Star Wars: Episode IX will feature late actress Carrie Fisher in her iconic role as Leia Organa, Disney and Lucasfilm confirmed on Friday.
Fisher, who died in December 2016, will appear thanks to previously unreleased footage of the actress from 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” director J.J. Abrams said in an announcement on StarWars.com. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character.”
“With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie [Lourd], 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,” continued Abrams, who co-wrote the script with Chris Terrio.
Fisher's brother, actor Todd Fisher also supports his late sister's inclusion in Episode IX, saying in a statement provided to ET, "I couldn’t be more personally thrilled and happy that our Carrie will reprise her role as Princess Leia in the new and final Star Wars Episode IX, using previously unreleased footage of her shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
"As we, her family, as well as her extended family of fans around the world so believe, Carrie’s ‘Princess Leia is forever entrenched in the franchise and her indelible presence is fundamental to the film," Todd adds. "J.J. Abrams understood Carrie’s iconic role, and he has masterfully re-crafted this final entry to include this unused and very last footage of Carrie ever taken, without resorting to CGI or animatronics. Our family and her fans will look forward with great anticipation for this one! Her force will forever be with us!"
Todd's book, My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie, hit shelves earlier this year.
Fisher's brother, Todd, shed further light on her appearance while talking to ET Canada following the announcement.
"They have arranged it in a way as if they filmed it yesterday and isn't that magical that the things that she shot a few years ago are frozen in time and [being] reborn into the final Star Wars, where she is the character that needed to continue," he said. "The idea of that story stopping and her not carrying forward is very disturbing to me. I kept saying to people, 'This needs to continue.' I know I was even a little annoying to Disney. I kept saying [how] from the brother's perspective we would want to see Carrie continue. And the fans -- I think we could even use the word 'demand' this to carry on. It is awesome that it worked out this way and thanks to J.J. Abrams, this is going to be very magical and important to us all."
The proud brother also discussed how his family, including Billie, felt about the idea of seeing their loved one back on the big screen.
"My niece is really sensitive to the whole thing ... the whole family is," he said. "We obviously want to protect Carrie and we are sensitive to how things are done and why they are done. This is one that you have got to embrace with a big hug."
"I talked to Bryan this morning about it and everybody is excited and it feels like it is the right thing to do," Todd added, referring to Billie's father, Bryan Lourd. "He said that ultimately Billie has to give her permission as the estate does in general, so it is important that everybody says yes."
Fellow Star Wars legend Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) is also part of the film’s cast, alongside Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and newcomers Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant.
The upcoming film follows last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and actors from that installment -- including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Marie Tran -- will return for Episode IX.
The movie commences filming at London’s Pinewood Studios on Aug. 1 and is set to hit theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.
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