After having killed off Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in episodes 7 and 8, the filmmakers wanted Carrie Fisher, to play a large role as Princess Leia/General Organa in episode 9. Sadly, Fisher, 60, died of a sudden cardiac arrest on Dec. 27, 2016.
Instead of cutting her out of the film, director J.J. Abrams decided to take unused scenes of Fisher from The Force Awakens to create original scenes that could fit into the new film’s plot. This took a lot of creative thinking on the part of Abrams and co-screenwriter Chris Terrio. Abrams told Vanity Fair, “We started looking at what these shots were; we started writing scenes around these shots, completely new contexts, new locations, new situation…whenever you see Carrie, we completely constructed, lit, and composed the shots around the original pieces that we had.”
A lot of visual effects work was also needed to make the older footage work (one reason among many: Fisher had different hair and costumes in The Force Awakens). In general, Fisher’s facial expressions were from actual, earlier footage, but her body and movements were created by CGI.
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the filmmakers succeeded in making Princess Leia a part of the last Star Wars film in the original series.