Star Wars: The Last Jedi was always going to be a very emotional film for fans, not just because it tackles some very heavy moments, but because it was the final performance of the great Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa.
Fisher suddenly passed away just after Christmas last year after suffering a heart attack, which means we've all had a year to process the fact that this would be a goodbye to both her and Leia. Still, it was not an easy goodbye.
It's made easier, though, by the fact that Fisher is fantastic in the film. She has several wonderful moments as Leia that are both funny and moving, and they're made all the more special by the fact that she apparently helped craft many of them herself.
In addition to being an actress and just a legend in general, Fisher was also an extremely talented writer, from novels like Postcards from the Edge to memoirs like Wishful Drinking to a long career as a script doctor. Though she was often uncredited, she worked on rewriting numerous films, and it turns out one of them was The Last Jedi.
As director and writer Rian Johnson has recounted several times, he and Fisher would often spend hours going over the Last Jedi script together, and Fisher would add in jokes or punch up dialogue while he scribbled her comments down for rewrites later. As it turns out, several of Fisher's ideas were incorporated into some of the film's best moments. Before we discuss them, though, you should know that there are HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most memorable contributions Fisher made to the script is a joke. On the salt planet Crait, holed up in an old Rebel base with all hope apparently lost, Leia and the rest of the Resistance are astonished to discover Luke Skywalker suddenly emerging in their presence. Luke and Leia have an emotional reunion, so much so that Johnson described shooting the moment as "like church" on set. In the midst of all that emotion, though, Leia still manages to get in a joke, making sure Luke knows that "I changed my hair." According to Johnson, that was not his line, but a product of Fisher's legendary wit.
“She loved one-liners and jokes,” he told The Daily Beast. “She could just pop out so many jokes. So the whole thing where she sits down with Luke and [says], ‘I changed my hair,’ obviously, that was her.”
Another contribution from Fisher was a more dramatic one, but it still has a little bit of wit to it. Near the end of the film, it becomes clear that the Resistance will have to abandon their final cruiser to be destroyed by The First Order, and escape in shuttles. In that moment, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) volunteers to be the one to stay behind and pilot the abandoned ship, sacrificing her life in the process as she rams the First Order fleet at lightspeed.
As she says goodbye to Leia, her mentor, she tries to say "May the Force be With You" and then chokes up. As she trails off, Leia offers a little comfort: "You go," she says. "I've said it enough." That was Fisher's line, as was what followed it.
“And then they both say, ‘May the Force be with you, always’ together,” Johnson said. “That was Carrie, too.”
Perhaps the most moving moment in all of Johnson's recollections on rewrites, though, actually doesn't come from Fisher. It comes from Dern. A Star Wars fan from a very young age, Dern grew up idolizing Fisher, and she wanted to find some way to pay tribute to her and to the fact that they were working together. In the same goodbye sequence, Leia begs Holdo not to give herself up, but Holdo insists. Leia says "So much loss. I can't take anymore."
Holdo replies: "Sure you can. You taught me how."
The line was written by Dern, as part of a rewrite session with Fisher and Johnson.
“That whole Holdo scene, that goodbye scene was actually completely rewritten with Carrie and with Laura,” Johnson said. “The three of us got together and worked through it. And the real heart of that scene came from Laura. It was her saying, ‘I just feel like, from my character to Leia, but also me to Carrie, I want to express what she means to me. I want to express my gratitude.’"
The line was supposed to be a tribute from one actor to another, but in light of Fisher's passing, it takes on a powerful new meaning. So, when you see The Last Jedi (or see it again, and again), just know that Fisher's imprint was, as always, more than just her performance.