Jodi Guglielmi and Chris Tauber
December 01, 2017 11:44 AM

Princess Leia’s legacy lives on — in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and in the happy memories Carrie Fisher left with her intergalactic family.

Carrie Fisher had completed filming her role as Leia for the new Star Wars movie, out Dec. 15, months before her sudden death last December at age 60.

In PEOPLE’s new special issue Star Wars: The Ultimate Guide to The Last Jedi (on newsstands today) and an exclusive PeopleTV special, the film’s cast and crew open up about Fisher’s final performance and the warmth and wit she brought to set.

“I’m selfishly mad that she’s not here to make me laugh. But I’m also grateful for all that she was able to give us while she was here. It has not been easy,” says Mark Hamill, her onscreen brother and offscreen friend since the original 1977 Star Wars.

PEOPLE's new special issue is on newsstands now.

While on set, Fisher acted as a mentor for the younger members of the Star Wars cast, forming close bonds with John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.

Boyega says he would go to Fisher whenever he wanted a secret cheat day from the strict diet and workout regime he had to stick to while filming.

“I was on a strict diet during Episode VIII, and she was like, ‘Kid, get into that fridge and take some chocolate bars. I have many there.’ And I did,” he recalls. “I failed my diet because Carrie Fisher told me to. And it [felt] great.”

Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
George Whitear/Lucasfilm

Rian Johnson, the writer-director of The Last Jedi, instantly connected with Fisher, who had built a career as an accomplished author and screenwriter after becoming an icon as Princess Leia.

“She was constantly pitching one-liners,” he says. “I would sit down with her for an hour and come back with like, 300 crazy wordplay puns written in my notebook. Then on set, she really gave a beautiful, complete performance.”

But Johnson says nothing could have prepared them for her untimely death.

“It’s very obvious we didn’t know this was going to be the last time we’d see Leia in these movies,” he says. “That said, I find it very powerful when I see her in this film.”

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