike her brother, Luke, we’ve never really gotten to see her use the Force, other than by sensing the presence of other Force users and telepathically communicating with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.
It would have been a shame if the character were to die before we ever got to see her use the Force. But luckily, this finally happens in The Last Jedi when Leia is blown out of her ship, only to Force-pull herself to safety. This idea originated with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who felt we should see Leia use the Force at least once.
After the death of Fisher, watching her character nearly die on screen, only to miraculously save herself, becomes a bit of wish fulfilment for an audience who wishes more than anything that Fisher could pull that same trick.
7. She passes the torch to the next generation
It’s obviously unfortunate that Fisher died before Leia’s story could end naturally. The plan was for Episode IX to focus heavily on Leia. Now, that can’t happen.
However, The Last Jedi still works as a farewell to the character and to Fisher herself. The movie starts with Leia still very much being in control of the Resistance, trying to reign in Poe Dameron. Poe is too hotheaded and must be taught the value of following orders and of running away from a fight when it can not be won rather than recklessly sacrificing lives.
By the end, Leia is still alive, but she has effectively passed the torch to the next generation. On Crait, members of the Resistance look to Leia for guidance, but she tells them to follow Poe. “What are you looking at me for?” she asks. “Follow him.”
She has witnessed the growth of her commander and has clearly recognized him as her successor, even if he does not officially take over at the end of the movie. This mirrors Fisher passing the torch to new Star Wars actors and actresses, including Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran. It’s now their job to lead and inspire millions just as she did.
8. Leia’s final lines deliver a powerful message
Of course, the last act of The Last Jedi is quite surreal in light of Fisher’s death. It now serves as a sort of meta goodbye to the actress, though it wasn’t conceived as one. First, there’s the scene between Luke and Leia, in which Luke holds his sister’s hand and says, “No one’s ever really gone.” He was talking about Kylo Ren and Han Solo. But now, that scene plays differently, as if the film itself is comforting the audience about Fisher’s death.
But Fisher was a lighthearted person who would want the fans to be smiling, not crying, as they said goodbye to her. So it’s fitting that she ends the movie by providing them with a sense of hope. In the film’s very last lines, Rey asks Leia how they can possibly start a rebellion with so little. Leia responds, “We have everything we need.”
With those encouraging words, Fisher takes her final bow and assures us that in these trying times, even if all seems lost, everything is going to be okay in the end.
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