It’s one thing to hear how the visual effects magicians at Industrial Light & Magic incorporated General Leia into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker after the death of Carrie Fisher; it’s another thing to see it.
An enthralling new VFX reel released this week breaks down the digital magic act. When Lucasfilm formally announced the cast for Episode IX in July 2018, director J.J. Abrams confirmed the intent to take unused footage from Fisher’s performance in 2015’s The Force Awakens and blend it into The Rise of Skywalker. As noted by ILM in the video, Fisher’s hair and costume in Episode IX were then created digitally.
For the flashback scenes, which showed younger Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Leia practicing lightsaber combat, a similar technique was used. ILM took footage of the actors from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to recreate their likenesses.
Fisher would’ve played a larger part in The Rise of Skywalker, though plans changed when the actress died in 2016 after finishing work on The Last Jedi. “It was impossible. There was no way. What are you gonna do? You can’t recast that part, and you’re not just going to have her disappear,” Abrams said last year at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. “The idea was, what if we could write scenes around her, so she could be in the movie, and we have her performance,” he added. “Every day it hits me that she’s not here, but it’s so surreal because we’re working with her still. She’s in scenes.”
The rest of the Rise of Skywalker VFX reel takes us behind some of the film’s biggest moments, including Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) race across the desert, her duel with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on the skeleton of the crashed Death Star, and the climactic battle between the Resistance and the Final Order.
Watch the full video above.