“Star Wars” fans gathered en masse in Orlando Thursday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their beloved universe, but the excitement was also mixed with sadness, as the festivities began with a poignant tribute to one of the brightest stars of the galaxy, Carrie Fisher.
George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, daughter Billie Lourd and other members of the “Star Wars” family spoke of how Fisher changed their lives with her jovial presence and extraordinary acting ability.
The event included a tribute video showing how the actress freely quipped about the undying celebrity status “Star Wars” had both blessed and cursed her with and how, even nearly 40 years later, she could still recite with ease the plea for help Leia gave to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) through R2-D2 in Lucas’ original 1977 movie.
Lucas, in particular, had warm words for Fisher, talking about how she fit easily into the role and how casting her to play Leia was a no-brainer.
“[Leia] was the boss. It was her war, and when I cast it, I wanted someone very young to play the part,” he said. “When Carrie came in, she was that character. She was very strong, very smart, very funny, very bold, very tough, and there wasn’t much of a question — there were not very many people like her.“
“She’ll always be the princess who took command and never backed down, never was in jeopardy. She was always helping the other guys get out of the messes they created. We will all love her forever and ever.”
“There was no greater honor than working with Carrie Fisher,” added producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. “She was unlike anyone you’ve known. Her humor, her insight, her brilliance… when you associate Princess Leia, you realize, that was Carrie.”
After the tribute video to Fisher, fans got a surprise performance by an orchestra led by famed composer John Williams, who honored Fisher by playing the theme he wrote for Princess Leia.
Watch the livestream above.