Should General Leia Organa be re-cast for Star Wars: Episode IX?!
Last week the news broke – albeit of the clickbait variety – that Meryl Streep was being slated to play General Leia Organa in Star Wars Episode IX. In reality, this story had been blown way out of proportion. A petition had been started to have Lucasfilm consider Meryl Streep for the role of Leia. As we all know, these petitions can be started for anything, like say having the Imperial March be made the National Anthem. Nonetheless, people started talking about the possibility of Meryl taking on this haloed character.
Without a doubt Meryl Streep would give an award-winning performance as Leia, and that is saying something because Star Wars isn’t known for raking in too many awards in the acting categories. She would without question give 100% – her heart and her soul – to ensure the fans got the Leia they so loved and deserved. And she would never be accepted. In today’s hostile environment of Star Wars fandom, it doesn’t matter if Kathleen Kennedy used dark magic from Dathomir to bring back Audrey Hepburn to play Leia, the fans will never accept anyone but Carrie Fisher playing their beloved princess.
There are many actresses in Hollywood besides Meryl Streep who would play the part of Leia phenomenally well and would give the character the reverence she deserved. None of them however would be given a fair shake from a significant amount of Star Wars fans. You would probably be able to hear the groans of “she’s no Carrie” throughout the entirety of Episode IX. Being distracted by the fact that we now have a non-Carrie Leia, fans would not even be able to enjoy the movie. After the resulting divisiveness following The Last Jedi, that is the last thing Star Wars fandom needs right now.
If recasting Leia isn’t a viable option, what else is there? If there is one moment in Rogue One that always makes me cringe a little, it’s the CGI Leia saying “hope.” As a fan, it was amazing to see young Princess Leia again – I did love Tarkin’s “resurrection,” after all – but it was the clumsy graphics in that scene that I could never get past. Not to take anything away from the hundreds of talented graphic artists who worked tirelessly to produce that fantastic movie, but there is absolutely no way I could sit through a two hour movie and take a computer generated Leia seriously. For me, that would be more distracting than having another woman playing her.
If CGI isn’t realistically possible, and recasting Leia would never work, how can Disney/Lucasfilm solve the Leia dilemma?
Going back to Rogue One, a poignant scene takes place between Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. The two Senators now realizing war was the only option, they understood that they would need to enlist the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi if they were going to have any chance to win. Someone needed to send that message to the Jedi Master, but who? Mon tells Bail that it had to be someone he could trust. With that classic smile, he quickly replies, “I would trust her with my life.”
Obviously the woman to whom he was referring was his adoptive daughter Leia Organa, but if you’ve read Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray, you understand completely why Bail trusted her so deeply. In this coming of age book, Leia, still a member of the Apprentice Legislature, deals with trust issues as she feels her parents becoming more and more distant while they hold secretive meetings to which she is never invited. We see Leia mature as the book progresses, going from naïve and somewhat irresponsible to the determined princess we see in A New Hope. So many references are made in this novel to the rest of the saga – Naboo, Panaka, Eriadu, Tarkin, Amilyn Holdo, Crait – that this story has become indispensable to understanding the character of Leia Organa and her place in the bigger story.
Fast forward about twenty years. The Emperor and Darth Vader are dead. The New Republic has taken the place of the Galactic Empire. Senator Leia Organa and Han Solo have had a son, Ben, and he is off training with her brother, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. New threats now face the Republic but it seems the Senate is either unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Only one person has the courage and intelligence to start looking into these threats: Leia Organa. All these events are described in Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline. If the reveal of Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father is the most dramatic moment in the Star Wars saga, Bloodline contains the second most dramatic, and because of what happens in this story we understand why Leia looks and behaves so differently in The Force Awakens than when we last saw her in Return of the Jedi. (Side note: it is also because of this book that many of us no longer refer to her as Princess or General, but rather Huttslayer.)
The answer to this dilemma is right in front of us. There is a particular passage in Leia: Princess of Alderaan that has been running through my mind:
Alderaan had any number of traditions about braids, about who wore them, and when, and why. The customs varied from continent to continent, age to age. But always, one of the most profoundly intimate acts was to allow someone else to take the braids down.
At this moment there is no other writer more intimate with the heart and mind of Leia Organa than Claudia Gray. Han is gone. Luke is gone. Let Leia have the hero’s finale that she so rightly deserves. Let’s see Leia take on the First Order with the blazing determination that we have come to expect from our warrior princess. And in the end, whether it be tragic or peaceful, allow Claudia Gray to let Leia Organa’s braids down one last time for a funeral that will be remembered throughout the ages. Leia Organa deserves her own trilogy. Claudia Gray can make that happen.
All this in loving memory of Carrie Fisher.
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