On Friday afternoon, Lucasfilm shared the first official details about the full cast of Star Wars: Episode IX. Set to begin filming at London’s Pinewood Studios on August 1st, 2018, the final installment of the Skywalker saga will be directed by J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio (Argo, Justice League).
According to the press release, returning cast members will include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. Richard E. Grant and Naomi Ackie will be joining the franchise, while Billy Dee Williams will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi for the first time in decades.
None of these announcement should come as much of a surprise, but the release includes two bombshells that will have Star Wars fans talking up until the time the movie actually comes out next December. First of all, Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker will be in the finale, despite meeting his maker at the end of The Last Jedi. But even more surprising is that Carrie Fisher will return as Leia Organa using previously unused footage shot for The Force Awakens.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” says Abrams. “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 by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
Before her untimely passing, Carrie Fisher was expected to play a major part in the final episode. Despite not having shot any scenes for the new film, it sounds like we will still get one more Leia performance before the Skywalker saga comes to a close. Star Wars: Episode IX arrives in theaters in December 2019.