J.J. Abrams: “We were never going to recast, or use a CG character.”
A statement from Star Wars: Episode IX director and co-writer J.J. Abrams confirms that the character of Princess Leia will be played by the actor thanks to “previously unreleased footage”—and that these scenes were filmed during the making of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as opposed to 2017’s The Last Jedi.
“Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us,” Abrams wrote in the statement. “We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
This statement follows previous pledges to have Fisher, who passed away shortly after filming her scenes for The Last Jedi, appear in the trilogy’s final film without the use of CGI.
Withnail and C3PO?
The announcement confirms two brand-new actors for the Star Wars film series: Naomi Ackie (known largely for British TV work) and Richard E. Grant (Withnail and I). Details about their characters have not yet been revealed. Today’s news also confirms recent rumors that Billy Dee Williams had been hired to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian. He will join Anthony Daniels as C3PO and—well, how about that—Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.
One other rumored new cast member, Keri Russell, is not listed in today’s announcement. Whether that precludes her eventual inclusion in the cast is currently unclear.
Other returning actors include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. The announcement confirms that principal filming will begin in London on August 1, based on a script by Abrams and Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman V Superman).
The film’s release window is still set for December 2019.