How Was Carrie Fisher Added Into “The Rise of Skywalker”?

In late 2016, the unfortunate news broke that Carrie Fisher, the legendary actress who had been playing the Star Wars characters of Leia since 1977, had died. This was just after her return to the role in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Rian Johnson had assured everyone that all of Fisher’s scenes for the next chapter, 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” were already filmed.

But then what of “The Rise of Skywalker”? This presented a challenge as Leia did not die in “The Last Jedi.” And since the script required her, some tricky techniques of placing the deceased actor in their movie went forward. But how was such a feat accomplished.

CinemaBlend recently conducted an interview with ILM VFX supervisors Roger Guyett and Patrick Tubach about how they were able to pull off such a visual effect.

“When you see Leia in the movie, essentially what you’re looking at is Carrie Fisher playing Leia probably in Episode Seven outtakes. We’ve taken her face and built a digital character around her. That’s the layer that you see in Nine. The interesting thing, of course, is it’s not a trivial thing to just do that. You have to build her and stage her into all the scenes. You have to write the scenes around her performance and dialogue that she’s delivering from those performances…It’s not the easy option, but you also want to integrate her into the scenes. We wanted her to move. So now we’re in motion control world, which of course in production terms is difficult but worth doing if, you know, when she says ‘Never underestimate a droid’ or whatever, she walks past Rey. And it required rehearsal, and it required pre-planning.”

So what it may sound like is that they essentially took the Paul Walker route from the “Fast & Furious” franchise by placing in doubles and visually styling around the actor. But Tubach explains it’s a little more extensive than just placing on the face.

“It’s not like we’re just taking a stand-in and then pasting Carrie’s face on the stand-in. You can’t do that, and the thing that we had to do, which people probably don’t realize, is we analyzed that Episode Seven footage of her to the point where we were tracking her exact body and posture, and then applying that to our new scene as well. Because if you didn’t do that, it didn’t feel like her.”

“The Rise of Skywalker” is currently playing in theaters everywhere.