CHICAGO - You do not "recast that part and you don't have her disappear".
That is the opinion of director J.J. Abrams, who delighted Star Wars fans over the weekend with a glimpse of Carrie Fisher in sneak-peek footage of the final episode of the space opera - more than two years after her death.
He told a Star Wars Celebration event in Chicago that the writers had agonised over giving her beloved General Leia Organa a fitting send-off in the ninth instalment, revealed as Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise Of Skywalker.
"Every day, it hits me that she is not here, but it's so surreal because we're working with her still... she's in scenes," Abrams said.
A trailer released at the convention reintroduced the "next-generation" characters from the final three films alongside old favourites from as far back as the 1977 original, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
"No one's ever really gone," Luke Skywalker says in voiceover as Leia hugs apprentice Jedi Rey, played by English actress Daisy Ridley, who has top billing in the latest of the three trilogies that make up the long-running saga.
Abrams said the new film would not continue the story exactly where the last one - 2017's Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi - left off.
Leia was still alive at the end of that movie, but the actress died a year earlier in December 2016.
Speaking at a panel discussion, Abrams said the new film is in post-production.
It is not the first time Fisher's likeness has featured in a Star Wars movie despite being absent from its filming. Rogue One, a 2016 spin-off from the main series, was in theatres for a couple of weeks when her death from a heart attack was announced.
A much younger version of Fisher as Leia appears in that movie, thanks to the controversial application of computer wizardry to animate her image.