The sequel trilogy of the Star Wars franchise has revolved around a new group of heroes and villains fighting over the fate of the galaxy, but they're also receiving a lot of guidance from the core characters who defeated the Empire in the original trilogy. Han Solo had his moment to shine in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker rescued the Resistance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and now General Leia Organa is set to play a major part in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
But the circumstances surrounding her role in the new movie have changed after the tragic death of Carrie Fisher nearly three years ago. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams is keeping the actress involved thanks to unused footage from The Force Awakens.
"Clearly we would have done other things had Carrie been around, but I will say despite her not being with us anymore, her presence in the movie is not inconsequential," Abrams explained during an interview with CinemaBlend. "She's not being 'added in' so that she's in the movie. And I would say that her story, her role, the importance of Leia, I would argue is as profound as what you're saying even though she wasn't here."
It's been rumored that the final film in the trilogy was always planned to feature Leia in a prominent role, much like Luke in The Last Jedi and Han in The Force Awakens.
"There was no way, as I've said before, to tell the story without Leia. She's too important. It's Skywalker saga. She is the living Skywalker in our story. You don't want to start the story and say something happened to her in between movies. It didn't feel right. We'd never recast it. A digital Leia wouldn't work. There was no way to do it."
Abrams said that he had the daunting task of reworking the movie without Leia until he went back and looked at his old footage with Carrie Fisher, giving the filmmaker an epiphany.
"When we looked at the footage from [Star Wars:] The Force Awakens, which I was obviously very familiar with, and realized we had a number of scenes we could use, and, and write scenes around, it was suddenly like, 'Oh my God, we could tell the story with Leia in the film.'"
Fans will get to see how Leia's story ends and how the saga wraps up when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premieres in theaters on December 20th.