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Rise of Skywalker’s VFX reel shows how Leia was brought back for the finale

Rise of Skywalker’s VFX reel shows how Leia was brought back for the finale


Industrial Light & Magic’s work got the film an Oscar nomination

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Regardless of whether you agree with the decision to bring back the late Carrie Fisher to reprise her role as Leia in The Rise of Skywalker, at the very least it’s an impressive technical achievement. Now, a new visual effects (VFX) breakdown from Industrial Light & Magic has shed more light on the process, while also offering a peek behind the curtain at some of the movie’s other big set pieces such as Rey’s leap over Kylo’s TIE Silencer, or the film’s final space battle.

It’s particularly surprising to learn just how much of Fisher’s scenes were digital. While her face itself came from unused footage from The Force Awakens, her costume and hair were digitally created to give them a new appearance in the latest movie. Meanwhile, the scenes of a young Leia training with Luke used raw footage from the original films, Vanity Fair reports, before being digitally inserted over stand-in actors — including Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd. You can read more about the process in this feature from last year.

Rise of Skywalker is nominated for best visual effects at the Oscars

It’s a small detail, but I really appreciate learning that real horses were used as the basis for the orbaks in the final battle sequence. The horses were placed in costume, before CGI was used to completely transform them. It was a completely different story when Ewan McGregor was filming Revenge of the Sith back in 2005, when he says he had to awkwardly wiggle his body while sitting on a static green box to simulate the motion of riding an eopie. 

Other neat details from the reel include the fact that the entire ocean that swirled around Rey and Kylo during their battle on the Death Star’s ruins was CGI. Although real water was used to soak the actors, this had to be edited out to be consistent with the 4.2 million gallons of water that was simulated in the environment. Oh, and in case you were wondering how many ships take part in the film’s final climactic battle, it’s 16,000, and rendering them all took 8.4 million hours of processing time.

The Rise of Skywalker’s special effects have earned it an Oscar nomination for best visual effects, where it will compete against Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, and 1917 on February 10th.