J.J. Abrams Reflects On Surreal Challenge Of Figuring Out How To Use Real Footage Of Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker

If you keep tabs on the highly secretive making of original Star Wars movies, you may already know that when Star Wars Episode IX – now illustriously titled Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker – hits theaters it will come with Carrie Fisher intact. It won’t be CGI the new film is using either.

Previously, Disney made the fanbase aware that the studio had enough unused footage from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens to bring Carrie Fisher back to the big screen in a very real and completely unfaked capacity. At Star Wars Celebration, director J.J. Abrams reflected on the surreal challenge of figuring out how to use the real footage. He said:

As I’ve said we couldn’t [fill the void left by Carrie.] Chris Terrio, the co-writer and Kathy [Kennedy]… as we all talked about how to move on. I mean she was the best. She was glorious. She was amazing. We all just loved her. I knew her from many years before as well. In Episode VII she was the greatest. It was impossible, no way, what are you going to do? You don’t recast that part or certainly have her disappear.

So, he went back to the drawing board. At the 2019 Star Wars Celebration in the Windy City, J.J. Abrams was on hand to explain how the conversations got started about Carrie Fisher and about how there was one singular moment when he and the creative team realized the “real” footage from the cutting room floor would and could work. He also said:

The weird moment of having had a number of scenes from Force Awakens that had gone unused. Looking at those scenes and starting to understand that there was actually a way to use those scenes to continue the story so that it would be her.

Still, when you look at the challenge of using footage that was for all intents and purposes recycled, it couldn't have been easy. J.J. Abrams also told the audience attending the Star Wars Episode IX panel at Celebration there was never any thought of bringing Carrie Fisher back with CGI, however.

The idea of having a CG character was off the table. We never even wanted to try. The idea of saying, ‘What if we could actually write scenes around her?’ So, it would be her performance—she’s the movie. The crazy thing is, when I say this, emotionally it’s every day it hits me that she’s not here. But it’s so surreal because we’re working with her still, if that makes sense. She’s so alive in scenes and the craziest part is how not crazy it feels.

The final result was an experience that was "sureal" for the producer, writer and director. After seeing stills and footage today, it's a little bit surreal for me too. We actually got a first good look at Carrie Fisher in the upcoming film during the panel, as well.

Carrie Fisher first look in Star Wars Episode IX

We’ve known for some time now there would be real footage of Carrie Fisher used in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. J.J. Abrams mentions footage from The Force Awakens. Previously, word on the street was the flick will also use some footage from Star Wars: The Last Jedi to flesh out additional scenes.

J.J. Abrams did mention that Carrie Fisher will get some scenes with her real-life daughter Billie Lourd, in the upcoming movie, calling the way that Princess Leia lives on “mind-blowing.” Even Mark Hamill has given his stamp of approval for Leia’s return, also noting she’d “get a real kick” out of the idea. He said:

I’m glad they found a way to do that, and something tells me that she’d get a real kick out of the fact that she had a hit movie years after she left us, because that was just her. I like to think that would please her, but nothing would be better than having her here.

Hopefully, her appearances will pan out in ways that will resonate with fans and fit suitably into the puzzle of this final movie that was 40+ years in the making. If you haven’t taken a look at the first teaser trailer for the movie, you can do so below.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker arrives in theaters on December 20, 2019. Take a look at what we know about the upcoming project or check out what else is heading into theaters this year.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.