Monday, December 30, 2019

JJ Abrams And Other Crew Members Discuss Bringing Back Leia For 'The Rise Of Skywalker'

By: Dominic Jones

One of the most discussed aspects of the film going into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was how the film handled the character of Leia Organa, since her actress, Carrie Fisher, died almost three years before the film's release.  Now that the film has been in theaters for a few weeks, and audiences have been able to see how the filmmakers created the character's role using footage shot for The Force Awakens, some of the key crew members for The Rise of Skywalker took part in a group interview with Vanity Fair's Anthony Breznican about how they created Leia's final performance.

We've featured some of the highlights from the interviews below, but the original story goes into even greater depth.  You can read the original story here.

Director JJ Abrams said about the thought process for how they could bring Leia back for Episode IX, saying,

"Obviously we all loved her and were heartsick that she wasn't there, and yet we knew the character had to be. So we started looking at what these shots were, we started writing scenes around these shots, completely new contexts, new locations, new situation. We did a test, but it was really like, 'Will this work? Let's just try this.' The one thing I'll say is that whenever you see Carrie, we completely constructed, lit, and composed the shots around the original pieces that we had."

While Leia's face is entirely Fisher's performance shot for The Force Awakens, just about everything else about her was created digitally.  This led to a lot of challenges for the visual effects team.  Luckily they were up for the challenge, as visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett explained,

"When you watch the movie you just want to believe that Carrie's there, and it's just completely natural within the scene. Basing it around the performances that she'd given us previously was the key. Then, of course, we had to stage the scenes and create those shots. It required a tremendous amount of planning to the nth degree to make this work. I mean the absolute detail of it. All the footage that we were using was quite often lit in different ways. We had to be really careful."

The creation of Leia's performance for the film was a team effort, relying not only on the visual effects but also the editing, as one of the film's editors, Maryann Brandon, explained,

"Roger would come with [visual effects supervisor Patrich Tubach] to my room and we'd sit there and we'd go through takes, and I had the advantage of having cut those scenes before so I was quite familiar with her performance. I'd pick three or four takes, [note] which one was my favorite, then I'd send them off to the storyboard operatives who would draw out the rest of what the other actors were going to do so I can present this to J.J. Then I'd give it back to Roger and he'd talk to J.J. and he'd inevitably pick another take! Then we'd switch to another take and it went back and forth until we got the perfect take. Because that's how we do it."

Abrams also credited the film's star, Daisy Ridley, who shared several scenes with Leia as Rey in the film.  The director said,

"Real credit also needs to be given to Daisy Ridley, who was extraordinary in the movie. In these scenes with Leia, I was watching her off-camera on the set as we were shooting the other side of the scene. There she was, acting with Carrie in a way that made me believe it, looking at the monitor. And I thought, if we can pull this off — which with these people I knew we could — Daisy was the one who was selling it in a way that really made me hopeful on the set."

The film's co-writer Chris Terio summed up the whole effort by speaking about how important the character was to the film and why they had to bring her back, saying,

"Leia is really the last of her generation that's left at the base. In the performance that she gave in the original, she was very worried, and she did seem distracted. Leia came so close to death in The Last Jedi. The way that we would discuss it among ourselves is the Force has kept Leia alive for a reason because she still has something left to do, which is the thing that she does, the final act that she does in the film."

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now!  You can read our review here, and listen to three different podcasts we've produced about it here, here, and here!

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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