Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was always going to be controversial among fans. But the one thing it seemed everyone agreed on was Leia. The death of actress Carrie Fisher in 2016 was a blow to the fandom, as it robbed viewers of a satisfying arc for her beloved General Leia Amidala Skywalker Organa Solo. But the production found a way to cheat death via repurposed footage, CGI, and one very special person. It turns out Billie Lourd played Young Leia in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Most of Leia's scenes came early on in the film, repurposed from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to create scenes where Leia trains Rey to be Jedi. Fans were surprised, as the movies had suggested, up until now, that Leia had no training of her own.
Before the films were made, in the spinoff novels and comics, Leia was a Jedi. First trained by Luke, she becomes the apprentice of Barabel Jedi Master Saba Sebatyne. Over dozens of stories, she builds a storied legacy as a Jedi Master. But when Disney took over the franchise in 2012, all that was consigned to "Legends" as the films rewrote post-Return of the Jedi history for the sequel films. From what everyone could tell, Leia's time as a Jedi was erased along with it.
But The Rise of Skywalker revealed that wasn't wholly true. Leia had trained as a Jedi, under Luke's guidance as his first Padawan, just as the books said. But the movies diverged, claiming Leia never finished that training.
In a quick scene in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the film flashes back to Leia's final night of training. Having completed the build of her lightsaber, she was battling Luke for the last time. Then suddenly, she has a vision.
When Luke asks what happened, she tells him she had seen the death of her as-yet-unborn son at the end of her Jedi path. She cannot become a Jedi. She hands over her lightsaber and walks away.
This scene of Young Luke and Leia, both looking much as they did at Return of the Jedi, seems to be a marvel of de-aging technology and CGI. But there was one issue: Mark Hamill could play himself, but there was no one to stand in for Leia. Enter her daughter, Billie Lourd, who was already on set to reprise her role as Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix.
According to ILM visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach, it was Abrams who asked Lourd to do it. Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment, he said:
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.
Just one more small detail to break your heart in a film that brings 42 years of storytelling to a close.