There are certain factors that Disney and Lucasfilm took into consideration as they were working on the next trilogy of Star Wars films. One of their stars dying of a sudden heart attack at the age of sixty was likely not on the table. Carrie Fisher passed away on December 27th, and the people in charge of the movies need to figure out where to go from here.
The Hollywood Reporter has said that Lucasfilm and Disney are putting together a "braintrust' to figure out how to give the iconic General Leia Organa a proper send off and in a way that allows the fans to say goodbye to the actress in a respectful manner. It isn't the first time that a studio has lost a major player midway through filming, but Lucasfilm and Disney are in an odd position; they can take their time.
Unlike when Paul Walker passed away halfway through filming Furious 7, Carrie Fisher had already completed filming for Episode VIII, which is just under a year from release, and pre-production for Episode IX is likely still a year away. It appears that Disney's decision to plan far ahead has given them the chance to think about how they want to do this. Not only does that give everyone time to think, it also gives them time to grieve, as THR put it;
And the status of its script, being written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, is unknown. (Disney won't comment.) Trevorrow, the filmmaker behind Jurassic World who is directing Episode IX, is due to arrive in L.A. the week of Jan. 10 for meetings with Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy to discuss options. But unlike in other cases where actors died during the filmmaking process … it appears that the team has time to explore solutions.
(As well as time to grieve. As one insider puts it, "People are still deeply mourning Carrie's death over there.")
THR also gave some details about several key scenes that the General was set to be in;
"…insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that at least two key scenes are planned for Episode VIII (Dec. 15) and Episode IX (2019): a Leia reunion with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a confrontation with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), her son who killed Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 2015's The Force Awakens.
There are several options on the table, but the ethical dilemma of digitally 'raising the dead' has come up before. The discussion has come up again now with the release of Rogue One and the digital versions of Peter Cushing, and making Fisher young again.
"I have no doubt, given some of the recent work I've seen, there are filmmakers who will be willing to take up the challenge," says Michael Fink, an Oscar-winning VFX supervisor who teaches at USC. But, "so far, we have seen moments of success but not full performances." He says there's also ethics to weigh: "Should we create additional roles for Princess Leia? I don't think so."
As of right now, it appears that no decisions are off the table entirely. The team at Lucasfilm and Disney presumably understand how important this character was to fans, and how essential it is that they give her a proper send off. This situation is in no way a good thing, but giving everyone time to think it over and grieve without a looming deadline on the horizon? That is about the best scenario we can hope for.