It was a chance to remember 40 years of Star Wars, but it turned into a time to mourn a future without Carrie Fisher.
Thursday’s 40th anniversary celebration of the beloved film franchise at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Florida, closed with a video tribute to Fisher, who died last year. The package, which can be seen above, included a look at Fisher’s life as Leia Organa and featured a brief glimpse of the actress on the set of this year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi with director Rian Johnson (see it below).
Before the video montage screened, Fisher’s life was remembered by original Star Wars director George Lucas, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd.
“She loved you because you embraced all of her,” Lourd, who wore a white gown reminiscent of Princess Leia’s white costume from the original movie, told the fans. “The strong soldier she was and the vulnerable side, who fought her own dark side.”
Lourd, who appeared with her mother in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, added, “She loved this incredible character she got to create — this force, called Leia. She ended with words of wisdom she learned from her mother — then recited Leia’s full monologue from the original film that ends with: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
The absence of Fisher was felt acutely at the opening Star Wars Celebration event as Lucas and his original cast members — Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew — reminisced about the origins of the galactic story. Panel emcee Warwick Davis, who co-starred with her as Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi ended the presentation by acknowledging Fisher’s deep connections to the franchise. “We can’t celebrate 40 years of Star Wars without remembering our beloved princess,” he said.
“Carrie Fisher, I said … I said many times now, she really is a modern woman, and she isn’t just a woman where you put guys clothes on her and she becomes a hero,” Lucas told the audience, his voice breaking briefly. “She was a princess, she was a senator, and she played a part that was very smart. And she had to hold her own with two big lugs, these goofballs who were screwing everything up. But it was her war.”
Fisher, who died unexpectedly after suffering cardiac arrest at the end of an airline trip, often called herself the “custodian of Leia.” Lucas went even further: “She was that character: she was very smart, very funny, very bold, very tough. There are not very many people like her. They’re one in a billion.”
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy also choked up as she spoke. “She will be remembered forever. Even by those who are not yet old enough to say: ‘May the Force be with you.'”
As the Fisher tribute ended, a curtain rose to reveal composer John Williams and a full orchestra. After hushing the excited crowd, Williams raised his baton and the orchestra began playing “Princess Leia’s Theme” in tribute to the late actress.
It was a bittersweet goodbye. Fisher would have undoubtedly tried to sweep away the tears with a wisecrack.
The Last Jedi is out in December.