Why Meryl Streep won't play Princess Leia in 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Meryl Streep arrives for a special screening of Final Portrait in New York on March 22, 2018. (Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Meryl Streep is an actress who can seemingly resurrect any cultural icon, from Margaret Thatcher to Julia Child — but will Princess Leia be one of them? An online petition calling for the 21-time Oscar nominee to replace Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode IX has gained a surprising amount of steam, with more than 8,900 supporters. The petition’s author, who goes by the handle Chill M, argues that the role of Leia is too important to be dropped in the final installment of the new Skywalker trilogy, even though Fisher (who created the role in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope) died before shooting began.

“As the fans of Star Wars and Carrie Fisher, we really want Leia to shine in Episode IX and we certainly do not want her to be written out of the film abruptly without a reasonable plot,” writes the petition’s author. “Therefore, recasting Leia is a more ideal option for us and we believe that Meryl Streep is an ideal candidate to play Leia.” The author’s argument is based both on Streep’s many accolades as an actress and her friendship with Fisher, plus the fact that she played a character based on Fisher in Postcards from the Edge, Mike Nichols’s adaptation of Fisher’s semiautobiographical novel.

Unfortunately for the petition’s supporters, Streep is not planning any trips to a galaxy far, far away. A rep for Streep told Entertainment Tonight that rumors that she is in consideration for the role of Princess Leia are “untrue.” That’s no shock, considering that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has stated outright that Leia will not appear in Episode IX. Though the princess turned general was originally going to be a “really significant” part of the story, according to producer Kennedy, Fisher’s death necessitated script changes. “We pretty much started over,” she told Entertainment Weekly in April of last year.

Granted, Episode IX has been through numerous script changes since Fisher’s death, as well as a change of director from Colin Trevorrow to J.J. Abrams of The Force Awakens. But such a weighty decision as Leia’s fate is unlikely to change from draft to draft. In addition to Kennedy’s assurance that Fisher will not appear in Episode IX, Disney CEO Bob Iger has stated that Fisher will not be resurrected digitally (as her younger self was for Rogue One). Recasting hasn’t officially been ruled out — but considering Fisher’s devoted fan base, the tragedy of her unexpected death, and the fact that she played Leia in five previous Star Wars movies, recasting the role would cause a controversy that Lucasfilm certainly isn’t interested in igniting.

That leaves Abrams with the considerable challenge of concluding Leia’s story arc while the character is offscreen. Even though the temptation to recast would be great, we’re sure that Lucasfilm has some creative, non-Streep solutions. And if they don’t, we do.

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