Searching for Carrie Fisher: Estimating Screen-Time Available for Episode IX

written by HanSpinel

I’ve been wondering recently: just how much Carrie screen time is available to use in Episode IX? And is there a way to find out? Below, I estimate the available screen-time containing Carrie Fisher left on the cutting room floor of The Force Awakens including scenes with Maz Kanata and some potential dialogue with Rey that was likely cut from the film. All in all, the results may surprise you in that over an hour’s worth or more of various footage and dialogue is likely available containing our beloved Princess and General….

Update (02/18/19): Don’t forget, and as @Mirahtrunks rightly points out, none of these estimates include unused footage from TLJ, which only strengthens the conclusion that Leia could have some nice screen-time in IX and/or play a pivotal role!

The First Force Awakens

From the official StarWars.com website:

The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher, using previously unreleased footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” says Abrams. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”

I started my search by going back over JJ Abram’s interviews on The Force Awakens. Here’s what he had to say about the run time of the first cut:

“I don’t know what the longest cut was. Probably, if it were with credits, close to two hours and 50 minutes was the first cut.” – J.J. Abrams

Of course, the theatrical cut ended up at 2 hours 15 minutes, meaning approximately 35 minutes worth of the first cut were unused in the original film. Note too, that the first “cut” is also the first edit from all available footage, meaning an unspecified surplus of film, in addition to those 35 minutes defined above, also remains on the cutting-room floor since every shot of every scene is not spliced together for the first cut.

On the Skywalker Saber Hand-Off

We know for certain that there is unused footage involving Maz Kanata from the second teaser trailer of TFA. This scene is also not included in any of the TFA releases as a “deleted scene.”

Maz-to-Leia

When asked about whether or not it was an intentional misdirect or just a final editing cut for the trailer, JJ had this to say:

“Sometimes you discover that things you would have cut off a limb to shoot on the day are absolutely inconsequential, and in fact less impactful than if you were to remove it…. As much as you try to kick the tires and write and shoot only what is necessary — no one wants to waste anyone’s time — when you’re in the editing room you realize, for instance, that introducing the character there actually diminishes their power. Or, giving that information actually distracts you from what you should be concentrating on. Or, having that moment happen concurrent with that moment actually gets in the way of both — things like that.”

JJ adds to why it remained in the trailer:

“[It’s a] testament to the skill and patience of the editors, [Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon.] Both are incredibly collaborative and willing to try all sorts of things, even when I know that they are probably feeling like they’ve known better all along. But they’re willing to try certain things that allow us to explore and experiment with what-ifs. You make big discoveries that way.”

And specifically regarding Maz handing Leia the Skywalker Saber:

“That was a scene actually filmed, but we took out. At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to be sitting around. Lupita did film scenes on set for that sequence, but it felt it unnecessary. So we ended up leaving those things out.”

Now, this gives the impression that the scenes with Maz returning to the Resistance Base were significant, and may have included Maz interacting with the characters on Takodana before deciding to leave for the base. There is also potential for scenes traveling to the base on the falcon if Leia hopped in with the whole gang, and then of course the Resistance base itself where it appears Maz hands Leia the Skywalker Saber. 

Detailing Miss Daisy

Adding further to the potential amount of film left on the cutting room floor, Daisy Ridley provided some telling commentary during an interview with Collider regarding JJ Abram’s directing style, and why having so much footage for the editors is key:

Collider: You’ve seen the movie, did you notice any deleted scenes, after seeing the movie?

Daisy: Well, anything that wasn’t in that we filmed?

C: Yeah.

D: Oh yeah!

C: Like, a lot, or a little?

D: Ummmm, No, but you just film so much. And with JJ, he’s so open to everything. So you try it so many different ways. So there was like infinite possibilities. Like, honestly for every scene, there was maybe like 20 to 50 possibilities of which…. what each person could do. And everyone was like trying to keep fresh, and keep it like…. nothing was the same every time we did it. So um, not so much deleted scenes, but it’s just, like editing is just so important. It could make or break a film. So it, like…. yeah. Not that it’s dele…. Not that it…. I was like “that’s not in, that’s not in.” It’s just like, “Ah they went with that one. They went with that version of that scene.

Rey&Leia

This is an incredibly informative behind-the-scenes reveal regarding the amount of footage existing for any given scene. Taking Daisy’s commentary at face value then, with the minimum amount of takes per scene = 20, and the maximum = 50, the total scene time of interest can simply be multiplied by the number of takes to estimate the amount of unused footage. For instance, in quantifying the total amount of possible footage containing Carrie Fisher, it would not insult the truth to assume that, on average, each scene is ~1 minute in length. This means at minimum, 20 min of footage could exist with nearly an hour’s worth of footage at maximum for any one given scene.

Considering also that one take’s worth of footage was ultimately used for each scene in the theatrical cut, the following equations can be derived to define the minimum and maximum amount of possible footage available for a given scene or set of scenes:

Minimum Carrie Time = xm – x; Maximum Carrie Time = xM – x     (1)

MathClass

Where x = the total amount of scene time of interest, m = 20 (total takes), and M = 50 (total takes).

Now, let’s examine Carrie’s screen time below considering known scenes, known deleted scenes, and some simple guess-work. We’ll then apply equation (1) above to estimate the total footage available for IX.

