‘Star Wars’ Writer Explains Why Leia, Not Luke, Is Rey’s Perfect Teacher in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’

Star Wars fans the world over mourned the loss of Carrie Fisher in December 2016. Fisher had already completed filming on The Last Jedi, a movie set to hit theaters a full year after her death. With Episode IX poised to heavily feature General Leia Organa, the production had to make drastic adjustments to the script.

Ultimately, director J.J. Abrams signed on for the movie that would become known as The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams and his team opted to repurpose the few minutes of unused footage he had from working with Fisher on The Force Awakens. So in his conclusion to the Star Wars Skywalker saga, Abrams attempted to craft an entirely new arc for Leia.

Although the fan response was mixed, the concept seemed like a good idea. Leia’s role hinged on her serving as Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) new master. Following Luke’s passing in The Last Jedi, Leia takes over in her brother’s stead as Rey’s mentor. The trouble is that The Rise of Skywalker has precious little Fisher footage to work with. But the novelization faced no such issues.

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford in 'Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope'
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford in ‘Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope’ | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Author Rae Carson aimed to flesh out Rey and Leia’s relationship

In Abrams’ film, fans get only a few fleeting moments between master and apprentice. The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t have much time to linger on Rey’s training. Not with so much story to cover. So a simpler version of their dynamic is captured on screen. But Carson knew she would need to go deeper with Leia’s story than the movie itself could, she told StarWars.com.

One thing I was 100 percent sure about even before reading the script was that I would pitch more Leia content. We’ll all miss Carrie Fisher forever, and we know the filmmakers would have done more with her if they could have. … I hope we gave her a noble and memorable send-off, and that readers will have a little extra time to say goodbye.

Indeed, the shift feels a bit jarring in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. After all, Rey and Leia only meet briefly in The Force Awakens. Then they spend nearly all of The Last Jedi apart too. In both instances, their bond is forged by grief. For her version of the trilogy’s final installment, Carson unraveled how Rey and Leia’s experiences connect them.

Leia is Rey’s ideal teacher in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

More than just their shared loss of Han and Luke, Rey and Leia are in a similar emotional place in The Rise of Skywalker. Both have a sense of responsibility, of destiny. Just as Leia has endured so much loss, Rey faces a moral crossroads of her own. For the Jedi-in-training, the question is how to manage her newfound power. As Carson said, no one can help like Leia.

Leia is the perfect teacher for [Rey] because she knows exactly what it’s like to have an unexpected awakening into power. Also, she’s still hurting over what happened to Ben, while Rey is desperate for a mentor who can help her make sense of everything she’s experiencing. These two women finding each other is a gift to each of them.

Leia’s interference in Rey’s epic lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is perhaps the clearest parallel between the two women. After all, Kylo aka Ben Solo plays an integral role in both their journeys. Leia’s destiny as a Jedi is intertwined with that of her son. And as Rey later learns, her connection with Ben runs far deeper.

Leia possesses a very different strength than her brother ever did

Carson goes further in her defense of Leia’s mentorship of Rey. As one of the most powerful women in the galaxy, Leia’s strength isn’t based on ego, hubris, or the pressure of carrying the legacy of past Force users. Rather, as the author said, Leia has always been a practical kind of hero. And this resourcefulness and lifelong experience have shaped her character.

As the original trilogy progresses, you begin to see that Leia is in equal measure a deeply compassionate person. I think these qualities together are what make her such an effective leader, and with the stakes so high at the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, and the future role of the Jedi very much in question, that’s the kind of leadership and well-roundedness they need to find a way forward.

Indeed, Leia has long been the pillar of strength keeping the Rebel Alliance — and later the Resistance — together. Similarly, Fisher has inspired Star Wars fans for decades. So it stands to reason Leia would serve such a purpose in her final big-screen appearance. Regardless of how effective Leia’s story is in The Rise of Skywalker, the sentiment is one of its highlights.