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Luke's big Rise of Skywalker scene was a last-minute reshoot

Thank goodness for reshoots.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker editor Maryann Brandon recently sat down with the Art of the Cut podcast to discuss her work on the film. During the conversation, she revealed that one of the flick's biggest moments — the reappearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the form of a Force ghost — wasn't captured during principal photography. (via Collider)

Just in case you're unaware, virtually every major Hollywood production — especially big-budget tentpoles like Rise of Skywalker — undergoes reshoots, usually after a rough cut of the film has been assembled. Editors and directors will often put their heads together to determine if there is any additional footage that could be shot in order to help the film flow more smoothly, or to fill in any story details that may be unclear.

In the case of Rise of Skywalker, Brandon says that surprisingly few scenes were filmed during the production's reshoots, which took place in July 2019. One of the scenes, though, was a biggie — and provided a huge emotional beat for Rey (Daisy Ridley), as her late mentor Luke appeared from beyond to urge her to confront Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). "The scene on the island with Luke, when Luke sees Rey [was shot during that time]," Brandon said. "The film kind of informed us, after it was together, what it needed to say, so we went back and got that dialogue." 

It's unclear from Brandon's remarks if a different version of the scene had been shot during principal photography, or if it was conceived during the editing process — but in any event, its inclusion ended up being a very good thing, as it helped provide a strong motivation for Rey to essentially take the fate of the galaxy into her hands.

Rise of Skywalker's opening scene was also a reshoot

According to Brandon, there were only two other significant scenes that were picked up in reshoots. One of those, though, ended up serving as the movie's opening — and since it featured the late Carrie Fisher's General Leia, it ended up being a little trickier than it might have otherwise. In case you were unaware, all of Fisher's scenes in Rise of Skywalker were created using repurposed footage from previous Star Wars flicks, including The Force Awakens and (for the a flashback scene featuring Luke and Leia in their younger years) Return of the Jedi.

"We shot Rey's introduction, when she's up in the air and the rocks are spinning around her, because we wanted to introduce Leia and her," Brandon explained. "I had to go back and find good shots of Leia that we hadn't used in [The Force Awakens], and we had those, and it kind of made us think, 'Oh we could have this really fun scene to introduce Leia and Rey.' So the film kind of informs you of things it might need."

If this scene hadn't been captured, it's honestly tough to even guess exactly how Rise of Skywalker would have opened. Collider notes that it's been rumored that the previously mentioned flashback sequence was set to lead off the movie, which might have proved to be just a little confusing — so it's probably a good thing that Brandon was around to dream up the scene with Leia and Rey, which was effective in showing us just how far Rey had come in learning the ways of the Force.

A little bit extra was needed for some other Rise of Skywalker scenes

Brandon says that the final scene to be captured during reshoots was a different version of the sequence in which Poe brings the damaged Millennium Falcon in for a rough landing, drawing the ire of Rey. "There was like a funny moment between Poe and Rey when he lands the Falcon and it's on fire, we wanted to have a more humorous exchange between them," she said. "Nothing major."

The rest of the reshoots were dedicated to small beats that the filmmakers felt could enhance existing scenes. "We added... some dialogue that we felt we needed, and there were a couple of very small emotional moments that [director J.J. Abrams] and I and [assistant editor Stefan Grube] decided would benefit the film, and we went back and got those," Brandon explained.

All things considered, it's interesting that Rise of Skywalker's reshoots weren't more extensive. Abrams and company were handed the Herculean task of bringing a satisfying conclusion to one of the most beloved cinematic sagas of all time, comprising nine films released over 42 years; the fact that they got the vast majority of the footage they needed in principal photography is really kind of astounding. Of course, fans will be arguing about whether or not they got it right until the heat death of the universe — but as any filmmaker who has ever been involved with the Star Wars franchise can tell you, that's just par for the course.