'Rogue One': Leia Actress on the Pressures of Re-Creating an Iconic Character

"It was the smallest role I’ve ever had in terms of actual acting, but it was so laden with pressure," says Ingvild Deila.
Courtesy of Ingvild Deila; Courtesy of Lucasfilms
Ingvild Deila (left) and the re-created Princess Leia in 'Rogue One'

It was the culmination of the most acclaimed scene from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

After Darth Vader's lightsaber rampage sees terrified Rebel soldiers trying to escape with the plans to the Death Star, a familiar face emerges to deliver one line: "Hope."

Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila was sworn to secrecy about her role in helping digitally re-create Carrie Fisher's likeness from 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope, and didn't quite know what she was auditioning for at first. The look at a young Leia cameo would become all the more poignant in hindsight, when weeks after the film's release the world lost Fisher, who died Dec. 27.

In a conversation with Heat Vision, Deila shares the relief she felt when she learned Fisher approved of the portrayal, and remembers pressure of packing everything she could into that one line.

How long were you on set?

The actual shoot was one day in December in 2015. They also sent me to L.A. and San Francisco in June in 2015 for the visual effects. I had several days in total with costume fittings, getting that iconic dress just right, and they dyed my hair brown to match Carrie Fisher’s hair.

And you had dots on your face on set.

I looked very strange. I think people had a hard time retaining eye contact when they were talking to me because of all the dots.

Did you get to see Darth Vader during your time?

During my audition. Don’t know if I met the guy who got the job though. But on the set, it was pretty much me and the guy who handed me the disk and a lot of Rebel soldiers, which was great!

When did you realize you were working on a Star Wars movie?

When I reached the second stage of the audition process. First it was a self-tape video with me talking about anything.

Some weeks later I was in Belfast for a music video and my agent said, “They want you in for an audition” and it was only on one specific day. I said, “Oh, I’m going to a wedding that day in Norway.” She said, “Well, we don’t know what it is, but it looks like it is a big film.” So I didn’t go to the wedding and then I realized it was Star Wars, because they sent me those two scenes from A New Hope; the famous hologram Obi-Wan scene and when Leia meets Vader for the first time.

When did you hear that Carrie Fisher approved of the work?

It wasn’t until it was all done and the film had come out and I read some different articles about Rogue One and how people responded. I think it was after she passed away, I saw an article mentioning [Lucasfilm head] Kathleen Kennedy and her saying Fisher was pleased with the scene. So it wasn’t until later on I knew for sure she was okay with it. That was a huge relief for me.

Lucasfilm says they won't re-create Carrie Fisher’s likeness as Leia out of respect. What are your thoughts on that?

I think that’s a good decision, it would feel weird to bring her back now, at least for the continuation of the saga. For the anthology movies, I’m really looking forward to seeing the Han Solo movie, that’s going to be awesome. I don’t know if it would be okay to recreate a young Leia. She already agreed to this one, but then again this was just a cameo.

What was it like seeing the scene for the first time?

I went to the premiere in London, to a private screening and party. So I was with my friends there from the Rogue One shoot. It was surreal, I was so into the film, the ending is so amazing and heightened and tense that I was just enjoying the film really. I was trying to not think too much about my scene.

Did they tell you this was going to be the last scene?

Yes, I knew it was going to be the final scene. The film was so dark up until that moment so it was good with this glimmer of hope right at the end.

Did you grow up on Star Wars?

I have an older brother and he introduced me to Star Wars and everything cool at an early age, so I can’t even remember the first time I watched Star Wars. I was probably so young he was probably like, “you should close your eyes now. “I watched it again and again and again. It was a part of the furniture. I remember running around in primary school pretending to be Luke Skywalker with a lightsaber. I also dressed up as Leia for costume parties as a kid.

You've also appeared briefly in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Do you have hopes to be in more big movies?

Sure! I didn’t plan on being an actress, but I really enjoy acting and happy I happened to walk down this path. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big-budget or low-budget independent. If I like the script and believe in the director, I’m game.

What was working with director Gareth Edwards like?

Gareth is an amazing and lovely human being. He’s very grounded. He’s so good with the effects as well. It’s great that he’s come from the VFX route into directing, especially for a film like Rogue One. It was just a pleasure working with him. I remember on the shoot he had a lot of time, which is not often the case. He wanted to try a lot of different things. Even though it’s a small scene he just gave the scene time to breathe. I really appreciated that.

What was the key to your performance in that scene?

When something is brief, it has to be spot-on, like when you only have one line. It just has to be right. So it was the smallest role I’ve ever had in terms of actual acting, but it was so laden with pressure. Because it was Leia, because it was the final shot of the film. It felt like a big responsibility. But I tried to push all of that aside and just imagine what it would be like if your spaceship is about to get boarded and you are in this really dire, high stakes situation but you have to keep your cool because you are in charge. I was just trying to picture myself herself in her shoes. “Just keep your cool and tell them to go to hyperspace.”

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