When the Skywalker Saga ends later this year with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker it will be a bit bittersweet as the end will come without Carrie Fisher, who passed away in December 2016. However, the General Leia actress will still be a part of the film in a major way. According to director J.J. Abrams, Fisher's Leia remains a major part of The Rise of Skywalker thanks to previous footage from Episode VII.
Speaking at D23 Expo on Saturday, Abrams called Fisher's Leia the "heart of the story" and explained that the unused footage from The Force Awakens will be used in a new way to make Fisher a big part of the story.
"Of course, we can't talk about the cast without talking about Carrie Fisher," Abrams said. "The character of Leia is really the heart of this story. We realized we could not possibly tell this story without Leia. We had footage from Episode VII so that we could use in a new way. So, we were able to use Carrie in a new way."
Abrams also revealed that, in a sense, Fisher knew she'd "work" with him again, thanks to something she wrote in her last book, The Princess Diarist.
"We lost Carrie, heartbreakingly, she passed. I was working on this film and I realized we needed Carrie in this film," Abrams continued. "She was sort of like always supernaturally witty in a way. I went back and I looked at her last book, The Princess Diarist, she had written 'and special thanks to JJ Abrams for putting up with me twice.' Now, I had never worked with her before force Awakens and I had not signed up for this yet. Now, it was a classic Carrie thing, to do something like that and we could not be more excited for you to see her in her final performance as Leia. "
Abrams has previously indicated that The Rise of Skywalker would utilize previous footage to incorporate Fisher's Leia into the film, though in his comments at Star Wars Celebration back in April he didn't reveal how extensive or significant her role would be -- though he did call it "mind blowing".
"You don’t recast and you don’t suddenly have her disappear. We had a lot of scenes from The Force Awakens that went unused," Abrams said. "Leia lives in this film in a way that is kinda mind blowing to me."
Fisher died after she completed filming on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. After her death, Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy and Fisher's brother Todd Fisher made it clear they would not create a CGI version of Princess Leia to integrate into the final film in the Skywalker saga.
“Both of us were like, ‘Yes, how do you take her out of it?’ And the answer is you don't," Fisher said in 2017. "She’s as much a part of it as anything and I think her presence now is even more powerful than it was, like Obi-Wan — when the saber cuts him down, he becomes more powerful. I feel like that's what's happened with Carrie. I think the legacy should continue.”
"I’m not the only part in that equation, but I think the people deserve to have her,” Fisher added. “She's owned by them. You don't mess with this legacy. It would be like rewriting the Bible. To me, Star Wars is the holy grail of storytelling and lore and you can't mess with it.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on December 20th. Other upcoming Star Wars projects include a new film trilogy from Game of Thrones creators DB Weiss and David Benioff, the new trilogy by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnsson, and the upcoming Disney+ TV series The Mandalorian, and series following Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Cassian Andor.
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