One of the big mysteries surrounding Star Wars: Episode IX has been how the movie will handle the death of Carrie Fisher. And in turn how the franchise would say goodbye to Leia. Well, now we know: J.J. Abrams will employ unused footage of Fisher shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to create the character’s final appearance, according to an official report from Lucasfilm. Abrams says of the decision:
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher. 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.”
In addition to the return of Leia, her brother Luke will also be returning in some form in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga. Mark Hamill has been confirmed to be appearing in the movie, despite his fate in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Presumably, Luke Skywalker will show up in Episode IX as a “Force ghost.” Also back from the original trilogy are Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
Newcomers to the Star Wars franchise with Episode IX are the previously announced Keri Russell along with Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth) and Richard E. Grant (Logan). Also confirmed is John Williams as composer, making this his ninth and final Star Wars movie score. Filming will reportedly begin on the movie in less than a week, on August 1.
Update 2: We’ve been wondering if Lando Calrissian would show up in the current Star Wars trilogy. The popular scoundrel from the original trilogy was a big part of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and his absence from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi has left fans wondering what became of the traitor turned hero of the rebel fleet.
Lando was given a minor update in the recent official-canon book Bloodline and is a big part of another new book called Last Shot. Meanwhile, we just met his younger self as portrayed by Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story (young Lando might also get his own spinoff). As for the original version, actor Billy Dee Williams has been publicly stating he wants back in for an onscreen reprisal.
Williams has gotten his wish, as The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed rumors that he will indeed return as Lando in Star Wars: Episode IX. How much he’ll appear is unknown, but in view of the lack of remaining original trilogy stars, we’d love to see him in a significant capacity. Maybe he’ll be killed off heartbreakingly, too, who knows?
While we haven’t officially seen Williams on screen as Lando since 1983, the actor has voiced the role in animated series and video games. He also paid homage to the Lando character and Star Wars in general while a contestant on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
Update 1: Fans can look forward to many familiar faces returning for Star Wars: Episode IX next year, including Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, but now we know of at least one new addition. Variety has revealed that actress Keri Russell is in talks to join the cast of the sequel, which follows last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi to conclude the “Skywalker Saga.”
Russell is no stranger to anyone familiar with the career of director J.J. Abrams. She starred in his TV series Felicity, which began airing 20 years ago, and they were reunited when Abrams cast her as an IMF agent in Mission: Impossible III (above). Russell just recently finished up a lead role on the hit show The Americans, so this is a great next step for her.
Will she be a good guy or a bad guy? A human or an alien or a droid? While there are no details about her character available yet, Variety claims that it’s an action-heavy role. That could still be anything since a performance-capture part could still require stunt work. She is reportedly one of three new main characters being added to the franchise with this movie.
Here’s everything else we know about Star Wars: Episode IX so far:
Do we actually know anything yet?
We know that Star Wars: Episode IX will finish out the “Skywalker Saga,” concluding the longrunning storyline that began with A New Hope back in 1977 and has continued through the original trilogy, the prequels and, recently, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Oh, and we know there’s a script.
And we know which cast members are returning?
At the end of The Last Jedi, most of the main cast was still with us. That means we’ll be seeing Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and newly in charge villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Sadly, Carrie Fisher passed away after filming The Last Jedi, but she will be able to return as General Leia in the movie thanks to some previously unused footage from The Force Awakens. Mark Hamill, whose character died in The Last Jedi, will also appear in some form — presumably as a “Force ghost.”
Meanwhile, from the original trilogy, we’ll be seeing the long-awaited return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, not seen on the big screen in the role since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.
Keri Russell (The Americans) will play some sort of action-heavy role, but details of her character are unknown. She will be joined by fellow newcomers Richard E. Grant (Logan) and Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth).
Have there been any other rumors?
Yes, but we can’t subscribe to many rumors or theories with Star Wars, especially this early. However, last year there was a credible report that this final episode would unite all three trilogies for a satisfying ending.
Who is directing this time?
J.J. Abrams, who directed The Force Awakens (aka Episode VII), is back at the helm in the wake of original director Colin Trevorrow’s departure. Abrams is also writing the script with Chris Terrio (Argo).
When does Episode IX come out?
Star Wars: Episode IX releases on December 20, 2019.