With principal photography set to begin Aug. 1 on director J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm has announced the primary cast, including the return of Mark Hamill, and confirmation that franchise veteran Billy Dee Williams will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian.
In addition, the studio announced that the late Carrie Fisher will appear as General Leia Organa, using unreleased footage filmed for 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
They're joined by returning cast members Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd and Anthony Daniels, and series newcomers Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. Composer John Williams will also return to score Episode IX.
“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said in a statement. “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.”
Fisher died Dec. 27, 2016, at age 60, after completing her role for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That led to speculation that Lucasfilm might employ CGI technology to finish Leia's storyline in Episode IX, something the studio swiftly ruled out.
Directed by J.J. Abrams from a script he wrote with Chris Terrio, Star Wars: Episode IX arrives in December 2019.
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