Last year, Lucasfilm made history when the studio released its first Star Wars standalone. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story burst into theaters with the Force at its side, and fans were eager to delve back into George Lucas’ original trilogy timeline. The all-new storyline may have focused on undiscovered heroes, but several iconic characters from the franchise were featured in the film. Technology allowed the late Peter Cushing to return as Grand Moff Tarkin, and the film’s final moments brought back a true Star Wars legend through Princess Leia.
In the film, the quick-witted heroine was added towards the end as Rogue One fed into the opening moments of Star Wars: A New Hope. Lucasfilm ensured the cameo was kept hush as the studio hired an up-and-coming actress named Jamie Stangroom to act as Carrie Fisher’s stand-in for the cameo. Through the magic of CGI, Fisher’s take on Leia was then superimposed onto the younger star. But, when Fisher first saw the footage, she thought she was actually looking at video of herself.
In a recent interview with Fandango, the director of Rogue One opened up about Leia’s ambitious cameo. It was there that Gareth Edwards said Fisher totally thought his crew had tailored footage from A New Hope to bring Leia back to life. But, in the end, the president of Lucasfilm managed to convince Fisher everything was done through CGI.
"Kathy [Kennedy] is really good friends with her. We knew it was a really important moment and we wanted Carrie to be happy, so Kathy went to her house with her laptop when we felt the shot was close, if not finished. We had about two weeks left, and Kathy went around her house and everyone was waiting to hear. [Kathy] said she showed it to her and [Carrie] thought it was footage. She didn't realize it was CGI,” Edwards said.
“She thought we had some footage. She didn't remember the take and thought we had manipulated a take from the original film. But they told her it was all computer generated and she was really impressed. We were all just so pleased she approved it."
Later in the interview, Edwards went on to echo the voice of millions of Star Wars fans. The director confessed he never had a chance to meet Fisher before she tragically passed, and Edwards said he feels like Rogue One acts as a sort-of love letter to her legacy.
"I had never gotten to meet her, and I always thought that I'd meet her down the line and be able to talk about this and thank her for it. Sadly, that's not possible. But I feel like the movie in a way is one big love letter to that moment, and passing that gauntlet to her, and the way she inspired us all as kids."
Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star.
The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."