In The Last Jedi, Admiral Ackbar’s death is quite unceremonial, as he is sucked out to space with the rest of the Resistance leadership aboard the Raddus bridge.
Commander D’Acy later informed the Resistance that, “General Organa – Leia – is unconscious, but recovering. That’s the only good news I have. Admiral Ackbar, all our leadership, are gone. Leia was the sole survivor on the bridge.”
And that was the only mention of the death of Admiral Gial Ackbar. But according to a recent interview with actor Tim Rose, there was actually a death scene filmed.
Appearing on the Talking Bay 94 podcast recently (h/t to Reddit user thenerdinator), Rose said of Ackbar’s death, “And you didn’t see it. We filmed it, and then you didn’t see it.” That led the host to ask if there was an Ackbar death scene actually filmed, to which Rose responded, “Oh yeah.” He went on to make clear that he didn’t know how much he could reveal, however: “Yeah. I don’t know what I can say. We all sign nondisclosure agreements these days, and I’m too old to lose my house, so you know, maybe I better not say it.”
So while he didn’t say much, what he did say was interesting: that an Ackbar death scene was filmed that we didn’t see in the film. That’s pretty interesting, and it seems to go against what editor Bob Ducsay said shortly after the movie’s release. He has second thoughts about the way Ackbar’s death was handled, but he admitted that, “That’s how it was designed. That’s how it was intended. But it is slightly incidental, isn’t it?” So we have the film’s editor saying that Ackbar’s death played out in The Last Jedi exactly how it was intended to, while Tim Rose is saying that there was a different scene filmed.
To be sure, those two things aren’t necessarily contradictory, as a scene could have been filmed just in case, but the implications are certainly different. While it sounds like a different scene may have been filmed, though, I think that Rian Johnson, Bob Ducsay, and others made the correct decision in how to handle the death of Admiral Ackbar.
The recent The Last Jedi comic adaptation, wonderfully written by Gary Whitta and beautifully illustrated by Michael Walsh and Mike Spicer, added many slight twists, interpretations, and scenes that I loved. One that many fans loved was that it gave Admiral Ackbar some last words. As another Mon Calamari officer says, “Torpedoes inbound!”, Ackbar says, “It’s been an honor serving with you all” before the bridge is blown up.
I would guess that the Ackbar death scene that Tim Rose mentioned went something like the way it is depicted in the comic. Nothing major, but putting a focus on Ackbar right before his death. Showing it in the comic is a cool way to satisfy fans who wished for a focus on Ackbar’s death, and the way it is done in the comic is nothing dramatic or major and is totally in line with something Ackbar would say.
However, I think that putting it in the film would have distracted from the focus on Leia, so it was a smart plan all along to have the scene turn out the way it did. Leia shares a connection with her son, and her son doesn’t fire upon the Raddus… but his wingmen do. Leia senses the torpedoes coming right before she and the rest of the Resistance leadership is sucked into space in a massive explosion. After General Hux then recalls Kylo Ren to the Supremacy and then bemoans the First Order’s capabilities, we then see Leia Organa floating in space. She then uses the Force to save herself, pulling her back into the ship. It’s a beautiful scene that totally is focused on Leia Organa. While some fans would argue that Ackbar deserves better (I wouldn’t be one of them), the reality is that the filmmakers simply didn’t want to focus on Ackbar when the focus was supposed to be on Leia. That’s a smart decision, and it worked really well on-screen too.