It has long been evident that George Lucas improvised the story of Star Wars. Luke’s journey from innocent farm boy to stoic Jedi and Darth Vader’s transformation from menacing cyborg to sentimental father were not planned out beforehand. And let’s not forget how Leia’s romantic interest turned out to be her long-lost sibling, which would have been even stranger if not for the presence of the Force. This plot twist rivals that of Close My Eyes.
It is interesting to learn that Jodie Foster was offered the part of Leia Organa. During an interview on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Foster shared that she declined the chance to be in the groundbreaking film of 1977 because it conflicted with her contract for a Disney movie (most likely 1976’s Freaky Friday) which was also being filmed at the same time.
Foster shared that she was unable to play a younger Princess Leia due to a scheduling conflict with a Disney film she was already committed to. She praised the team for their excellent work and speculated on how her portrayal may have been different, potentially with a different hairstyle such as a pineapple.
During the production of the first Star Wars film, Foster would have been around 13 or 14 years old, while the actress who ultimately got the role of Carrie Fisher was 19. This age difference would have significantly altered the tone and dynamics of George Lucas’s movie. Although Star Wars is not known for its maturity and complexity as a science fiction saga, having a younger lead character may have brought about a similar storyline to the Phantom Menace, but decades earlier. The characters of Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, and Leia, played by Foster, may have had a more parent-child dynamic, adding a unique aspect to the story. However, this would have been a significant deviation from the original plot. One may even wonder if Leia would have been the one to fatally wound Han with her unconventional lightsaber in the sequel trilogy, instead of Kylo Ren.
Regardless, the original trilogy of Star Wars would have likely lost some of its charm. The authentic and sizzling chemistry between the romantic leads has a magical effect reminiscent of classic Hollywood, and the undeniable attraction between Ford and Fisher (which was rooted in genuine feelings) certainly aided Lucas in reviving the splendor of 1930s space fantasy. Additionally, it helped Star Wars appeal to all ages rather than just young adolescents. While it may have been given a U rating in the UK (PG in the US), it never came across as a film solely for children. Foster, despite her ability to portray sharp hostility from a young age (as seen in Taxi Driver), could have potentially altered the dynamic.
It is important to remember that the situation could have been even more unusual. Some of the names that were once considered for the role of Leia were Sigourney Weaver, Sissy Spacek, Anjelica Huston, and Meryl Streep. Weaver’s portrayal of Leia may have been a combination of the seductive confidence of Dana Barrett from Ghostbusters and the strong humanity of Ellen Ripley from the Alien films. It is difficult to picture 25-year-old Huston handling Solo’s egotistical masculinity with anything other than disdain, and the same can be said for Meryl Streep. However, the thought of Streep wearing Leia’s iconic buns is quite magnificent. Spacek would have likely been a poor fit for the role.
Although it may have been a pivotal moment in her career, the idea of Foster playing Leia is still intriguing. How would her career have unfolded as the face of Star Wars? Of the three main stars in George Lucas’s saga, only Ford had a successful career after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983. However, in recent years, there has been more recognition for Mark Hamill’s later work and he has experienced a minor resurgence. It is likely that Foster would have continued to excel in dramatic roles and maintained her status as a Star Wars icon. If this had been the case, it may not have taken 30 years to see Leia on screen again in 2015’s The Force Awakens. Perhaps it would have been worth sacrificing Freaky Friday for that opportunity.