And . . . action! New 'Star Wars' film shoot kicks off on Skellig Michael
THE original Luke Skywalker will be on Skellig Michael today for the new 'Star Wars' movie.
Actor Mark Hamill (62) will accompany his three children on location at the UNESCO World Heritage site in Co Kerry.
Cast members of 'Star Wars: Episode VII' will begin filming today and the small fishing village is a hive of activity, amid tight security.
The first inkling local people had that 'Star Wars' was being filmed on Skellig Michael was when they heard it on local radio last week.
Even people employed to work on the film were led to believe it was for a documentary on puffins.
Now the man who first dazzled cinema-goers with a light-saber 37 years ago, Mark Hamill, is understood to be heading to the island.
A production clipboard, seen by the Irish Independent, on the pier in Portmagee yesterday contained the names of Hamill's children, Chelsea, Nathan and Griffin.
Director JJ Abrams was also on the island yesterday as filming got under way.
A photograph posted on social media that showed Mr Abrams posing with a local was removed, at the request of the production company.
Security personnel took up their posts on the pier at 6am even though it was closer to 8.45am before the first boats left for the island carrying crew members, catering staff and others.
About 1.5km away on Valentia Island, just across the bridge from Portmagee, Con O'Shea's farm has become a base for the film crew.
The choice of the O'Shea farm at Corabeag is no coincidence, as it contains the only helicopter pad on Valentia Island.
Mr O'Shea's father Patie is a retired lighthouse keeper and the helipad was built on his land to accommodate him for easy access to the Skellig.
Tents have been erected on the land, where it is understood some of the workers are staying for the three days of filming.
A private jet landed at Kerry Airport at 10.30am yesterday with 16 more crew members and the film's entourage.
There was also film-related activity on the island all last week when the crew first moved into the area.
Owners of local B&Bs, guesthouses and private houses where production team members are staying are all bound by confidentiality contracts.
So are the boatmen, who the Irish Independent learned have been paid €1,000 per day for each of the three days of filming to compensate them for projected loss of earnings. Most are also employed on the film to transport crew to the island daily.
Local woman Eileen Whelan, who owns the Skellig Mist cafe in Portmagee, said she has never seen so much activity in the 17 years since she opened her business. She has been feeding the troops over the past week – but catering duties were taken over yesterday by an outside company, who will feed cast and crew on the island for the three days of filming.
"They just wanted something hot and substantial every day," said Ms Whelan, who was the first woman to qualify as a pastry chef in Ireland.
A couple of months ago at a public meeting regarding south Kerry's designation as a Dark Sky Reserve, a representative from Failte Ireland said there was "something big" going to happen.
"It was only this week the penny dropped about what he meant," Ms Whelan added.
"I think in the long term it will attract a lot of tourists and sightseers. 'Star Wars' has its own fan club and some of them are fanatical and go to places that were used for filming."
The production team will remain in the area until August 1.