Many Star Wars fans thought they would never see Princess (or General) Leia on cinema screens again after The Last Jedi, which was filmed before Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016. But filmmaking can be magical. J.J. Abrams has already confirmed that the late actor will be featured in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, marking what will likely be her final on-screen performance. And to make the moment even more sentimental, Billie Lourd and her mom Carrie Fisher will appear in Episode 9 together, meaning there will be multiple reasons to bring tissues when you see the final installment in the Skywalker saga.
The magic of Princess Leia was brought to the next Star Wars movie using previously filmed footage from The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens — and some unique filmmaking techniques to make it all flow seamlessly. Lourd has appeared as one of Leia’s lieutenants, Kaydel Ko Connix, in the previous two installments to the new trilogy, but Abrams, initially worried about making her uneasy on set, had no plans to pair Lourd with her late mother on screen in this sequel at first.
“I purposely had written her character in scenes without Carrie, because I just didn’t want it to be uncomfortable for her,” Abrams revealed to Vanity Fair in a new interview. But Lourd had something else in mind when she began filming. She told the writer and director, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.”
As he predicted, the filming process was understandably tough on the rising star at first. “She would get emotional and sort of have to excuse herself for a minute,” he said. “I know it was hard for her for a while.” However, the footage that she can now carry with her forever seems to have been worth the experience.
The process of inserting Fisher into The Rise of Skywalker using existing footage from previous Star Wars films was described by Abrams to VF as 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.” To incorporate her, the filmmakers had to write entire scenes around the footage, shoot alternative angles, and even match the exact lighting of the scenes they had of her.
It seems like they did it flawlessly. Leia is so well integrated into the film that Abrams and his team managed to have her physically touch and interact with other characters, including Rey, the lead portrayed by Daisy Ridley, and of course, Lourd’s Lt. Connix. “It’s like she gets to be in this movie where we would have wanted this moment," Abrams stated.
One of Abrams' biggest hopes is that viewers are not skeptical of the technology required to bring Leia back to life one last time, because for him, it feels so natural to both the film and Fisher's legacy. “There is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know,” Abrams said. “Classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.” Quite simply, it was meant to be.