SAN FRANCISCO -- The latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," is epic in its battle scenes, speeder chases and lightsaber duels. But one of the biggest challenges for the visual effects team was something seemingly smaller, though hugely important to the film. It revolved around one face.
Roger Guyett was one of four men in charge of bringing director J.J. Abrams' vision to life. The team is up for an Academy Award in the Best Visual Effects category. With the passing of Carrie Fisher, the team was tasked with bringing her character Leia back to the screen.
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"J.J. and I had a number of discussions about the right approach for that and we decided in the end to adopt an approach where we were actually using her face for every piece of footage that you see in the movie," Guyett explained. "It's truly Carrie Fisher and we felt that that would honor her legacy."
The team didn't want it to look like they just cut her out of an old movie and put her into the new one. So they used outtakes of different scenes they hadn't used before.
"We built a digital version of her around her face. So when you see her in the movie, generally it's her face, and then a digital version of her," Guyett said. "Why would we do that? Because we want to change her hair, we want to change her costume. So she looks very unique for this movie. But it's a very complicated thing to do, because obviously the other actors have to understand what's going on where she is in the scene. So there was a tremendous amount of planning."
Patrick Tubach is also a member of the Oscar-nominated team. He said Abrams very early on told the visual effect team that his vision for the film included Princess Leia and there was no version of the movie that he ever entertained that didn't have her. The trick was figuring out how to integrate the old footage into the newer footage.
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"So you start with sort of analyzing that older footage and figuring out what angle it was shot at and how exactly she was moving so that you can kind of recreate that scene in the new film in our new environments. And that started way before filming," Tubach explained. "So we started analyzing those scenes, providing that data to everyone who was working on set, and then trying to recreate those shots in a way that we could use Carrie's footage."
Tubach hopes when people see the movie many years from now, they will feel it's natural that Princess Leia was in this movie and it honors Fisher's legacy.
Lucasfilm is owned by Disney, which also owns ABC.
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Oscars 2020: How Lucasfilm brought Princess Leia back in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'