After Fisher’s sudden passing in 2016, Skywalker director J.J. Abrams and the teams at Disney and Lucasfilm elected not to digitally add Leia to Episode IX, but to see what story they could piece together from unused footage of 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Abrams told Vanity Fair that the process of writing around existing footage was like “figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had.” It was a new exercise in filmmaking, but also similar to the reshoots that occur regularly on feature films.
He originally wrote the scenes independent of Lourd’s character, Lieutenant Connix, but Fisher’s 26-year-old daughter insisted on the opposite.
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“I purposely had written her character in scenes without Carrie, because I just didn’t want it to be uncomfortable for her,” Abrams told VF. But, he says, Lourd told him, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.”
Abrams said Lourd had definite emotional moments during filming, that she would sometimes excuse herself temporarily and return. Lourd lost her mother, Fisher, and her grandmother Debbie Reynolds, within roughly a day of each other in 2016.
“There is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know,” Abrams said of Fisher’s scenes and ubiquitous presence, especially with the magical lore of the Star War universe. “Classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.”
You can read Vanity Fair‘s full, extensive Star Wars story here. The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters Dec. 20.