x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Star Wars filming to start on May 13 in Abu Dhabi desert

Star Wars is reportedly shooting in the Abu Dhabi desert from Tuesday, May 13 until the end of May. Here's our exclusive report on the proceedings.

From left, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are back in Star Wars: Episode VII. Vince Bucci / Getty Images / AFP
From left, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are back in Star Wars: Episode VII. Vince Bucci / Getty Images / AFP

Things seem to be picking up pace around the Star Wars sets in the Abu Dhabi desert, with shooting expected to start on Tuesday and last until at least the end of the month.

Curious day-trippers are likely to be disappointed, however, as our sources report that police and army are checking all vehicles in the area and making sure that anyone who isn’t supposed to be there is sent quickly on their way.

Our sources also report that the sets are getting closer to completion, with a “whole world” having been built on an otherworldly salt lake at one location, a “shuttle-like” spacecraft, a large tower, a “big, centuries-old-looking market”, something the crew are reportedly referring to as the “alien house” and 10 to 15 “really fast buggies” powered by jet engines (landspeeders of Tatooine fame from the previous films, perhaps?)

We have also been told that two lorries of explosives have been brought to one of the sites under high security and that a blast crater has been created. So, it looks like the action in Abu Dhabi could be set to feature a major battle or spacecraft crash of some description.

We also learnt that a group of technicians from the United Kingdom and Los Angeles are currently on site applying the finishing touches before the shoot begins and that some, unnamed, members of the cast are already here and have been out in the dunes practising driving the vehicles they’ll be using when filming begins.

With some of the crew already here (a source told us they checked into an Abu Dhabi hotel on Tuesday) and the main shoot expected to last until at least the end of the month (almost three weeks – and possibly longer depending on hitches such as sandstorms delaying shooting), it certainly looks as if Abu Dhabi is set to play a major role in the new movie. Disney’s chairman Alan Horn’s recent remarks that “We did some second-unit work in Abu Dhabi” may have been a slight understatement.

Star Wars: Episode VII, which is rumoured to have the working title The Ancient Fear, stars famous names – old and new – with the lead trio from the original Star Wars trilogy, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hammill lining up alongside newcomers to the franchise such as Adam Driver and Max von Sydow, rumoured to be playing the new film’s lead villains. The film is due in cinemas in December 2015.

• For our continuing coverage of Star Wars in Abu Dhabi, go to www.thenational.ae/arts-culture

cnewbould@thenational.ae