The tragic death of Carrie Fisher has put Disney in a position that will require patience and tons of respect for her family, their wishes, and the loyal fans that don't want to see a full digital recreation of the character.
While some of us are fine with the idea of an absolutely CGI rendition of the Princess to finish out the trilogy, others feel that it would enter the same uncanny valley that haunted the renderings of Tarkin and young Leia in Rogue One. On that end the spectrum, it could be detrimental and disrespectful to the legacy that Fisher had created prior to her death. All of us are right and all of us deserve room for our differing opinions. Yet, the final decision remains with her estate and the creators at Disney that are saying they will not fully animate the character just to fill the void left by her death.
So, that leaves us with several solutions that they may decide to use in their search to solve the Princess Leia issue. When Paul Walker died during the production of Fast and Furious 6, fans immediately spoke up and said they'd be offended if his character were killed off on or off screen. They felt it would be a slap in the face to his family that would only add to the pain they felt in real life. So, they did their best to use the limited footage they had and they wrote him out during the final scene. This gave them room to continue the series and also paid respect to the real life loss that inflicted so much grief.
A hero's death?
My personal belief is that it would rub Star Wars fans the wrong way if Leia were killed in a battle sequence or off screen during the course of Episode VIII. In other instances, a hero's death might serve the story, but here it could inflict more sadness. Yet, it could open several doors for the character's exit and possible 'spiritual' reintroduction for the final movie in the sequel trilogy.
A Force ghost?
In Return of the Jedi, it was revealed that Leia was in fact Force sensitive when Yoda states, "No. There is another". Later in the film, when Luke consoles with her, she also comments, "I know. Somehow, I've always known". This creates a variable or solution for Disney by letting the audience know that she is strong with the power of the Force and could have possibly learned to control it between trilogies. After all, it's been thirty years. As we'd all be sad to experience the death of another one of the original main three characters, especially after the real life loss of Carrie, this opens a wide path to them completing her story arc. If by chance they decide that she'll meet her demise during battle or offscreen, Leia could in fact return as a Force ghost in the final film, allowing the character some measure of closure that wouldn't require a huge amount of computer rendering or disrespectful cloning.
The confrontation that's supposed to take place between Kylo (Ben Solo) Ren and his mother could also be transposed to some type of metaphysical one where she's speaking to him from beyond the grave
We know that the Star Wars series has always relied on the use of holograms for a form of communication. This would be another way that Leia could be brought back into the fold without having to piece together a totally false character. This also might be a way for them to complete the confrontational story arc that's supposed to be resolved in the final film in Rey's journey. She could remain a General in the form of a hologram, commanding from the deck of a starship. Recreating a voice would be much easier than having to digitally transpose her facial details to a fill in actor or CGI rendered character. They most likely have tons of extra footage that they could use to create this scenario.
A different actress?
Last but not least is using a replacement actress. This is my least favorite of the options here. But, it could be done. Most likely, this would cause some type of fan outcry and would feel forced by taking us out of the experience. I've seen numerous suggestions including Meryl Streep and Cindy Williams (who auditioned for the role in 1975). By using an actual physical replacement, Lucasfilm could also employ the same types of technology they used in FF6 by digitally superimposing her facial features onto someone else.
We'd obviously all like to have our Princess back. None of us wish her any disrespect. But as Disney begins to work out the kinks, they're going to come to a resolution. Hopefully, it's a tasteful one. They probably won't use any of the ideas I just wrote about. However, I just thought it was something worthwhile to take a brief look at as we all ponder the future of Princess Leia beyond Episode VIII. No matter which route they go, her role will be reduced and her talents will be missed immensely.
Any other ideas? Comment below.