Regardless of how you feel about The Rise of Skywalker, its integration of the dearly-missed Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa can leave even the most taciturn of Star Wars fans a little misty-eyed. But one of its most lovely scenes with Leia carries a touching behind-the-scenes Easter Egg not just for fans, but for her daughter and Star Wars co-star, Billie Lourd.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment about the work that went into re-using unused footage of Fisher’s performances in The Force Awakens, ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Patrick Tubach revealed an intriguing little factoid about a scene that didn’t require chopping up Fisher’s old performance: the flashback sequence where Luke reveals to Rey, and the audience, that Leia was his first Jedi student. Flashing back to her final test on Ajan Kloss, we see a young Luke and Leia duel each other in lightsaber combat, with the latter emerging victorious”and, as Luke tells Rey, deciding to give up her newly-earned title as a Jedi to focus on her own path, entrusting the knowledge (and lightsaber) she has earned to future generations of Jedi.
It’s a lovely moment and one that required ILM to work some de-ageing technology to represent a Luke and Leia shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi. That means actors had to stand in as reference in the scene, and while Hamill himself played the young Luke once more, when it came to Leia, ILM turned to an obvious alternative: Billie Lourd, Fisher’s daughter, who has appeared throughout the sequel trilogy as Resistance officer Kaydel Ko Connix.
“Billie was playing her mother,” Tubach told Yahoo. “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly”that she was willing to stand in for her mum. 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.”
The likeness of Leia herself in that scene comes from Return of the Jedi, but now knowing the person underneath it all was Lourd makes it all the more touching.