Disney faces 'Star Wars'-size dilemma over loss of Carrie Fisher

PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES - Carrie Fisher's unexpected death on Tuesday did not just leave "Star Wars" fans heartbroken.

It thrust movie studio Walt Disney Co into a dilemma over the fate of her iconic character, Princess Leia, as it moves forward with the blockbuster film franchise.

Fisher, 60, enjoyed a new round of fame when Princess Leia, Harrison Ford's Han Solo and Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker were reunited on screen for 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens,"which sold more than $2 billion in tickets at the global box office.

Read Also: Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher dies at 60

The actress had finished filming for the 2017 release of"Star Wars: Episode VIII," Disney said, whose plot details have remained, as always, a closely guarded secret.

Fisher was also expected to play a key role in the ninth instalment of the sci-fi saga, due for release in 2019.

A Disney spokeswoman on Tuesday declined to comment on whether Leia would appear in films beyond "Episode VIII." "Star Wars" director Colin Trevorrow said in a January 2016 interview that he was excited "to find new places that we can take" the characters of Princess Leia and her on-screen twin brother Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher dies aged 60

  • Carrie Fisher, who rose to fame as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films and later endured drug addiction and stormy romances with show business heavyweights, died on Tuesday (Dec 27), her daughter said through a family spokesman.
  • Fisher, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, who died in 2010, had been in England shooting the third season of the British sitcom Catastrophe. She suffered a heart attack during a flight on Friday from London to Los Angeles. She was met by paramedics and rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
  • Fisher started her showbiz life in 1989 hit film When Harry Met Sally, as a memorable supporting role. Summing up the showbiz legacy she expected to leave behind in her 2011 memoir "Shockaholic," Fisher wrote in self-deprecating style: "What you'll have of me after I journey to that great Death Star in the sky is an extremely accomplished daughter, a few books, and a picture of a stern-looking girl wearing some kind of metal bikini lounging on a giant drooling squid, behind a newscaster informing you of the passing of Princess Leia after a long battle with her head."
  • But her life was also mired at times in substance abuse, mental illness and tumultuous romances with other entertainment figures, all of which he laid bare in her books, interviews and a one-woman stage show titled "Wishful Drinking."
  • Fisher's friend and former Star Wars' co-star Mark Hamill said in a tweet: "No words. #Devastated"
  • Her death came a month after the actress and author made headlines by disclosing that she had a three-month love affair with her Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford (extreme right) 40 years ago.
  • "It was so intense," Fisher told People. "It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend."
  • Shortly after news of her death was made public, her dog Gary, who has his own Twitter account, said goodbye: "Saddest tweets to tweet. Mommy is gone. I love you @carrieffisher."
  • Fisher wrote her bestselling novel, Postcards from the Edge, about a drug-abusing actress forced to move back in with her mother. She later adapted the book into a film that starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

"They are icons, but they're also people that have suffered tremendous loss and challenge over the course of all these films," Trevorrow told celebrity news outlet Entertainment Tonight.

"Star Wars" fans were already speculating on how the battle between good and evil in the Galactic Empire could continue without Fisher playing Leia, a fearless Rebel Alliance fighter who in "The Force Awakens" had become a general.

Leia appears briefly at the end of the standalone movie now in theatres, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," as a digital recreation of the young princess.

Read Also: 'Princess Leia' Carrie Fisher suffers heart attack on flight from London

The late British actor Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, is brought back to life as Death Star commander Grand Moff Tarkin for "Rogue One" using computer generated imagery (CGI).

"I'm not crying now but I'll probably cry when Disney shamelessly CGI's Carrie Fisher's face into episode IX," a fan named Thug Lucas said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Under a 1985 California law, filmmakers must get permission from the estate of a celebrity to use his or her image for up to 70 years after death.

Read Also: Star Wars' actress Carrie Fisher has mid-air heart attack

Other possibilities include redrafting the plot of "Episode IX," re-shooting scenes from "Episode VIII," or casting another look-alike actress, as the makers of "Harry Potter" did when Richard Harris, who played headmaster Albus Dumbledore, died after filming the first two movies.

On the entertainment website Heavy.com, some fans suggested that singer Stevie Nicks could stand in for Fisher in future movies.

Others said she should be given a glorious screen death.

"I swear they better find a way to write Princess Leia out of the movies, cause if they try and recast there will be hell to pay," a fan identified as Kaitlin tweeted.

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