Searching for Carrie Fisher

In this section, I will bold scenes as an indicator to which I believe have the potential to contain various footage and/or dialogue that could be worked into Episode IX. Here’s the list of known Carrie Fisher scenes included in TFA with approximate lengths:

  • Takodana with Han and Chewie (00:02:16)
  • D’Qar with Finn and Poe (00:00:36) – various dialogue with Finn and Poe
  • At the round table with the map to Luke (00:00:33)
  • Walking and talking with Han about Ben (00:01:24) – various dialogue about Ben and/or any light left in him (if any)
  • Planning the attack on the FO (00:01:32)
  • Goodbye to Han and more dialogue about Ben (00:01:00)
  • Scene about the starkiller shields being down (00:00:10)
  • Notifying her that ½ the fleet is destroyed (00:00:10)
  • Leia realizing Han is gone (00:00:14)
  • Hug with Rey (00:00:43) – no dialogue in theatrical cut, but was there an exchange?
  • R2D2 awakens (00:00:52)
  • Goodbye to Rey (00:00:21) Note: Leia is holding Rey at the beginning of the scene; there is likely dialogue cut here since Leia ends the exchange with a MTFBWY, which typically follows integral or important exchanges in Star Wars. My own guess is this could’ve originally been another ~ 1 minute scene. The Force Awakens novelization includes dialogue from this very scene as well:

Cleaned up and visibly refreshed from his long period of inactivity, R2-D2 led the way up the Millennium Falcon’s loading ramp. Nearby, Chewbacca was performing the usual last-minute checks of the ship’s external systems. Ordinarily it was a two-person job, but he insisted on doing it by himself.

Standing at the foot of the ramp, an uncertain and uneasy Leia found herself fiddling with the seals on the front of the jacket Rey was wearing. Foolish nonsense, she told herself even as she continued. Unworthy of her status and position. But it felt so right, and so natural, to be doing so.

“I’m proud of what you’re about to do,” she told the girl.

Rey replied in all seriousness. “But you’re also afraid. In sending me away, you’re-reminded.”

Leia straightened. “You won’t share the fate of our son.”

“I know what we’re doing is right. This is how it has to be. This is how it should be.”

Leia smiled gently, reassuringly. “I know it, too. May the Force be with you.”

– The Force Awakens Novelization

And known deleted scenes:

  • Jakku Message 00:00:46
  • Senate 00:00:16

In addition to the known scenes and known deleted scenes containing Carrie Fisher, let’s assume three scenes involving Maz were also filmed:

  • One additional scene on Takodana including Maz (~00:01:00 minute)
  • One additional scene aboard the Millennium Falcon on the way back to D’Qar (~00:01:00)
  • One additional scene on D’Qar with Maz and the Lightsaber (~00:01:00)

Take, for example, the known scene between Leia, Finn, and Poe, which is ~ 36s long. Using equation (1), the minimum amount of total screen time filmed would equal the total scene length (x = 36s) multiplied by the minimum number of takes (m = 20), and then subtracting one take’s worth of footage used for the theatrical cut (again, x = 36s), or (36s * 20) – 36s = a little over 11 minutes of various footage and dialogue between these characters.

The same principle can be applied to calculating multiple scenes as well. Taking the bolded selections altogether results in approximately 364s worth of various footage and dialogue with Leia discussing her son and discussions with Finn, Poe, and Rey. Equation (1) then estimates that ~ 115 total minutes of footage would exist at minimum, whereas the maximum amount of screen time and various dialogue could be ~ 297 minutes assuming 50 takes for each scene. 

Maths

The total minimum amount of footage considering all scenes is estimated to be ~4 hours, and the maximum amount ~ 11 hours.

Conclusion

Now, these are clearly rough estimates, and founded on the assumption that several takes were desired for each scene. As Daisy said, “editing is just so important. It could make or break a film.” Further, if the scenes were not always following a specificity of dialogue and the actors were continuously keeping things “fresh,” and that “nothing was the same” each time they did it, an argument can be made that there is quite a lot of film or scenes and dialogue to be used for Carrie Fisher in Episode IX.

I am particularly intrigued by the deleted sequence with Maz Kanata, but also Leia’s goodbye to Rey. The scene definitely appears to be missing key dialogue as it begins with Leia touching Rey, and Rey walking away – something appears to have been exchanged before the farewell, “May the Force be with you” by Leia. This is more than supported by dialogue within TFA’s novelization, and further paints a mysterious connection between Leia, daughter of Anakin Skywalker, and Rey, daughter of….? Hmmm I wonder what that connection could be?

Regardless, this exercise demonstrates just how much footage gets left on the cutting room floor, and it’s a boat load to say the least. So, which scenes do you think would make the best for possible Carrie footage in IX? 

Only 9 more months to find out and see our Princess one last time. Perhaps the real question is how many tissues we’re all going to go through. And good luck quantifying that.

In the end, this article is simply the result of me just missing our beloved Princess and General, and searching for any way to find her again. Alas, her messages of hope and doing what’s right will live in our hearts forever. We know you know, but we’re going to tell you anyhow – we love you.

princess-leia
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HanSpinel

No first, no second. Han shot - end of statement.

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