Carrie Fisher in trailer for final 'Star Wars' movie

US actress Carrie Fisher poses with a storm trooper as she attends the opening of the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in central London. — AFP

Chicago — Lucasfilm delighted "Star Wars" fans Friday with a glimpse of Carrie Fisher in sneak-peek footage of the hotly-anticipated final episode of the space opera -- more than two years after her death.

Director J.J. Abrams told the US "Star Wars Celebration" event the writers had agonized over giving Fisher's beloved General Leia Organa a fitting send-off in the ninth installment, revealed as "Star Wars 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 told the rapt crowd at the five-day event in Chicago.

A world-first trailer released at the convention -- and dropped on the internet -- reintroduced the "next generation" characters from the final three films alongside old favorites from as far back as the 1977 original, "Star Wars IV: A New Hope."

They included Lando Calrissian, portrayed by the original actor Billy Dee Williams, and the voice only of Mark Hamill -- Luke Skywalker himself -- who appeared to die in the last film but was widely expected to have some role in the latest movie.

"No one's ever really gone," 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 makes up the long-running saga.

Abrams said it 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 2017's "The Last Jedi" but the actress herself died a year earlier, in December 2016.

Disney said last year Fisher's role would be gleaned from previously unreleased footage from "The Force Awakens," with the blessing of her daughter, Billie Lourd.

Abrams described the "weird miracle" of being able to continue Leia's story by looking at old footage. — AFP