Calming fears of fans worried that she’d be replaced with a CGI avatar a lá Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (more extensively replaced, anyway—a digital version of her 21-year-old self appears briefly at the end of that film), an official casting announcement for Star Wars: Episode IX says that Carrie Fisher will not be recast or digitally replaced, and Leia Organa’s story arc will be completed using “unseen footage”—deleted scenes and B-roll, presumably—from Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens.
In a statement, director J.J. Abrams says, “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.” Fisher finished shooting her role in the last film in the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi, just a few months before her death in December 2016.
The announcement also includes a few exciting new additions to the cast: Naomi Ackie, a British actress who starred opposite Florence Pugh in last year’s standout indie Lady Macbeth, and Withnail himself, Richard E. Grant. Mark Hamill will also return—perhaps as a Force ghost?—as will Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams, whose intentions to slide on in to Episode IX were announced earlier this month.
Star Wars: Episode IX begins filming at London’s iconic Pinewood Studios next week, on August 1.