J.J. Abrams denies Carrie Fisher was going to be 'the last Jedi,' explains how they pulled off her scenes in 'The Rise of Skywalker'

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Todd Fisher made headlines last month when he told Yahoo Entertainment that original plans for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker included that his late sister, Carrie Fisher, would be "the last Jedi" and "the big payoff in the final film."

Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams, though, declined to confirm that scenario. "I don't know what exactly Todd is referring to," Abrams told us in a recent interview, which you can watch above. A rep for Todd Fisher has since clarified his comments to Yahoo, saying via email, "What he said was that Carrie had shared with him that was the original plan and script, but eventually that was changed."

Abrams did believe it was critical for The Rise of Skywalker to still prominently feature Carrie Fisher, who died in late 2016 at the age of 60, months after completing her work on 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

"We couldn't tell a story without Leia," Abrams said of Fisher's iconic princess-turned-general. "We couldn't find a way where The Skywalker Saga comes to an end and Leia is not present."

Daisy Ridley and Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' (Disney/Lucasfilm)
Daisy Ridley and Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Recasting the role or using a "digital" version of Fisher were not options, the filmmaker said. Instead they repurposed footage of Fisher that was already shot, mostly from 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which Abrams also directed. "So it's all Carrie when you're seeing her perform in this movie. The beauty of it is it is her," he said.

Logistically, the approach proved challenging, but Abrams is proud of what he and his cast were able to accomplish by including Fisher in the film and honoring her legacy as Princess Leia.

"It was weird because we shot scenes, we lit everything, composed scenes [and] shots to match what we'd done with Carrie, and there were some times on this film where some actors weren't available for certain scenes, when we were doing some reshoots, when we were doing some original shoots. So we shoot their side just for their scenes, and that’s kind of the approach we took with Carrie. We shot the other side of the scene.

"And it's really a testament not only to Carrie and who she was and how great she is, but to these actors who were in these scenes with Carrie, with Leia, and it's kind of remarkable to see it because I'm not sure anyone would have a sense of it if they didn't know."

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens Friday. Tickets now on sale via Fandango.

Watch J.J. Abrams talk about his biggest regret from The Force Awakens:

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