When it was announced last July that J.J. Abrams would be using “unseen footage” of Carrie Fisher to complete General Leia’s arc in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, the news was met with a mix of relief and (understandable) concern. At least Fisher wouldn’t be jarringly reanimated via CGI, like Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Horror Story. Still, incorporating unused footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens felt... potentially eerie... even if her family, including daughter and Star Wars co-star Billie Lourd, gave the OK. In Vanity Fair’s extensive cover story on The Rise Of Skywalker, Abrams explains exactly how he incorporated this footage, which allowed Lourd to act opposite her late mother—a decision, he says, was entirely her own: “I purposely had written her character in scenes without Carrie, because I just didn’t want it to be uncomfortable for her,” says Abrams, who recalls how Lourd came to him and said, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.”
In order to incorporate the existing footage of Fisher’s Leia, Abrams had to edit it together in a way that made sense for the story, repurposing the scenes as needed. Abrams then used lighting and camera angles to ensure the previous footage matched his work on The Rise Of Skywalker. The entire process allowed Abrams to create a full Carrie Fisher performance, giving General Leia a proper farewell in the final installment of the Skywalker Saga. Given the technological wizardry involved, there’s still a possibility that these scenes could be somewhat... off. But Abrams explains that this process was nothing like the CGI de-aging of Fisher in Rogue One, and he hopes that it’s received well when The Rise Of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20:
I hope when people see it, they are not thinking about that. Of course, some will, but I think it’s one of those things. It sort of goes away after a moment, because it’s not quite a magic trick; it’s sort of more of a trick of editing. There is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know. Classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.