Lucasfilm have announced that, contrary to popular rumours, there will be no digital recreation of Carrie Fisher, who died between production of VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX. It’s rare for Lucasfilm to directly address Internet speculation, but this makes sense. These rumours only began because a younger version of Fisher herself had been digitally used in Rogue One, along with Peter Cushing. I found it mostly convincing, but I also can’t deny that the majority have found it to be just creepy. Of particular note is the way that the digital renderings of Fisher and Cushing rarely moved due to the complexities of tracking a computer-generated face onto someone else. If a computer-generated Fisher were to be used for Star Wars: Episode IX, all Leia would be able to do would be to stand around and talk, in which case, why bother at all? That’s why the technology hasn’t developed enough to become a norm within big-budget film-making. But because there’s still some ambiguity about it, so it was right that Lucasfilm should acknowledge their intentions in order for Fisher’s family to be reassured. Plus, Lucasfilm need to maintain their status; rumours, while unofficial, can still be widely believed, and no respectable company would allow them to potentially damage their reputation. Of course, that also means that Lucasfilm mustn’t go back on this – they’ve communicated with their audience, and to do the opposite of what they said would be a breach of the unwritten contract between artist and consumer. Which also means that the ways to control the problems caused by Fisher’s unavailability have now become smaller: with no digital recreation happening, Leia must be either recast, or VIII should somehow retire the character, despite having already wrapped principle photography. While there’s no way of currently knowing what’s going to happen, Lucasfilm’s decision to state their intentions does show that they’re on top of their situation. Not only that, but the gossip surrounding this did need to be put to rest. The reason most rumours are officially ignored is because they’re extra, free marketing. But the debate about how Fisher’s death is to be handled is only partially a story issue, and is still a matter of public relations regarding a real person. Of course, Lucasfilm made that debate possible in the first place by showing in Rogue One that an actor’s status of living or dead isn’t a problem to them, thus making the possibility of a digital recreation realistic to begin with. But Lucasfilm also controlled the consequences of that anyway, so it hardly matters. And it was important to be clear about this situation, because of how much of an emotional issue it is to many people. Does that make it likely that Lucasfilm won’t recast Leia? Part of Lucasfilm’s press release was to acknowledge how much they care for Fisher’s legacy, so they probably won’t recast. And anyway, to debate whether or not that will happen is to assume that Leia’s story won’t be concluded in VIII. We won’t know where we stand with Star Wars: Episode IX until we’ve seen VIII, and only then will there be any way of substantially considering Leia’s future. The story must be respected, and one of the points that reviews for Star Wars: Episode IX are likely to focus on will be whether Leia’s absence distorts the story as originally-planned. The use of virtual likenesses are inevitably going to become a major legal issue once the technology becomes mainstream, at which point, actors’ contracts will probably begin including clauses that allow them to be used.