This week, we bade farewell to not one, but two great actresses of our era: Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher. It goes without saying that Fisher had an indelible impact on the world through her groundbreaking role as Leia Organa. Yet, though many fans know her as Princess Leia, her character was far more than that.
Leia was the princess who would never be the damsel in distress, and later, she was the founding general of the Resistance. She was the woman who lost her adoptive family and her homeworld, as well as most of her biological family. Yet somehow, she found the inner resolve to fight for what she believed in.
It’s precisely because Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia was so pivotal that Star Wars has honored her in numerous ways. Perhaps more so than inter-trilogy characters like Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leia has appeared in an array of mediums, from literature to animated TV. And each time, actresses and authors have brought Leia to life by paying tribute to Fisher’s unforgettable performances. As we remember Carrie Fisher, let’s explore how she’s influenced the other incarnations of Leia Organa.
Julie Dolan in Star Wars Rebels
Fresh from Carrie Fisher’s return as Leia Organa in The Force Awakens, a younger Leia debuted in the Star Wars Rebels episode, “A Princess on Lothal“. Lucasfilm brought in actress Julie Dolan as the voice of Leia since Dolan previously voiced the character in the video game Star Wars: Uprising. Leia’s role on the TV series was brief, as it didn’t last beyond this one episode. Nevertheless, Dolan did an excellent job of channeling Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of 19-year-old Leia from A New Hope.
At this point, Leia must maintain the façade of Alderaan‘s loyalty to the Empire while completing missions for the rebellion. Since “A Princess on Lothal” occurs three years before A New Hope, Dolan brings out the sense that Leia has much responsibility for someone her age. Moreover, Dolan does Carrie Fisher proud by conveying Leia’s feisty and headstrong attitude. More importantly, however, Dolan shows that Leia can empathize with her allies and friends, particularly Ezra Bridger. Empathy is an important quality to leadership, and it’s nice to see Leia trust in and inspire others.
The one shortcoming of Leia’s Rebels debut was that she and Ezra didn’t quite look the same age. Technically, Ezra is two days older than her, but it almost seemed like Leia was older. Maybe it was something to do with the animation or the fact that girls mature more quickly than boys? I’m sure Carrie Fisher would have a witty remark about this. I mean, just look at how she roasted George Lucas back in 2005.
Claudia Gray in Bloodline
Leia Organa has always been a mainstay of Star Wars literature. Recent examples include her lead roles in Marvel’s monthly comic series and the Princess Leia miniseries. However, author Claudia Gray took on the momentous task of writing a Leia solo novel. (Pun not intended, since Leia only took her husband Han Solo‘s name in the Legends continuity.) The result was Bloodline, which went on to debut on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Even though Bloodline is a bit polarizing toward its characters, the novel is Star Wars political theater at its finest. Set six years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline shows how Leia gains an unlikely ally in Senator Ransolm Casterfo and ultimately leaves behind the political morass of the New Republic, instead founding the Resistance. This is the same Leia who later tells Korr Sella in a deleted scene from The Force Awakens, “Not all the senators think I’m insane. Or maybe they do. I don’t care.”
In one of her interviews about Bloodline, Claudia Gray said she wasn’t intimidated about writing a novel starring Leia. She had wanted to do so for a while, so she jumped at the chance to bring Carrie Fisher’s character to the page. Thus, Bloodline is just one example of how Fisher’s performance as Leia has resonated with authors and audiences alike. Fans wouldn’t have Leia Organa without Carrie Fisher, for she is the reason that the character still inspires us all.
Ingvild Deila in Rogue One
Leia Organa’s shortest film appearance to date was part of the surprise ending of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As part of the setup for A New Hope, Leia appears in Rogue One via actress Ingvild Deila. Lucasfilm used CGI to grant Deila the likeness of a younger Carrie Fisher. It’s the same process that made actor Guy Henry appear in the visage of the late Peter Cushing‘s Governor Tarkin.
When I first saw Rogue One, I wasn’t a huge fan of the CGI for Leia and Tarkin. The CGI was certainly convincing, but personally, I thought it would have been better to recast the roles. Nevertheless, Leia’s appearance in Rogue One gained a whole new meaning after Fisher passed away. Through Deila’s CGI-assisted portrayal of Leia, Carrie Fisher appeared in a Star Wars film less than two weeks before her passing. There’s something special and meaningful about that, in a manner I can’t describe.
How Lucasfilm will handle Leia’s future film appearances is a conversation for another day. Leia Organa’s enduring significance as a heroine and role model is just one example of how Carrie Fisher created a legacy that won’t be forgotten. To me, Carrie Fisher’s most important role of her career was being Carrie Fisher.