Before her tragic death, Carrie Fisher had finished filming Star Wars: Episode VIII.
The extent of General (former title "Princess") Leia Organa's involvement in the movie is still unknown and will probably remain under wraps until the film hits theaters on December 15, but a report from The Hollywood Reporter implies that she wasn't going to die in that movie, because she was set to have an even bigger role in Episode IX (scheduled for release in 2019). Now, according to their sources, some of the top minds at Lucasfilm and Disney are still scrambling to figure out what to do now that Fisher is gone.
According to their sources, Episode IX writer and director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) is flying into L.A. next week to discuss options with Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy (Star Wars' head honcho).
Their sources also say that they had two particularly monumental moments planned for Leia (but wouldn't say which, if either, made it into Episode VIII): A reunion with her brother Luke (Mark Hamill) and a "confrontation" with her son, Kylo Ren. Both sound like moments that would be hard for Lucasfilm to let go of.
Without knowing how the story goes in Episode XIII, there seem to be three main options floating around for handling Leia:
Option 1: Write Leia out of 'Episode IX'
Probably the most likely and most feasible option, but it leaves a whole heck of a lot of questions about how they do it. Do they kill Leia off off-screen? Do they delay the inevitable and just write her away from the plot (for example, by having other characters reference her being away doing important Rebel/Senate business somewhere else in the galaxy)?
Option 2: Use a CGI Leia
This would be a controversial option no matter how you slice it. Rogue One proved that Lucasfilm is not only open to the idea of recreating characters with CGI, but that they can actually pull it off -- mostly. Their rendering of Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin was impressive for what it was, though it was just awkward enough to make it distracting.
But Peter Cushing died in 1994, and bringing him "back" for Rogue One still raises a lot of ethical questions. Yes, Lucasfilm has the legal right to do it (as they do with Fisher), but is it morally the right thing to do? That question carries a lot more weight with an actress that just died more recently. And because we just saw Fisher as Leia in The Force Awakens (as opposed to Cushing as Tarkin, where it had been decades), there is a much higher chance of the CGI version of the character looking unnatural.
If Lucasfilm goes this route, it would best be done sparingly. Not only out of respect for Fisher, but because the process of making these CGI recreations is reportedly very time-consuming and very expensive.
Option 3: Write Leia out of 'Episode IX' ... in 'Episode VIII'
This year's Star Wars movie finished filming awhile ago, but since it doesn't come out until December, there is still a window of time available for reshoots. Theoretically, last-minute script changes to Episode VIII could change Leia's course in such a way that her involvement in Episode IX isn't as big of a question mark.
Regardless of the path they take, it's likely that Fisher's death will cause a disturbance in the Star Wars universe long after Episode IX's 2019 release.