Following Carrie Fisher's death in 2016, the filmmakers behind Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (opens in new tab) had to find a way to conclude the Skywalker saga without one of its central characters, General Leia. Rather than write out Leia, director J.J. Abrams instead used existing footage of Fisher's performance from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (opens in new tab) and The Last Jedi (opens in new tab) to keep the former princess in the story.
However, The Rise of Skywalker doesn't just feature the older General Leia, but also a flashback scene that sees her training with Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi Knight. As was recently revealed, outtakes from Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (opens in new tab) were indeed used to create the images for Leia and Luke's faces in the scenes.
“The truth is, there are not that many outtakes,” Roger Guyett, who acted as visual effects supervisor on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, told Inverse, “but we took a couple of shots that we thought would work. The idea was just to use their real faces, so it required a tremendous amount of pre-planning and, of course, you want to integrate them into the scene. It wasn’t like you wanted to have a shot of Luke and then cut to a shot of Leia. We wanted to do a shot of Luke and then pan to Leia.”
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Patrick Tubach has since clarified that the actors who portrayed Luke and Leia in those scenes were Mark Hamill, who was digitally de-aged, and Billie Lourd, Fisher's daughter who also plays Lieutenant Connix in the sequel trilogy. “Billie was playing her mother,” Tubach told Yahoo (opens in new tab). “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom.”
“It was an emotional thing for everybody to see her in that position," he continued. "It felt great for us, too. If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from. The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”
For more spoiler-filled analysis on The Rise of Skywalker check out:
– Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained (opens in new tab)
– Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cameos (opens in new tab) in full
– Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Easter eggs and references (opens in new tab)