Star Wars fans are remembering Leia Organa star Carrie Fisher on what would have been her 63rd birthday. While on a flight from London to Los Angeles, Fisher suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for four days before passing away on December 27, 2016, at the age of 60. The Los Angeles County Coroner later determined Fisher died from sleep apnea “and a combination of other factors,” leaving the exact cause of death “undetermined.” Fisher returned to the Star Wars franchise alongside original trilogy co-stars Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill when new franchise owners Disney revived the saga with J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. Its sequel, The Last Jedi, featuring Fisher’s final performance as Leia, would be released posthumously in 2017.
Fisher’s Leia next returns in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker under returning writer-director Abrams, who said the ninth chapter in the Skywalker Saga “needed” Leia. The mother of First Order Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Resistance leader Leia appears through the use of re-purposed footage from The Force Awakens.
“The character of Leia is really the heart of this story. We realized we could not possibly tell this story without Leia,” Abrams said at D23 Expo in August. “We had footage from Episode VII that we could use in a new way. So, we were able to use Carrie in a new way.”
Hamill, who returns as Leia’s brother Luke Skywalker, previously said Fisher would “get a kick” out of appearing in Rise of Skywalker posthumously.
“Harrison was more prominent in the first of the sequels, then I was more prominent, and Carrie was meant to be more prominent in the third,” Hamill previously told Den of Geek. “I’m glad they found a way to do that, and something tells me that she’d get a real kick out of the fact that she had a hit movie years after she left us, because that was just her. I like to think that would please her, but nothing would be better than having her here.”