the rise of skywalker leia flashback

The team behind Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker took careful consideration to ensure that Carrie Fisher, who tragically passed three years ago, would remain a pivotal part of the film without sullying her memory. That meant repurposing leftover footage from previous movies to insert into The Rise of Skywalker. But the entirety General Leia’s arc couldn’t be pulled off with old Force Awakens footage. The VFX team would have to turn to dailies from the original Star Wars trilogy films and a very fitting body double.

Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follow.

Midway through Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, we get an unexpected flashback to the post-Return of the Jedi era. A young Luke Skywalker is training his sister Leia Organa in the ways of the Jedi, the two of them dueling with lightsabers. In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Patrick Tubach said that while a digitally de-aged Mark Hamill played Luke in the flashback, they needed an actress to play the body double for Leia while they recreated Fisher’s face from Return of the Jedi dailies. Director J.J. Abrams settled on the most fitting choice: Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd. Tubach said:

“Billie was playing her mother. It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom… It was an emotional thing for everybody to see her in that position. It felt great for us, too. If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from. The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”

Lourd also plays Lieutenant Connix and shared a few scenes with her mother in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. But this may be the most significant onscreen connection she could share with her mother, and it’s beautifully poignant.

The scene ended up being very brief, because the VFX team had very little footage from Return of the Jedi that they could put to use. “What you see is what we developed,” said visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett. “The idea was to provide this great surprise where they take the helmets off, and you see Luke and Leia’s younger faces. We scoured outtakes from the original movies, and we took some pieces and then had to try and figure out the technical aspect of putting that shot together.”

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