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Last week we learned that both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher would officially return for Star Wars Episode IX and Mark Hamill posted a touching message about his old friend in response. Not only was it revealed that General Leia will be a part of Episode IX, but it was also confirmed that this will be done by using footage of Carrie Fisher shot, but not used, for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hamill says he's glad the new movie is using this method, and he's only sorry she won't get to see how happy everybody is that she is returning.
Ever since Carrie Fisher died in December of 2016 Star Wars fans have wondered how the film franchise would handle the final film in the new trilogy. There was the possibility the role would be recast and somebody else would become General Leia. There was the idea of using another actress and CGI technology to recreate Carrie Fisher, though Lucasfilm had stated at one point they would not use that method. Finally, there was always the possibility that General Leia just wouldn't be in the film, either dying before Star Wars: Episode IX began or existing off-screen for the duration of the story.
On Friday, as part of an official casting announcement, it was confirmed that Carrie Fisher would continue on as General Leia via the use of existing footage that wasn't used in previous Star Wars films. As Mark Hamill says, fans are mostly thrilled by the news that they will get to see Carrie Fisher one more time on the big screen when Star Wars Episode IX arrives in 2019.
Of course, as Mark Hamill states in his Twitter post, while Carrie Fisher will be in the movie, the cast will still have to make the film without her, something Hamill hasn't done through five previous Star Wars movies.
In the announcement, director J.J. Abrams stated that the idea of recasting or using CGI was never truly considered, and at that point your only real options are either to remove Leia from the story entirely, or do what they've done here.
Of course, one has to wonder just how well using existing material will work. While CGI can still be used to change the location or other details of a scene, J.J. Abrams and company will still be locked into fitting Carrie Fisher's dialogue into the film in a way that makes sense. There's also only so much that will be available to use, meaning that while the Leia role will be there, it very likely won't be very large.
While we now have one big answer about Star Wars Episode IX , it leads to many more questions that we likely won't get answers to until the film arrives next year.