According to reports, J.J. Abrams and company have already begun filming their return to George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away. In addition to that, we recently learned that they also plan to revisit at least one world that fans will be familiar with. While we knew that the production is building an “extensive recreation” of Tatooine, we didn’t know where this was all going down. That, however, has all changed now, as we received word that Abu Dhabi will serve as a stand-in for the barren, desolate planet.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Star Wars: Episode VII will begin a four-week stint filming in and around the city-state starting in the middle of next month. From there the production is expected to move on and dig in at Pinewood Studios in London, England.
Abu Dhabi is the capital, and second largest city, of the United Arab Emirates, and with a population of more than 900,000, it has all of the hustle and bustle and amenities you normally expect from a modern city of this size. But at the same time, the island, which juts into the Persian Gulf, is in close proximity to numerous desert areas that could make an excellent substitute for the sand dunes and rock outcroppings we’re familiar with. With recent visits from movies like Fast & Furious 7 and the upcoming horror film Delivery Us From Evil, Abu Dhabi has played host to its fair share of big Hollywood productions as of late.
Returning to Tatooine makes a lot of sense for Episode VII. The home planet of both Luke and Anakin Skywalker has always figured prominently into the larger Star Wars action and mythology, and it looks like that’s going to continue. From the cantina scene in A New Hope to the pod race in Phantom Menace, the only movie in the franchise it hasn’t appeared in thus far is The Empire Strikes Back. Plus you have the likes of Jabba the Hutt, the Jawas, Tusken Raiders, Mos Eisley, and much, much more. The sets for the original Tatooine were constructed in Tunisia, where they still stand, though the encroaching desert is currently threatening to reclaim them.
When Disney head Alan Horn let it out that filming had already started, he also let it be known that, though casting is almost complete, there are still some gaps. Yesterday we heard our latest casting rumor, which indicates that unknown British stage actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers could be tapped to play a descendent of Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ll have to wait to see how that pans out, as well as to learn about the rest of the cast. Eventually they have to announce something, right? Sure, it might not be until the movie is in the can and the studio has started marketing, but we’ll get there. At least we assume so. Right now all we know is that Peter Mayhew will be back as everyone’s favorite walking carpet, Chewbacca, so we have that to hang our hats on.
Star Wars: Episode VII opens everywhere December 18, 2015.