The Star Wars franchise has long pushed the limits of what can be accomplished with visual effects, with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker taking things to an entirely new level, due in large part to the film requiring visual effects artists to craft an on-screen presence for Leia Organa using only previously-shot footage of the late Carrie Fisher. In addition to seamlessly crafting a narrative that would allow Leia to be inserted into scenes, the VFX team at Industrial Light & Magic also had to create the likeness of a younger Fisher for a flashback scene. A new visual effects reel chronicles the step-by-step process of how Leia's performance and a number of other sequences were pulled off, which you can check out over at Vanity Fair.
When Fisher passed at the end of 2016, fans were not only devastated by the real-world loss of a beloved actress, but were also curious what that meant for Fisher's iconic on-screen performance of Leia. As production started on The Rise of Skywalker back in 2018, director J.J. Abrams revealed that unseen footage would be used to craft the character's presence instead of attempting to use CGI trickery to craft the character. Given how well Leia fits into the narrative of The Rise of Skywalker, many fans have been wondering how the difficult task was pulled off, with the new video shedding light on exactly what went into accomplishing the task.
One of the bigger surprises in the film was the reveal of a young Luke training a young Leia, which was accomplished using footage from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd serving as a stand-in for the character.
“Billie was playing her mother,” ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Patrick Tubach previously shared with Yahoo Entertainment. “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom.”
This reveal took many audiences by surprise, but having Lourd help craft the sequence added a whole-new emotional level to the scenes.
“It was an emotional thing for everybody to see her in that position. It felt great for us, too," Tubach pointed out. "If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from. The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.