It's the question nobody wants to ask, but it's probably rattling around the back of your brain anyway. How will Star Wars: Episode 8 and 9 handle Leia now that Carrie Fisher has died? While next December's Star Wars: Episode VIII has completed filming and is in post-production, there is still at least one more film to come in this saga.
Unsurprisingly, neither Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow, Episode VIII director Rian Johnson, nor executive producer J. J. Abrams or Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy have made any specific statement regarding Fisher's role in future films. I would be upset if they had — it's a bit early to start plotting out storyline changes at this point. Plus, while I hate to say it, there is always a chance that Leia's storyline ends in Episode VIII already. If that's the case, we may not know the details of how Fisher's death will be handled until Episode VIII premieres, since they could be spoilers for the plot of the next two films.
But if we presume that the character was meant to be in Star Wars: Episode IX, what will happen now? I can't imagine that anyone would try to recast the character. Even Meryl Streep, who played a character inspired by Carrie Fisher IRL in Postcards from the Edge, would not be a believable replacement General Leia. There is one other option, however potentially irksome: Technically, as we've seen in films like Mockingjay Part 2 following the loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which brought young Fisher in via CGI along with the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, Fisher as Leia could be added in digitally.
Perhaps, in Episode IX, we will learn that Leia has passed away in the interim — the way Star Trek Beyond paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy's death. That would be simple, and sweet. It could even be done in the opening crawl. However, it would be unnecessarily sad to lose a beloved actress and an iconic character in one fell swoop, even though IX won't be released until 2019. I would prefer it if General Leia was off running the Resistance in another part of the galaxy, or helping to rebuild the Senate. There is plenty of epic Star Wars story to tell with Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren. It is entirely possible that Leia's part in that story can happen off-screen.
My personal fear is that Fisher's iconic character was meant to play an even larger role than we know in the final portion of the new trilogy. The Force Awakens focused on Han Solo, Luke will likely play a larger role in Episode VIII, and I sort of assumed that IX would be all about Leia. Hopefully, my instinct was wrong, and this turn of events in the real world doesn't impact the story that the people at Lucasfilm wanted to tell in a negative way.