David James for Lucasfilm

Carrie Fisher's Performance In The Last Jedi Is 'A Ray Of Hope From Leia,' Says Director

Plus: His thoughts on how J.J. Abrams will 'figure out a way to bring it home in the end' with Episode IX

In the months leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm released some moving footage from the set of the film that showed Carrie Fisher in all her warm, goofy glory working alongside members of the cast and production. Fisher wrapped shooting for The Last Jedi before she passed away on December 27, 2016, and the film is now a bittersweet tribute to Fisher, as a dedication to her takes up the screen shortly after the credits start rolling.

When Johnson returned to work on The Last Jedi at the start of 2017, "the very first conversation" he had with Lucasfilm had to do with whether or not he'd make any adjustments or major changes to the film following her passing. The short answer to that complicated question? He had no intention of changing The Last Jedi, because Fisher's final turn as Leia is pretty much perfect.

"I felt really strongly that what we have here is so beautiful and the way that the character develops, the way it's paid off, and not only that, the horror of trying to manufacture something that — I don’t even know what it would have been," Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview, confirming that there was really no alternative to working with what he had. "I think it will mean a lot for them, that ray of hope from Leia. For all of those reasons I felt really strongly that we had to let this fly."

As for what comes next for Fisher and J.J. Abrams's yet-to-be-titled Episode IX, Johnson has the utmost confidence that he'll handle the next chapter of Leia's story with care. (Shortly after her death, Lucasfilm confirmed that they would not digitally recreate the late Fisher for The Last Jedi or any film following it.)

"Luckily we have a fantastic storyteller in J.J. Abrams who is going to figure out a way to bring it home in the end, that's going to be satisfying, I know he's going to," he said. "With this movie I just wanted audiences to have this performance."