Director J.J. Abrams only had eight minutes of unused footage to bring Carrie Fisher back as Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. As one of the original stars of George Lucas' franchise, the passing of Fisher in 2016 came as a devastating blow to family, friends, fans, and the extended Star Wars family. Fisher already completed filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead of her death, but she was scheduled to have a significant part in Star Wars 9.
Lucasfilm made the decision not to recast the role of Leia or digitally recreate her (as they did in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and instead repurpose footage that was cut from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Since that decision was made, fans have wondered how large of a role Leia could realistically play in the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. She's only been shown in two scenes in the trailers, and her limited screentime in the marketing sounds like it will continue in the film itself.
Speaking to Yahoo, Carrie's brother Todd Fisher revealed the small amount of footage that Abrams had at his disposal to craft Leia's role in The Rise of Skywalker. According to her brother, the film's creators only had eight minutes to work with - but he teases that the end result is still special.
They had eight minutes of footage. 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.
Eight minutes of potential screentime may not sound like a lot, but it is actually on par with how much Leia has been seen in the recent films. She only had about six minutes of screen time in The Force Awakens and appeared for nearly nine minutes in The Last Jedi. We don't know, though, if all eight minutes of previously unused footage will be in The Rise of Skywalker, or if that footage included multiple takes of the same scene. At the very least, this piece of information gives Princess Leia fans a rough idea of how much the princess-general will be in the movie, which is set to be the longest Star Wars film ever at 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Even compared to Leia's roles in recent films, it is difficult to not imagine how much larger her role would be if Fisher was still alive. Todd recently teased that the original plans for Star Wars 9 had Leia becoming the last Jedi. This is no longer possible, but his comments point to the increased role she would've had originally. Of course, the movie would likely be Fisher's final appearance as Leia regardless, but giving her a proper sendoff could be more difficult to pull off now. In any case, how Abrams manages to incorporate Leia in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is one of many points of interest leading up to the film's December release.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019