The late Carrie Fisher not only seems as Leia for the final time in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but her character tends to make up the “heart” of the whole story, says J.J. Abrams.

The director created his comments at Disney’s D23 Expo convention in Anaheim, California on Saturday, 4 months prior to the film is set to be released.

It was previously announced that Fisher will seem in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by means of unseen footage in the upcoming sequel, the final installment of the franchise’s third trilogy. The actress died at age 60 in December 2016, months right after filming wrapped on the second film, Star Wars: The Final Jedi.

“The character of Leia is actually, in a way, the heart of this story,” Abrams stated at D23, according to Selection. “We realized we could not possibly inform the finish of these nine films with no Leia. We realized that we had footage from Episode VII, and we could use it in a new way.”

Earlier this year, Abrams, who is also a co-screenwriter on the film, told Vanity Fair that he began to create scenes about old footage of Fisher, fitting Leia’s dialogue into new contexts, and also re-created the lighting. He also stated that he Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, who plays a Resistance officer named Lieutenant Connix in the trilogy, would be in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker scenes with her mother at her request.

Lourd paid tribute to her mom on Instagram on Saturday, sharing an old behind-the-scenes Star Wars photo of Fisher in character as Leia, laughing.


Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, GIF

Want Disney Photographs / Lucasfilm

It is unclear if the film was Fisher’s final film. She was slated to appear in the film Wonderwell, a family members fantasy drama also starring Rita Ora. It is unknown if Fisher filmed her element. A release date for the film has not been announced.

Also in the course of D23 on Saturday, Disney-owned Lucasfilm released a new poster for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which shows heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) possessing a lightsaber duel with her nemesis Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) amid a storm—and a giant image of returning villain Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

The initial poster and trailer for the film had been released in April.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set for release on December 20.

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