Billy Dee Williams' Lando, unused Carrie Fisher footage confirmed for Star Wars Episode IX

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Jul 27, 2018, 4:36 PM EDT

Lucasfilm announced the official cast of Star Wars: Episode IX Friday, and in the process revealed that the late Carrie Fisher will appear in the film via previously unreleased footage — and former freedom fighter Lando Calrissian is also returning.

The Episode IX cast was unveiled via a news release posted to the official Star Wars website, which also announced that production on the film is set to begin August 1 at Pinewood Studios in London. J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, returns to the director's chair for this installment, which he also co-wrote with Chris Terrio (ArgoJustice League). 

Lando BIlly Dee Williams

Among the sequel trilogy cast expected to return are Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. New cast members will include rising star Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth) and veteran actor Richard E. Grant (Bram Stoker's Dracula). Interestingly, Keri Russell — who was reported to have signed on for a role in the film earlier this month, is not among the official cast listed.

Among the returning Star Wars veterans will be Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker (confirming some sort of appearance for Luke), Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian (finally!) and, most notably, Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. Fisher will appear via previously unreleased footage shot not for The Last Jedi, but for The Force Awakens.

“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said. “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.”

Last, but certainly not least, legendary composer John Williams will also return to score the film.

Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters in December 2019.