Leia and Lando return: Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams will appear in Star Wars: Episode IX
Carrie Fisher is getting a final moment in the galactic sun.
She will return for Star Wars: Episode IX, with director J.J. Abrams using previously unused footage of the late actress to conclude the story of Leia Organa.
The news came with today’s cast announcement for the film, which included confirmation that Billy Dee Williams will reprise the role of Lando Calrissian and Mark Hamill will return as Luke Skywalker. His “See you around, kid” pledge to Kylo Ren will clearly be fulfilled.
C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, the only performer to have a role in every single Star Wars film, is also back.
Newcomers to the cast include Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant in unspecified roles alongside returning castmates Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd.
Ackie, who won a British Independent Film Award last year for most promising newcomer, is best known for playing the largely mute housemaid Anna in the 2016 dark period drama Lady Macbeth.
Grant is the veteran character actor known for everything from his breakthrough in 1987’s Withnail and I to Gosford Park, Spice World, The Iron Lady, and Logan.
The true surprise of the announcement was the decision to return to the Leia story and use previous footage to do it.
The footage of Fisher, who died in December 2016 after finishing work on The Last Jedi, is all unreleased material from her performance in 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Ever since Fisher’s untimely passing, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has said they would not recast or use digitization to keep the character going.
Now, Abrams says there was no way to close out the story, written by him and Argo Oscar-winner Chris Terrio, without finding a way to bring back her character in some fashion.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said in a statement. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
Lourd costars as Resistance Lieutenant Connix in the series, and was frequently in scenes with her mother.
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Missing from the cast list was any mention of Keri Russell, a frequent Abrams collaborator from the TV series Felicity and Mission: Impossible 3. Sources told EW she was close to signing for a role, but sometimes more cast members are added later.
UPDATE: That didn’t take long. Now Russell has been added to the official cast list. Guess that ink finally dried.
The news will relieve fans of Lando Calrissian, who have been asking for Williams to return to the series in each of the previous two saga films. Finally, we’ll see what became of the former Cloud City baron and intergalactic hustler.
Hamill has made no secret of his desire to return as Luke Skywalker, declaring his hope that he could reprise the role in spirit form after the apparent end of the Jedi warrior at the end of The Last Jedi.
The announcement also confirmed that veteran composer John Williams, would be back for Episode IX, after contributing only a small portion of original music for Solo: A Star Wars Story (although a heaping amount of inspiration).
The only Star Wars films he hasn’t composed the entirety of were Solo, a job that went to John Powell, and Rogue One, which was done by Michael Giacchino.
Here are other credits announced today:
The still-untitled Episode IX will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Michelle Rejwan, and executive produced by Callum Greene and Jason McGatlin.
The crew includes cinematographer Dan Mindel, production designers Rick Carter and Kevin Jenkins, costume designer Michael Kaplan, creature and droid design guru Neal Scanlan, editors Maryann Brandon and Stefan Grube, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, first assistant director Tommy Gormley, and second unit director Victoria Mahoney.
Filming begins Aug. 1 at Pinewood Studios outside London, with a release set for December 2019.