Star Wars: Episode IX begins filming this week, but perhaps the most notable figure from the casting announcement won’t be with them.
Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016, but the film is bringing her back one last time to the role of General Leia Organa through unreleased footage from The Force Awakens. That makes sense, given that J.J. Abrams is returning to direct Episode IX, so he certainly knows exactly what they’ve got when it comes to unused footage of Fisher. And it’s likely that there’s quite a bit of unused footage, too. Though Leia’s presence loomed large in the film through her Resistance, Carrie Fisher’s screentime was relatively short. Additionally, we know that some things changed along the way storywise, though it’s unclear how many of those changes involved Leia.
Abrams and Lucasfilm may know, but we don’t. It remains a mystery as to what scenes were shot featuring Fisher that were eventually cut from the final version of the film, but let’s look at some of the rumored possibilities to perhaps get some sort of an idea as to what could be used. Keep in mind that this is all significant speculation based only on rumors and other minor tidbits.
1. General Leia Organa
The most likely footage that was shot but unused is Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. I think it would be a pretty safe guess to assume that J.J. Abrams shot footage of Leia commanding the Resistance that went unused, and this probably would be the most useful footage anyway for Episode IX’s purposes. Any chance that we have to see Leia in charge of the fledgling Resistance is welcome, and there was some of that in TFA but not a ton. It’s quite likely that there are scenes with Leia at the Resistance base on D’Qar that were unused, with her leading her Resistance. Some of this might be easy to translate to Episode IX.
2. The Sledgehammer
One of the more significant reports pre-TFA that didn’t make it into the film was about the Resistance superweapon, called “the sledgehammer.” Making Star Wars, in a plot synopsis months before the release that was remarkably accurate, included the sledgehammer – which apparently was going to have a significant role in the assault on Starkiller Base. MSW’s report was that Leia takes great pride in this Resistance superweapon, which can “crush through Star Destroyers as if they were tinker toys.” Unfortunately for the Resistance, however, after using this to great success in the battle Leia’s weapon is destroyed, causing her to order a retreat… and leaving their only hope as Han Solo and his crew on the surface.
You can obviously tell where in the film the sledgehammer would have come, and obviously it was not at all included in the final cut of the film. One thing lending more credibility to MSW’s report, however, is concept art for the movie released in The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (seen above), which confirms that this superweapon was at least floated around in the design portion. Furthermore, MSW’s inclusion of the sledgehammer in this plot synopsis suggests that it may have made it beyond simple concept art (which in itself isn’t a good indicator of what “almost” made it into a movie) but was instead at one point or another intended to be shown. So, for our purposes, it’s fair to ask: were these scenes actually shot? If so, there’s probably unused footage of Leia commanding this Resistance superweapon.
I’ll admit, however, that it’s quite tough to picture how they could use the sledgehammer in Episode IX and work it in. We already saw Vice Admiral Holdo run the Raddus through the heart of First Order Star Destroyers, so it’d have to be something a bit different to avoid recycling it. So it’s possible that there may be footage out there regarding this superweapon, but I’m not really anticipating that making it into the film even if so.
3. Potential Flashback?
Those who were paying close attention in the leadup to The Force Awakens can remember all sorts of different rumors that were out there as to what the movie would entail, and some of these rumors pertained to flashback sequences. We did get some sort of flashback sequence during Rey’s vision, but there were rumors of other flashbacks (for example, one of the early rumors that was clearly false was that Billie Lourd would be playing a younger Leia in a flashback).
Was any flashback sequence shot with Carrie Fisher for The Force Awakens? There’s no way to know. But the rumors are still there, and Making Star Wars brought them up again in their piece about the casting announcement: “There may have been footage shot showing her being a general as well as some potential rumored flashback stuff that was cut from the film that might find its way into the film. It makes me wonder if they shot anything where Leia and Kylo spoke?”
Was anything like this shot? We don’t know, but if there was, it would be an ideal scenario to use it in Episode IX, perhaps to explain some secrets of what happened in the past.
