Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Director J.J. Abrams Says Most Important Thing Is Making the Late Carrie Fisher “Proud”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker writer-director J.J. Abrams says nothing was more important on Episode IX than making something late star Carrie Fisher would have been proud of. The Leia Organa actress died in December 2016 before the release of the Rian Johnson-directed The Last Jedi, and Abrams re-purposed roughly eight minutes of unused footage originally captured on The Force Awakens to include Leia in the ninth and final entry in the Skywalker Saga. Abrams can’t yet say if Fisher’s family has seen her performance in Skywalker — daughter Billie Lourd also appears in the movie, playing the Resistance’s Lieutenant Connix for a third time — but Abrams is confident Fisher would be pleased with her final turn as General Leia.

“I don’t want to talk about that, per se, because it just — I don’t think it’s quite my place, although I would love to go and talk about it, but I will say that nothing has been more important to me than making sure we do something that Carrie herself would have been happy with, and proud of,” Abrams told Esquire when asked about the reaction from Fisher’s family. “And I feel like we’ve done that.”

During Disney's bi-annual D23 Expo in August, Abrams said Skywalker “needed” Leia as she’s the “heart of the story.” Leia is mother to the corrupted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Dark Side Supreme Leader of the First Order, and mentor to Force-powerful freedom fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley).

Instead of constructing a performance through CGI and other digital trickery, Abrams involved Leia with footage that “didn't work” in The Force Awakens.

“We knew there was no way we could finish this Skywalker saga without Leia, it was impossible,” Abrams said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “We knew we would never want to do a digital Leia, and of course couldn’t recast it, and then I remembered we had these scenes that we’d shot for Force Awakens that we’d never used. Which at the time I was really upset that we weren’t using them because it was Carrie and it was Leia and how do you not use them, but it just didn’t work in the movie.”

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He continued, “And weirdly those scenes were material that we 100% realized could be used to tell her story in this film, so every time you’re seeing Leia in scenes with [other] characters, it’s Carrie in this movie. I still can’t quite believe that she’s gone because we’ve been working on these scenes in editorial and she’s as there as anyone. It’s really uncanny.”

Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams join forces once again to take viewers on an epic journey to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the riveting conclusion of the seminal Skywalker saga, where new legends will be born and the final battle for freedom is yet to come.

Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.