The late Carrie Fisher will feature in the next Star Wars movie using unseen footage recorded before her death, writer and director JJ Abrams has said.
Star Wars: Episode IX begins filming on Wednesday at Pinewood Studios and will include returning cast members Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o among others.
Withnail & I and Gosford Park actor Richard E Grant and British actress Naomi Ackie have joined the cast.
The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Fisher in the ninth film, using unreleased footage from the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens to draw her character’s story to an end.
Fisher – who found international stardom as Princess Leia – died aged 60 in 2016 after finishing work on The Last Jedi, following a heart attack on a Los Angeles-bound flight.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said.
“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 honour Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII,” he added.
Abrams’ announcement also confirmed that Billy Dee Williams will be returning to the sci-fi franchise as Lando Calrissian – a hero of the rebellion.
He starred in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the 1980s but has not featured in the latest trilogy.
Mark Hamill – who plays Luke Skywalker – will also appear in the as-yet-untitled film which is due to be released worldwide in December 2019.
Director of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, decided not to alter Leia’s storyline, leaving Abrams to decide her fate.
Abrams, who made The Force Awakens, was hired to write and direct Episode IX after the departure of original director Colin Trevorrow.