Thanks to a new image, we have a much better idea of how Leia is going to be brought to life in The Rise of Skywalker. Sadly, Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016 and didn't have the chance to return as Leia and finish out this new trilogy, as was originally the plan. Luckily, Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams didn't recast the role, nor did they want to try and bring her to life via purely CGI, like with Tarkin in Rogue One. But Leia will be part of the movie and we now have some idea of how that's actually going to work.
Recently, Vanity Fair did a cover story on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that revealed quite a bit about the highly-anticipated installment of the long-running franchise. One particular photo showcased composer John Williams working on the score, with an image of General Leia on a projector screen in the background. A Redditor by the name of u/Dentface has focused in on that part of the image specifically and upscaled it. While not perfect, it offers a window into how J.J. Abrams and the digital effects team are going to pull this off.
The shot in question, when zoomed in on Carrie Fisher, appears to be a repurposed version of a shot from the end of The Force Awakens when Leia is saying goodbye to Rey as she heads off to go find Luke. Here, we can see the shot has been altered to make Leia look a bit older, with different hair and a different outfit. Surely that was accomplished via some sort of digital moviemaking magic, but the shot itself certainly appears to match that shot from Episode VII.
Originally, when it was revealed that Leia was still going to appear, fans had many questions. All we knew for sure is that Lucasfilm was going to make use of unused footage from both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It's quite possible that is going to extend to alternate takes of scenes that actually made it into those movies, as opposed to just stuff that wound up on the cutting room floor.
Hopefully, J.J. Abrams can find a way to pull this off so that it all feels natural. It wouldn't feel right not having Leia in this movie, but it certainly wouldn't feel right having anyone else but Carrie Fisher playing the part. We'll see how this all comes together when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20. Be sure to check out the upscaled image from Reddit below, as well as the original for reference.