One week ago today, Carrie Fisher's sudden and tragic death left the pop culture icon's friends, co-stars, family, and fans reeling, and inevitably put the future of the Star Wars franchise into question. How will the series continue without General Leia, the leader of the resistance?
While the answer to that question is still unclear, we do know that according to early reports Fisher had finished her work on Star Wars Episode VIII before her death on 27 December. The film wrapped in July and is currently in post-production. Her character, however, was slated to appear in Star Wars Episode IX, which was scheduled to begin shooting in 2018.
Now, sources are reporting that Disney had taken out a $50 million (£41 million) "so-called contract protection cover as insurance for the event that Fisher was unable to fulfill her obligations to act in the new Star Wars films, with the policy now likely to trigger."
Though an insurance payout of this size does not help solve the problem of Fisher's role in Star Wars IX, it does show the substantial investment Disney had in her part in the future films. With the character of Han Solo killed off in The Force Awakens and given the size of this insurance claim, it's likely to assume General Leia would have had played a big part in Star Wars IX.
In Rogue One, Disney used the stunning—and rather unsettling—visual effects to depict a young Princess Leia and the late Peter Cushing. Would audiences be comfortable with a CGI General Leia appearing in Star Wars IX so soon after Fisher's death? It certainly wouldn't be unheard of, considering what Rogue One and other examples like Paul Walker's return in Furious 7 and performances featuring a holographic Tupac and Michael Jackson.
"When he first showed up, my initial reaction was pure excitement at seeing Tarkin again," one visual-effects artist told Engadget about the return of Cushing's character. "I had no idea it would be more than a little cameo. The more he did, the more I wondered why they were using him so much. He seemed as believable to me as I think they could have achieved. Everything looked great visually, but there was something off in the animation. The lips always give it away for me. There is a subtlety to mouth movements that gets lost in the motion-capture."
But this Disney artist also pointed out that while the technology is incredible, it's also disrespectful to actors who have died. There's also the actor's estates to consider, which dictate how their images can be licensed. With $50 million to spend from the insurance payout, though, Disney could potentially pull off something never before seen in Hollywood.