‘The Rise of Skywalker’: The 1 Promise J.J. Abrams Made Before Filming

Trying to revive departed actors with digital technology has suddenly become a reignited debate topic, though not without some positive spins thanks to Carrie Fisher returning in The Rise of Skywalker. J.J. Abrams made a promise after her death that she wouldn’t be brought back with digital tricks, despite Rogue One creating a complete CGI version of a young Princess Leia.

Those who’ve seen said version of Leia probably bristled because it clearly looks digitally created. Fans can rest easy the older Leia in the final part of the Skywalker Saga will be taken directly from live-action footage Fisher shot during The Force Awakens.

Will the footage really work well with the narrative, or feel inserted? Everyone may finally find out if live-action is ultimately better than CGI or motion capture.

J.J. Abrams on entertainment Weekly
J.J. Abrams | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

The live-action footage has the blessing from Fisher’s brother

According to Deadline, Todd Fisher (Carrie’s brother) gave the go-ahead for J.J. Abrams to use that old, unused footage with Princess Leia. The Fisher family was very much against Carrie being brought back through CGI (or even using body doubles), even if it’s a mystery what they thought of the Rogue One Leia.

Abrams has said he thinks it’s a seamless way to include Leia since the footage pertains to the plot going on in The Rise of Skywalker. Based on footage already shown in the trailers, part of this involves Leia apparently training Rey in the ways of the Force in a forest.

Beyond this, everyone will have to wait to find out how seamless the added footage really is. For some, it might seem a little anticlimactic since a lot of scenes in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were already like major tributes to Fisher and the Leia character.

Seeing Leia floating in space back to her ship while using the Force (as the iconic Leia’s Theme played) was enough of a major emotional finale in TLJ.

Does prior footage really work in context of a new film?

Thanks to better editing techniques nowadays, live-action footage arguably can work well, even if it’s several years old and intended for a different project. In the old days of cinema, using prior footage of a star in a sequel (or even different movie) always looked too obvious. There was a way to tell they were just inserted, mostly because cruder editing techniques were only available in those days.

Since the crux of the story is mainly the same in The Rise of Skywalker, any scene shot during The Force Awakens won’t really feel incongruous. At least Abrams and Rian Johnson have had the foresight to shoot more footage than what’s necessary so they’d always have some extra they could use if ever needed.

Perhaps this was a lesson they learned early based on other past examples of actors who died before completing a movie. It very well could be they’ve shot extra footage of all the characters as a form of insurance, just in case the unforeseeable happened.

One thing confirmed is Fisher will have a few digital touch-ups in her scenes, including making her look slightly older to reflect the slight time jump in the story.

Should actors really be brought back in digital form?

Most people will accept Fisher coming back thanks to the foresight of added footage. However, with recent news of digitally recreating long-departed actors like James Dean for new movies, the public backlash could be severe.

The companies behind the Dean digital imagery (CMG Worldwide/Worldwide XR) intend to start recreating other dead actors and actresses in future media, something they may find out has no supportive audience.

Based on the negative social media response about the James Dean recreation, the off and on debate about digitally reviving departed pop culture figures may be finally decided.

Only Star Wars will be the exception, albeit giving others the wrong idea it’s the beginning of a new digital wave.