Production has officially begun on Episode IX, with JJ Abrams taking to Twitter to share a message with fans about his mixed emotions heading into the endeavor. While he thanks the minds that helped bring him here, the moment doesn't feel the same without Carrie Fisher being there.
Abrams shared an image of what appears to be a behind-the-scenes shot of John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon while adding, "Bittersweet starting this next chapter without Carrie, but thanks to an extraordinary cast and crew, we are ready to go. Grateful for Rian Johnson and special thanks to George Lucas for creating this incredible world and beginning a story of which we are lucky to be a part."
One of the biggest questions fans had following The Last Jedi was how the upcoming film, which is slated to be the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, would give closure to Leia Organa, given that her character survived the last film despite the actress' passing in December of 2016. Lucasfilm confirmed last week that the new film would use unseen footage captured during The Force Awakens to fulfill her arc.
"We desperately loved Carrie Fisher," Abrams shared in a statement. "Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie's legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII."
What makes Abrams' message even more unique is that this is his first tweet, with fans speculating as to whether he'll be posting more images to chronicle the film's progress.
Abrams previously directed The Force Awakens, with the filmmaker having co-written the script for Episode IX with frequent collaborator Chris Terrio. In addition to Boyega and Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd will return for the film.
Two of the more exciting returning cast members are Mark Hamill, whose Luke Skywalker died in The Last Jedi, and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, who audiences last saw in Return of the Jedi.
Fans are still theorizing about whether Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma or Andy Serkis' Supreme Leader Snoke could appear in some capacity.
Episode IX is slated to hit theaters on December 20, 2019.
Do you think Abrams will tease behind-the-scenes photos during production like Ron Howard did with Solo: A Star Wars Story? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!