Star Wars fans have been champing at the bit for any and all details about The Rise of Skywalker, but some of the most specific examples have been about the film’s most heartbreaking element. The end to the Skywalker saga was always supposed to be the movie focused on Leia (Carrie Fisher), sister of Luke Skywalker and Force-empowered military leader. Due to Fisher’s tragic death in Dec. 2016, plans inevitably had to change. But returning writer/director J.J. Abrams has noted that Fisher will be included in The Rise of Skywalker thanks to unused footage from The Force Awakens. Now fans know exactly how much.
Speaking with Yahoo!, Fisher’s brother Todd explained that Leia’s role in The Rise of Skywalker will inherently be brief, simply because Abrams and team didn’t have much footage to work with in the first place. The hug from the trailer between Leia and Rey is just one example, but that long hug took up a not-insignificant portion of the total time. “They had eight minutes of footage,” Fisher said. “They grabbed every frame and analyzed it... and then reverse-engineered it and [got] it into the story the right way. It’s kind of magical.”
While it’s unclear exactly what this reverse-engineering entails, eight minutes is — to understate it — not a lot. Some is clearly with Rey, some with Poe (as previously revealed). How all that gets strung together to give her a compelling and fitting end? Well, in a two-and-a-half hour film, eight minutes is about 5 percent — and that’s if they use every frame of that footage. At this point, fans simply have to put their trust in Abrams to do their beloved character (and actress) justice.
“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.”
Fans can judge the role’s contents for itself when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on Dec. 20.