The actress, who died in 2016, apparently shot extra footage for 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens that will be repurposed as a way to close off her story in the upcoming film, which premieres December 20, 2019. Both Force Awakens and the upcoming film feature the directorial work of J.J. Abrams. The decision was blessed by Fisher’s daughter, the actress Billie Lourd (who also will appear in the film, as she did in both Force Awakens and 2017’s The Last Jedi).
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher. 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,” Abrams said in a statement.
Vanity Fair reported in the buildup to Last Jedi that each film of this new trilogy was to pay tribute to the legacy of a character from the original Star Wars trilogy, with Force Awakens honoring Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Last Jedi honoring Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Episode IX honoring Leia. Fisher’s death complicated that plan, though hopefully the Force Awakens footage will allow the filmmakers to do at least a truncated version of it.
Fortunately, Hamill will return as Luke, as will fellow Star Wars veteran Anthony Daniels, who will have played C-3PO in all nine episodes of the saga. Returning to the Star Wars universe for the first time since 1983 is Billy Dee Williams, who will once again play Lando Calrissian.
Episode IX will also feature the return of nearly all of the new characters from this trilogy, including Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), and Joonas Suotamo (who has taken over the role of Chewbacca). It will also feature Keri Russell, in an as-yet-unspecified role that will reunite the Americans actress with her old Felicity showrunner, Abrams.