The cast of 'Star Wars: Episode IX' has been announced, with Carrie Fisher's role in the ninth episode to be completed via unused footage from 'The Force Awakens' rather than CGI or recasting.

In a statement released late last night, director JJ Abrams explained that "(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."

Meanwhile, Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams were both confirmed to be returning to the series as Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian respectively, whilst Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd are all set to reprise their roles. Newcomers for 'Episode IX' include the previously confirmed Keri Russell, along with British actors Richard E. Grant and Naomi Ackie also announced for unspecified roles.

So, thoughts? Clearly there was no way they could adequately write out one of the most integral characters in the lore of 'Star Wars' without including Princess Leia in some fashion, so it's unsurprising that they've had to trawl through footage from 'The Force Awakens' to make it happen. The inclusion of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, however, definitely points to some kind of explanation as to what went down in 'The Last Jedi' and will, no doubt, try work out some of the backlash to its ending.

Richard E. Grant feels like such an obvious choice, it's a wonder he hasn't been cast before whilst seeing Billy Dee Williams back in a cape is going to be pretty sweet.

'Star Wars: Episode IX' will begin production in the coming weeks with a release date set in Ireland for December 2019.