"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will not be changed because of Carrie Fisher's death. The actress, who died in December, appears throughout the next installment of the blockbuster series and won't be replaced by a hologram, Walt Disney Co.'s top executive announced Thursday.
Fisher's unexpected death sparked fervent speculation about how Disney would handle her role as Leia in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which is the the eighth film in the series and scheduled for release in December.
"She's in 'VIII,' and we're not changing eight to deal with her passing," Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said during an on-stage conversation with his wife, Willow Bay, on Thursday at a conference hosted by USC's Marshall and Annenberg schools. "Her performance, which we've been really pleased with, remains as it was."
In "The Force Awakens," it was revealed the Leia, now a general, is the leader of the Resistance fighting against the evil First Order. Her relationship with Han Solo has become a bit strained in the years since the events of "Return of the Jedi," but the two share a son named Ben.
Ben, however, has been seduced by the dark side of the Force and fights for the First Order as Kylo Ren, which means there is plenty of Skywalker-Solo family drama left to be explored in the remaining "Star Wars" films.
Iger and Bay also noted Fisher's scenes in "The Last Jedi" wouldn't be modified using hologram technology. Disney had used a digital re-creation of a late actor in a previous "Star Wars" film.
"We're not doing that with Carrie," Iger said, describing the upcoming film as "just as satisfying" as the last "Star Wars."
"I've seen 'VIII' and it's quite good," he said, joking that he watches clips under the covers in bed to hide from his teenage sons. "It picks up where 'VII' left off." (That film ended with Force-sensitive hero Rey face to face with the reclusive Jedi Luke Skywalker as she returned his lightsaber.)
Igor also shed some more light on the upcoming standalone Han Solo film, which stars Alden Ehrenreich as the younger incarnation of the famous smuggler.
"We're shooting now an origin story of Han Solo, which will come out in 2018," said Iger. "That picks up when [Han Solo] is 18 years old and takes us to when he is 24."
The significance of those six years in Han Solo's life?
"He acquires a certain vehicle and meets a certain Wookiee," said Iger. "That will happen in this film, and you'll also discover how he got his name."
That's right: Fans will finally learn how Han Solo came to own the Millennium Falcon and befriend Chewbacca. One detail still missing about the Phil Lord- and Christopher Miller-helmed anthology film, however, is its official title.
Iger also teased the future of "Star Wars" beyond the already-planned films, including "Episode IX" and one more anthology installment.
"We're just starting to talk about what happens in 'Star Wars' after 'IX,' " Iger said. "We have a creative team actually thinking about what could be another decade and a half of 'Star Wars' stories. It's kind of mind-blowing to spend an afternoon with the creative team talking about that. I mean, where could you go, or where should we go?"
"A galaxy far, far away," he joked.
Iger's contract with Disney has just been extended for one year as the company continues to search for his replacement.
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" hits theaters Dec. 15, with the untitled Han Solo anthology film scheduled for a May 2018 release.