4. Meeting Maz
In one of the trailers for The Force Awakens, there was a brief glimpse of Maz Kanata’s hand holding the Skywalker lightsaber out toward General Leia (it appears to be in the Resistance base on D’Qar), who takes it and holds it. We know that in one version of the script Maz was going to travel to D’Qar as well, but obviously that didn’t happen in the final film. Instead, the Skywalker lightsaber took a different path, calling to Rey and then being handed to Finn to safeguard until Rey was ready to embrace her destiny.
This one is rather unique, because we know it was shot but also have not seen it. That could make it a prime candidate to be used in Episode IX, except for the fact that the Skywalker lightsaber was destroyed in The Last Jedi. However it’s unlikely that this was all that was shot of this sequence, as there are probably a couple of scenes with Maz Kanata at the Resistance base that were unused. So we could possibly see Leia and Maz together. Another possibility is that ILM could digitally alter the lightsaber that Leia is holding so that it’s not necessarily the Skywalker lightsaber – and instead maybe Luke’s green lightsaber, perhaps? They probably don’t have to be limited by the Skywalker lightsaber should they wish to use any of this footage (though admittedly, seeing Leia hold the lightsaber would be a great moment).
5. Hosnian Prime?
I have seen some discussion on the internet about possible scenes that were filmed where Leia goes to Hosnian Prime asking for help; most recently, Uproxx’s Mike Ryan tweeted about a cut scene from TFA in which Leia goes to Hosnian Prime to ask for more resources from the New Republic. Whether or not this was actually shot seems to be a bit unconfirmed, however, as there was a released deleted scene in which Leia sends Korr Sella to ask the Senate for help (see below), and the novelization for TFA explains explicitly why Leia didn’t go personally. So it’s possible that what some think was a cut scene of Leia going to Hosnian Prime to ask for help was actually just the deleted scene of her sending for help… but at the same time, perhaps there really are cut scenes of Leia going to Hosnian Prime?
If that’s the case, then that’s great news for Episode IX. ILM could definitely change the background(s) or setting(s) if need be to show Leia going to allies for aid, which would fit really naturally in the storyline following The Last Jedi, as the Resistance is desperate for any help and/or resources they can get. So if this scene really was shot, I’d definitely expect it to make it into Episode IX, albeit in a different context than it was initially planned.
6. Deleted Scenes?
There were actually two deleted scenes released for The Force Awakens that were focused on Leia. In one of them, Leia receives word of the incident on Jakku and that the First Order apparently destroyed Poe Dameron’s X-Wing. Leia says that, “If they get to Luke first we haven’t got a chance,” and after asking a few more questions she asks about BB-8 – and after getting her answer, she responds, “never underestimate a droid.” Snap Wexley then asks if they should contact the Republic, and Leia responds, “We have to be smarter than that. Find BB-8 immediately. Our future may depend on it.” The second deleted scene was a shorter one, showing Leia sending her aide Korr Sella to the Senate for help. “I need you to go see the Senate right away,” Leia tells her. “Tell them I insist the Republic take action against the First Order.” Korr Sella respectfully questions whether the Republic will listen, and Leia says, “Not all the Senators think I’m insane. Or maybe they do. I don’t care.”
The latter is perhaps my favorite Leia moment shot for The Force Awakens that we’ve seen (though I understand the reasoning why it was cut), but for our purposes here it’s noteworthy that there were two deleted scenes released primarily about Leia and the Resistance. It is possible that Abrams could decide to use this footage in Episode IX, though it’s probably unlikely. First of all, the context of these scenes heavily depends on the Republic and its Senators still being viable allies, which of course they’re not. But secondly, in Abrams’ statement about Fisher’s role in Episode IX he said that they will use “unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.” In other words, everything in Lucasfilm’s casting announcement indicates that they will be using new footage that we haven’t seen before, not deleted scenes.
As far as I know, that’s everything that we could reasonably even speculate about regarding any unused footage from The Force Awakens, though I’m sure there are other possibilities that we just don’t know about. And as you can tell, I find it doubtful that much of this speculation will prove to be fruitful, as we don’t know what was shot and what wasn’t, as well as what is usable for Episode IX. I think the safest assumption is that there is footage of Leia as the General of the Resistance that could potentially be used, but anything beyond that remains a mystery.