J.J. Abrams on Incorporating the Late Carrie Fisher into ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

     May 22, 2019

rise-of-skywalker-leia-explainedStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams “suddenly had found the impossible answer to the impossible question” concerning the incorporation of the late Carrie Fisher‘s iconic character Leia into his film. By using scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and editing them into this new and final installment in the core Skywalker saga, Abrams managed to craft an entire performance from Fisher as General Leia, aiming to allow for a completion of her story and a sort of comfort for the fans. And while the use of existing footage to conjure up a posthumous performance is certainly a topic that’s worthy of ethical discussion, at least this particular instance came with approval from Fisher’s family.

As Vanity Fair reports, Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, who plays Lieutenant Connix in the new trilogy, actually wanted to star on screen with her mother in the new scenes in The Rise of Skywalker. But Lourd’s approval was only part of the solution; the other, practical consideration included writing scenes around existing footage, and then shooting different angles and matching lighting schemes to be able to incorporate said footage, almost as if they were doing a re-shoot.


Fisher and Hamill, with whom she first worked four decades ago. Image via Vanity Fair, Annie Leibovitz

Here’s what Abrams recalled: “I purposely had written her character in scenes without Carrie, because I just didn’t want it to be uncomfortable for her.” But Lourd told him, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.”

Abrams also recalled Lourd’s reaction to shooting scenes opposite her mother:

“She would get emotional and sort of have to excuse herself for a minute. I know it was hard for her for a while.”

The director also addressed the not-so-well received digitally de-aged Leia who appeared in the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, but stresses that this is a different sort of technological trickery:

“I hope when people see it, they are not thinking about that. Of course, some will, but I think it’s one of those things. It sort of goes away after a moment, because it’s not quite a magic trick; it’s sort of more of a trick of editing. 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.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20th and also stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Kerri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Naomi Ackie, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and Mark Hamill.

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Image via Lucasfilm

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