Star Wars fans from all over the world gathered at the Star Wars Celebration Convention in Chicago on Friday, April 12 to bask in the force, leading into this year’s much anticipated (with a title recently revealed) Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. While speaking with well-known Star Wars fan and moderator Stephen Colbert, director J.J. Abrams spoke on the late Carrie Fisher’s role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and revealed that the iconic actor would be a part of the December film, despite her passing in 2016.
"What were [we] going to do?," he said, positing the question many fans had after Fisher's death. "Recast the part? You don't suddenly have her disappear." But, because of their ability to utilize unused footage from previous films in the franchise, he and his team, in a very unique way, are still working with the late actor on the film.
"The weird miracle of having had a number of scenes from The Force Awakens that had gone unused... looking at those scenes and starting to understand that there was actually a way to continue her story, so that it would be her," Abrams said.
As previously reported in a statement from Walt Disney Studios, Leia Organa would be in Episode 9 because of unreleased footage shot for Episode 7. It was never a question for Abrams, the director of The Force Awakens, of using a CG character or recasting the role — "It was off the table," he said at the panel — so he started thinking on how they could use previously filmed work to create a story that would fit into the upcoming film.
"[It was] the idea of saying, 'What if we could actually write scenes around her so it would be her performance and she's in the movie?'" Abrams said.
In The Force Awakens, Leia is leading the Resistance while searching for her brother, Luke Skywalker. She is reunited with Han, before his death at the hand of Kylo Ren. While Abrams didn't tease what footage they had filmed that didn't make it into Episode 7, considering where Episode 8 left off — with Leia and the Resistance ready to rise again with little help remaining — there is no doubt that they will need Leia's hope to conquer the First Order.
"It's so surreal because we're working with her still," Abrams said to an audience of thousands of fans from all over the world. "She's in scenes, she's so alive in scenes."
Another thing fans have to look forward to is the tease from Abrams that Fisher's character will once again be in scenes with her daughter, Billie Lourd, who also stars in the films. Lourd joined the franchise in The Force Awakens as Connix, a lieutenant in the Resistance. "She was the best. She was glorious. She was amazing," Abrams said on the stage.
While it is impossible to fill the void that Carrie Fisher left in the Star Wars franchise, there is no doubt that Abrams and his team of filmmakers are only interested in paying homage to the great actor while continuing to tell a story that only leaves audiences who grew up with the films filled with hope.