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J.J. Abrams on the Emotional Journey of Integrating Carrie Fisher into The Rise of Skywalker

We miss you, Space Mom.

carrie fisher and billie lourd on the star wars set.

When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this December, it will bring not only the current trilogy to a close, but the nine film Skywalker family saga to an end as well. As one of the most highly anticipated films of 2019, there are countless questions to be answered in Skywalker. But perhaps none are more poignant than this: how much of Carrie Fisher will be seeing in the film?

Fisher, who passed away in 2016, left a pop culture crater in her wake, made all the more devastating by the fact she never got to complete the final chapter in the Star Wars saga, a chapter that planned to focus on General Leia Organa. Since her passing, rumors have been flying over Leia’s fate: would she be killed offscreen or played by another actress? Given the importance of both Fisher and Leia, there seemed to be no possible outcome that would both satisfy fans and honor Fisher’s legacy.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, J.J. Abrams discusses how he was able to integrate Leia into the film, thanks to cut footage from The Force Awakens and the magic of VFX. With the extra footage, Abrams was able to craft new scenes and dialogue to wrap up Leia’s story in the most organic way he could. Abrams said, “It’s hard to even talk about it without sounding like I’m being some kind of cosmic spiritual goofball, but it felt like we suddenly had found the impossible answer to the impossible question.”

Abrams described re-purposing Fisher’s scenes, saying “It was a bizarre kind of left side/right side of the brain sort of Venn diagram thing, of figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had.” Abrams was even able to incorporate Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, into scenes with her mother.

Abrams had originally written out Lourd’s Lieutenant Connix to spare Lourd’s feelings, but the actress was determined to perform in the scenes. Lourd said to Abrams, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.”

“And so, there are moments where they’re talking; there are moments where they’re touching,” Abrams says. “There are moments in this movie where Carrie is there, and I really do feel there is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know, classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.”

If that sentiment has you getting misty-eyed, get in line. Seeing Fisher onscreen one last time, acting opposite her daughter no less, is bound to be an emotional experience for fans everywhere. Here’s to Fisher and General Leia both getting the send-off they rightfully deserve.

(via Vanity Fair, image: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.