During an interview with Vanity Fair, J.J. Abrams opened up about bringing Leia back for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by using unused footage of Carrie Fisher from the previously two Star Wars saga films that were made.
Like all Star Wars fans, Abrams was devastated by the passing of Fisher, but as a filmmaker and storyteller he wanted and needed Leia to continue this story with her. To do that, he decided that he would not use a digital version of Fisher and there’s no way he was going to recast the role. So, it all came down to that unused footage of her. In regards to that, Abrams said:
“It’s hard to even talk about it without sounding like I’m being some kind of cosmic spiritual goofball, but it felt like we suddenly had found the impossible answer to the impossible question.”
Abrams then started to write scenes in the film around that old footage and put that dialogue that she delivered into new contexts. When talking about that process, Abrams said:
“It was a bizarre kind of left side/right side of the brain sort of Venn diagram thing, of figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had.”
While writing these scenes, Abrams initially kept Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, who plays a Resistance officer named Lieutenant Connix, out of them. He didn’t want to cause any kind of pain or discomfort to Lourd. But, Lourd approached Abrams and said she wanted to have scenes with her mom.
“And so, there are moments where they’re talking; there are moments where they’re touching. There are moments in this movie where Carrie is there, and I really do feel there is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know, classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.”
Shooting these scenes weren’t easy for Lourd and it ended up being quite emotional and overwhelming for everyone at times. Abrams shared;
“She would get emotional and sort of have to excuse herself for a minute. I know it was hard for her for a while.”
I’m so happy that Abrams was able to find a way to use Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. I’m looking forward to seeing how her scenes play out and how big of a role she will actually end up having in the movie.
The article also says “Fisher’s full human performance [remains] untouched,” and that “Leia’s integration into the film is so complete, she physically interacts with some of the other characters in The Rise of Skywalker.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20th, 2019.