Rian Johnson almost rewrote The Last Jedi after Carrie Fisher's death

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Jan 17, 2018, 4:09 PM EST

Rian Johnson, director/writer of The Last Jedi, had a strict vision in mind when he created the latest Star Wars film, but when tragedy struck, he almost changed everything.

***Spoilers below for The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens***

Interviewed on the Empire Film Podcast, Johnson addressed how Carrie Fisher’s death almost changed the entire arc for General Leia Organa. While all her scenes had been filmed before her death, the film’s ending set her up for a leading role in the final film in the new trilogy - especially after some of the heroics she pulled in Johnson’s movie. So without Fisher, where do they go? And more importantly, should they change Leia’s importance for the finale?

According to Johnson, he “discussed it briefly” with producer and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy “when we came back after New Year’s. We watched through her scenes and there was briefly talk of, ‘God, do we adjust something so that we give her some kind of end in this movie?’”

They decided against it because they “have a beautiful, complete performance from her - that last moment of her saying ‘We have everything we need’ and putting her hand on Rey - is so powerful for her and also for us saying goodbye to her. And also, I can’t imagine anything that we would be able to manufacture without having Carrie that would’ve been emotionally satisfying.”

Johnson continued, “I definitely have no idea what would maintain that scene between her and Luke, which there was no way we were gonna cut, or the scene in the Falcon. So we just decided to let it lie.”

The future, while not up to Johnson as he passes the reins to The Force Awakens writer/director J.J. Abrams for Episode IX, will still be steady, Johnson says, because we go into it with a shared knowledge. “We all know it’s part of the context of going into the next movie. It won’t be a big twist, whatever he’s doing.”

One of the cooler things in the film - especially visually - also had a connection to the original three heroes of Star Wars. Vice Admiral Holdo’s black-and-white hyperspace sacrifice, which elicited gasps from audiences, grew from an original Han Solo line:

“I’m sure that a lot of fans had thought ever since Han was talking about if you don’t get the calculations right you could go through [a star].”

The line, in the original Star Wars, is, “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?”

Johnson said, on a lighter note, that he “always wanted to see what that would look like, and at some point, one of the guys at ILM hit upon that exposure idea of everything going silent.” The rest is heroic Dern history.