One of the most difficult aspects of bringing The Rise of Skywalker together was the usage of existing footage from The Force Awakens to both retain and allow the character of Leia Organa the proper conclusion. Key crew members and ILM staff discuss the challenges of those decisions, including director J.J. Abrams, co-writer Chris Terrio and editor Maryann Brandon.
J.J. Abrams, writer-director: Before we started writing, we knew that Leia had to be part of the story—you couldn’t tell the end of the Skywalker saga without Leia. We weren’t going to recast, we couldn’t do a CG character. We looked at the footage we had not used in The Force Awakens, and we realized we had a number of shots that we could actually use. It was a bit like having a dozen pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and then having to make other pieces around it and paint a cohesive image from these separate pieces.
Maryann Brandon, editor: The last time I actually was with Carrie was in the last session on VII. I got there before J.J. arrived, and she took me aside and was very upset, and said to me, “I look terrible in this film, you have to make me look good. Promise you will always make me look good.” And I said, “Carrie, that’s my job, I’ll always make you look good. That’s what I do.” So I started on this film, and J.J. told me we were going to use the footage from VII. I felt so obligated to make her look good — because she had asked me, and it was all I ever heard. And of course I loved her so much.
Terrio: One thing we knew is we were going to put Leia in the Jedi pantheon in this movie, and we knew that there was the promise that was made in 1983 that “there is another” and that is Leia. I remember that from my childhood, and I always wished that I could see Leia as a Jedi. And so when we came into this movie, we didn’t have Carrie. The problem of this movie was how do we finish Leia’s part without actually having Leia? Ultimately we came up with a story that someone would come along who would pick up Leia’s saber and would finish her Jedi journey for her. So every day, whenever all the bells and whistles were happening, a cast of thousands, [shooting in the desert of] Jordan, we would say, “How do we tell the story of the two twins, the promise of the two twins being fulfilled,” which are Luke and Leia.