The world was shocked following the sudden passing of actress and icon Carrie Fisher in December of 2016, her death arriving before Star Wars: The Last Jedi had even arrived in theaters. Given the nature of the film business and even how far in advance stories are plotted for that galaxy far, far away, it was unclear at the time how the actress and screenwriter's death would be handled in the film let alone her absence in further adventures. Rian Johnson's "Episode VIII" ended with Fisher's General Organa still leading the Resistance with the last remnants of the group flying away to an uncertain future. It seemed like it might be the last time we see her on screen, but even Fisher may have known better than that.
Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams revealed an eerie message from Fisher that arrived just before her death and foretold of their collaboration once again on the impending Episode IX.
"I wasn't supposed to work on this film, and she passed away before The Last Jedi was released," Abrams said. "She wrote this book, the last autobiography she wrote was The Princess Diarist, and I remember reading the book and in the end in the special thanks she thanks me at the very end and she says 'Special thanks to J.J. Abrams for putting up with me twice.' I had never worked with her before Force Awakens and I wasn't supposed to direct Episode IX, and it was a very Carrie thing to write something like that and to somehow know. It was really strange."
Abrams previously revealed that Fisher's appearance in the film was constructed from about 8 minutes of deleted footage from 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The filmmaker had previously spoken about the heartbreaking feelings he felt while editing the film, a story he echoed while speaking to Colbert about working with Fisher both before and after she had passed.
"We knew there was no way we could finish this Skywalker saga without Leia, it was impossible. We knee 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. 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."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is directed by J.J. Abrams and also stars Daisey Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Vee, Dave Chapman, Brian Herring, Mark Hamill, Billie Lourd, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Keri Russell, Dominic Monaghan, Richard E. Grant. and Greg Grunberg. The official synopsis for the film reads:
"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. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in U.S. theaters on December 20."