NEW YORK — Carrie Fisher's death has left a void in a galaxy far, far away, as well as our very own.
The beloved actress/writer, who died from sleep apnea and other factors last December, reprises her role of princess-turned-general Leia Organa in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (in theaters Dec. 15), the franchise's eighth installment.
But according to Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the sci-fi saga, her character was meant to be an even larger part of the action in Star Wars: Episode IX (out Dec. 20, 2019), which has a new director in J.J. Abrams, who replaces Colin Trevorrow.
"You’re going to really love her in (The Last Jedi)," Hamill said during a fan event at New York Comic Con Saturday night. "I know they’re going to try and find a way to close her story in (Episode) 9 that gives her the respect she deserves, because (Han Solo) was more prominent in 7 (The Force Awakens), Luke’s a little more prominent in 8, and certainly Leia was meant to be more prominent in 9.
"Worldwide, everyone feels that gap she left," Hamill added. "But we all have to hang in there. And if she’s out there somewhere, we have to give her the one-finger salute. Come on everybody, for Carrie," he said, imploring the crowd to raise middle fingers in the air as a tribute to Fisher, who was 60.
Earlier, Hamill got emotional discussing his longtime friend and co-star, whose mother, screen legend Debbie Reynolds, died one day after Fisher from an intracerebral hemorrhage at age 84. They are survived by Fisher's daughter, actress Billie Lourd, who described their deaths as "surreal and impossible to deal with" in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres last month.
"Ordinarily, (Carrie's) timing was exquisite, but in this case, it’s heartbreakingly difficult to even acknowledge the loss," he said. "And I’m selfish about it. I talk about, 'Oh, she would’ve made things so much more fun.' But think about what Billie’s going through. Not only to lose her mom, but the very next day, her grandmother? It’s just unimaginable. I can’t think of anything quite like it."
Otherwise, Hamill mostly steered away from Star Wars during his two-hour onstage talk at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom, instead choosing to reminisce about his childhood, voice work as The Joker in the Batman animated series and role of The Trickster in The Flash. But he did tease a more cynical, downbeat Luke in the upcoming Last Jedi, which fans caught a glimpse of in a first trailer for the movie released in April.
"No one just wants to see a retread of Obi-Wan Kenobi," Hamill said. "We've seen the benevolent Jedi master training people."
In the trailer, "Luke says, 'I only know one truth: It's time for the Jedi to end.' You haven't figured out what Luke's been doing for 30 years, (but) how does the most optimistic character in all the movies get to that point? It won't be much longer now until you find out."
A new Last Jedi trailer will debut at halftime during Monday Night Football, the same day tickets go on sale for the movie.