Billie Lourd did end up playing Leia Organa in The Rise of Skywalker. It had been rumored that Lourd was stepping in back in the spring of 2019, but it wasn't confirmed until now. Carrie Fisher passed away at the end of 2016 after she finished shooting The Last Jedi, which meant that there were going to have to be some major changes for the third and final installment in the sequel trilogy. J.J. Abrams stepped in and he and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced that they would be taking unused footage from The Force Awakens to include her in The Rise of Skywalker.
However, there is one particular scene where it is not Carrie Fisher playing Leia. During the flashback sequence when Luke Skywalker and Leia are training, it's actually Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd. Mark Hamill played young Luke and then Industrial Light and Magic de-aged his face. Lourd took on the role of her mother and they replaced her face with footage of Fisher from Return of the Jedi. ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Patrick Tubach explains.
"Billie was playing her mother. It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly - that she was willing to stand in for her mom."
Carrie Fisher is a big piece of the Star Wars puzzle and her appearance in The Rise of Skywalker was not taken lightly. Nor was the decision for Billie Lourd to step in and play the young Leia. J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson have spoken a lot about Fisher's friendship and what she brought to the table over the years. And Patrick Tubach also talked about how heavy the situation of having Lourd step in really was. He explains.
"It was an emotional thing for everybody to see her in that position. It felt great for us, too. If you're going to have someone play [Fisher's] part, it's great that it's [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from. The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene."
As for any additional footage of the training flashback scene, there is no more. "What you see is what we developed," says visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett. For Guyett, there was a firm understanding of the job they had to do for that particular scene in The Rise of Skywalker. And in that understanding, there was a whole new challenge. Guyett had this to say about bringing back young Leia.
"The idea was to provide this great surprise where they take the helmets off, and you see Luke and Leia's younger faces. We scoured outtakes from the original movies, and we took some pieces and then had to try and figure out the technical aspect of putting that shot together."
Will Billie Lourd ever take over for her mother again in the Star Wars franchise? It could happen down the line, but there are no current plans to do so. "The truth is that Carrie was a friend of J.J. and Billie is a friend of J.J.," says Roger Guyett. "They talked a lot about that, and I think the heart of it is the utmost respect for Carrie and her memory and her performance." Respect is the key element, so only time will tell if Lourd plays Leia again. The interviews with Roger Guyett and Patrick Tubach were originally conducted by Yahoo.