Star Wars: Episode IX is starting production next week in London, and on Friday Lucasfilm revealed who’ll be joining the likes of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver in a galaxy far, far away. There are some surprising names (Richard E. Grant!), and some familiar faces (Billy Dee Williams!) but nothing as unexpected as the confirmation that the late Carrie Fisher will reprise her role as Leia Organa.
Unlike the (somewhat questionable and possibly creepy) CGI’d recreation of Peter Cushing in Rogue One, Episode IX will be recycling some unused footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens. “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher. Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us,” director J.J. Abrams said. “We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie [Lourd], we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy.”
It’s unclear just how much Fisher footage Abrams has from working on the first film of this new trilogy, but hopefully it’s enough to give the character a proper send-off—canonically, Leia is the last surviving member of the original trio of heroes from George Lucas’s first film after the deaths of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, respectively. Speaking of Luke, Mark Hamill is also confirmed to return, though that’s far less surprising than Fisher returning on the merits of his character. Luke’s dead, sure, but that’s never stopped a Jedi from coming back in ghost form, and, if they’re feeling sassy, setting stuff on fire.
Perhaps the biggest thing to glean from this news is that it could spell the end of the Skywalker-centric narratives for the franchise, if we take Abrams at his word. The press release calls Episode IX “the final installment of the Skywalker saga.” It’s the right course of action—not only for the longevity of Star Wars films moving forward, but for a story line that is literally killing off the Skywalker clan in quick succession. Barring Ridley’s Rey being revealed as a secret Skywalker (and holy crap J.J., do not do that) Star Wars can build out its expansive universe beyond the scope of just one Force-inclined family. There’s a whole galaxy to explore. Hopefully, that’s where the previously announced trilogy from Rian Johnson, as well as a set of new films from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, comes in.
In the meantime, we’ve got one more definitive movie of the Skywalker saga to look forward to—and in some way, shape, or form, we’ll have Hamill and Fisher (plus Williams and Anthony Daniels’s C-3PO) back for one last ride. Now if they could please formally announce Keri Russell and her glorious hair, we can have a real party.