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How Future Star Wars Movies Might Be Able To Keep Carrie Fisher In The Cast

The special effects team at Industrial Light and Magic asked Carrie Fisher if she’d be okay with seeing her 19-year-old self in Rogue One. Fisher gave the team her permission and loved the end result: a Princess Leia cameo that perfectly ties the plot of the latest Star Wars movie together with the very first one, A New Hope. Some of the techniques used by ILM may be the answer to the question of how to include Fisher in future films. A new clip from ABC’s Nightline shows both how and why it was done.

The younger version of Leia wasn’t the only old school character ILM brought back for Rogue One—there was also the much discussed return of Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing who died in 1994, and the addition of two X-Wing pilots who flew in the original attack on the Death Star. John Knoll, a visual effects supervisor at ILM, explained why they wanted to see those characters on screen again: “Tarkin because he’s central to the story of the Death Star—what it is, how it came to be,” says Knoll, “and Leia because we end up on Rogue One minutes before the beginning of Episode IV.”

It’s the way the effects team resurrected Cushing that hints at how future filmmakers might do the same for Fisher. ILM worked for 18 months to recreate the 1977 bad guy (spaceships, explosions, and CG aliens are a lot easier than actual humans), first shooting a stand-in actor using a head-mounted camera rig, then adjusting frame by frame to refine the footage. A cast of Cushing’s face, made for a different movie, also helped the team to realize Tarkin’s return.

Check out the video for a behind the scenes look at exactly how they pulled it off. The Star Wars production team are still debating how to deal with Fisher’s death, and a technical solution like the one shown below is still an option.