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Carrie Fisher will make one final film appearance in the franchise that launched her career. J.J. Abrams announced Friday that the late actress would return for Star Wars: Episode IX, the film that will close out the story of Leia and Luke.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said in a statement. “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 [Lourd], 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.”
Since Fisher’s shocking death in 2016, fans have been wondering how Leia’s story will conclude. The character was initially supposed to be the focal point of the trilogy-capping film, much like Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in The Force Awakens and Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, but Lucasfilm had to rewrite the episode to account for Fisher’s absence. To give her a proper sendoff, a petition was started online, seeking to have the role recast with Fisher’s good friend Meryl Streep; Fisher’s younger brother, Todd, even floated the idea of having her digitally re-created for the role, similar to how she and Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin were inserted into Rogue One. But Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy quickly shut down both ideas.
Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio apparently came up with a scenario that satisfied all parties. The “unseen footage” that Abrams refers to was shot for The Force Awakens, which originally featured more screen time for Leia.
The Fisher news came via a larger press release confirming the casting for the movie and revealing that filming will begin on Aug. 1 at London’s Pinewood Studios. Joining Fisher will be returning stars Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), and Lourd (Kaydel Ko Connix). Meanwhile, seasoned Star Wars vets Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) will also be back, while John Williams will once again compose the score.
Newcomers will include Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant; however, the announcement did not confirm that Keri Russell will join the cast, as reports have suggested.
Star Wars: Episode IX is set for a December 2019 opening.
Watch: Todd Fisher on his sister’s Star Wars legacy:
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