Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker faced a number of major narrative challenges that it had to resolve in just a couple of hours. As director and co-writer J.J. Abrams emphasized numerous times while promoting the film, this was not just the conclusion of three films, but of nine films — not of one trilogy, but three trilogies. That meant a lot of hurdles to clear, and perhaps none was more daunting than trying to write a film around an actor who was no longer present to be part of the storytelling.
After Carrie Fisher's untimely death in 2016, shortly after she completed work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm was left with a hole in its family and a major storytelling conundrum to deal with. When Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio came onboard to work on The Rise of Skywalker, they agreed with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy that the film couldn't go forward without Leia appearing in some way. Thankfully, Abrams had a few minutes of footage left over from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that, with a little finessing, allowed Fisher to appear in numerous scenes, but that still left gaps to be filled in. Abrams had to work closely with his visual effects team to make sure Fisher fit into the environment of Rise of Skywalker, and he and Terrio also had to write a script that would allow Fisher's remaining dialogue to work, but would also allow the actors around her to fill in the blanks where her character simply couldn't speak because there was no audio left to use.
The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-length documentary accompanying the film's home release which is available for digital purchase now, helps shed some light on exactly how this was done, and the emotional day on set when the cast had to all begin grappling with acting alongside an invisible, fallen friend. The cast rose to the occasion, though, and in Oscar Isaac's case, actually helped fill in a bit more of Leia's story.
According to Isaac, speaking in the documentary, the scene in which Poe Dameron sits down beside Leia's shrouded body and admits that he has doubts about leading the Resistance in her absence was his idea, and was added only after discussions with Abrams.
"That scene wasn't originally in the film, and I talked to J.J. about 'Well, I think that it would be great to just see a moment that Poe has with Leia, even just a moment for him to say goodbye,'" Isaac said. "That speaks to J.J.'s ability to try things."
Though he shares scenes with Leia in the film, because of her character's fixed nature in The Rise of Skywalker Isaac actually has very little dialogue with his former scene partner Carrie Fisher. It's nice to know that he was able to have some personal input on the way their characters would part ways, and the scene also ended up being a nice little reintroduction for Lando Calrissian, who returned to the Resistance at the eleventh hour to aid in the fight.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available to down digitally now, and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray March 31.