Exactly one hour into Thursday’s “40 Years of Star Wars” panel, which kicked off this year’s Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy invited the crowd to remember the late, great Carrie Fisher. Best known for her role as Leia Organa in the Star Wars universe, Fisher died on December 27 after suffering a massive heart attack days earlier. And despite raving enthusiasm for the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it seems all anyone really wanted to talk about all weekend was Fisher’s life and legacy.
Star Wars Celebration 2017 could have been an affair racked with despair from both fans and friends of Fisher alike — it was anything but. Instead, the long weekend was spent just how Fisher would have liked it: humorously and with a lot of middle fingers in the air.
The last half hour of Thursday’s kick-off, the 40 Years panel, was a full-on, bells and whistles tribute to Fisher’s humor, vivacity, and talent throughout her life and while playing Leia. A special tribute video was introduced by Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, who wore a Leia-inspired dress and delivered an on-point rendition of her mother’s famous lines.
“I learned by knowing her that the most evolved person is seemingly a contradiction,” Lourd said during the intro. “They are both the strongest and the most vulnerable person in the room. And that was her. That is Leia.”
Here’s the official video for “A Tribute to Carrie Fisher”:
“She’ll always be the princess that took command and who never backed down, never was in jeopardy,” Lucas said before Lourd’s intro. “We’ll all love her forever and ever.” He continued with:
She was a princess, she was a senator, she played a part that was very smart, and she was having to hold her own against two big lugs — these goofballs that were screwing everything up. But she was the boss, it was her war, and when I cast it, I thought, I really want somebody young to play the part… And when Carrie came in, she was that character. She was very strong, very smart, very funny, very bold, very tough, and there really wasn’t much of a question. There aren’t very many people like her. They’re one in a billion.
The video, a mix of behind-the-scenes footage, on-screen moments, and interviews through the years, is an emotional, triumphant salute that ended with a live performance of “Princess Leia’s Theme” by the Orlando Philharmonic, conducted by Star Wars composer John Williams.
“That was important for me, as a young girl, to see that kind of woman,” Gwendoline Christie, who plays the First Order’s Captain Phasma, says of Fisher’s “fire” and strength.
Fisher’s on-screen brother, Mark Hamill, says: “I love her. And I love her when she drives me crazy, and I love her when she makes me laugh. She’s just delightful.”
“Carrie’s an amazing and unique person,” Han Solo actor Harrison Ford says. “She’s got an incredible intellect, she’s got real courage, real gall.”
The other big moments of the weekend came at a special tribute panel with Hamill, who spent an hour delivering “quintessential Carrie” stories, such as Fisher offering to heckle his funeral if Hamill had died first and reading philosophy while on the Star Wars set so people thought she was smart. Despite choking up several times, Hamill was able to get through a reading of the post he made on Facebook right after Fisher’s death and pulled himself and the crowd out of any funk with a well-placed middle finger and a new, hilarious anecdote about Fisher’s life.
Hamill told of how he’d been enraptured with her from the moment he met her, that he’s grateful for the new Star Wars movies because they reunited him with her, and how she’d bullied him mercilessly throughout their time together. And he couldn’t stop laughing or praising her the whole time.
“When I think of her, she’s looking down from the celestial stratosphere with those big brown eyes, that sly smile on her face, as she lovingly extends me the middle finger,” Hamill said. “And that’s how I want you to think of her. That was Carrie.”
Here’s everything else you missed at the 2017 Star Wars Celebration.