Sunday 4 December 2016

Abrams: 'I can't believe they let us shoot on Skellig'

Ciara Treacy

Published 05/01/2016 | 02:30

The Star Wars crew on Skellig Michael
The Star Wars crew on Skellig Michael
Director JJ Abrams on Skellig Michael
The Star Wars crew on Skellig Michael
The Star Wars crew approach Skellig Michael

The director of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' has revealed his surprise at being allowed to film on Skellig Michael, which he described as "so beautiful".

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As part of an initiative to bring fans of the franchise to Ireland, JJ Abrams and other crew members spoke of their reasons for filming scenes on the island.

Tourism Ireland commissioned Star Wars studio Lucasfilm to create a short video of interviews with the crew, which was launched yesterday as part of phase two of its Force Awakens campaign.

According to senior film crew members, the island off the coast of Co Kerry caught their attention when production designer Rick Carter stumbled across a picture of the area. He sent it to Abrams, who was looking for a location that looked suitably historic and realistic.

"I can't believe they let us shoot there, it was so beautiful," Abrams said in the clip, which was made during the location shoot in 2014.

"When I saw Star Wars for the first time, it was all practical and real.

"You knew it when you saw the movie, so I felt that the standard had to be authenticity, the standard had to be reality."

Mr Carter said the places featured in the film have a specific relationship to the characters found in them.

"We wanted to make sure that wherever we went in this movie, you always felt you were really there," he said.

"With Star Wars what is so great is that places matter. They're actually really related to who the characters are."

According to supervising location manager Martin Joy, the film-makers needed a location for the hotly anticipated film that looked as if it was from another time.

"We were just blown away by it, it's an extraordinary place," he said in reference to the Co Kerry island. "It certainly fed into our Star Wars universe."

Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys, and chief executive of the Irish Film Board James Hickey also contributed to the video.

It follows phase one of Tourism Ireland's Star Wars campaign, unveiled last month, which focused on social media and on a dedicated page on its website.

The video will be shared via social media in 14 different markets including Britain, the US, Australia and South Africa to target Tourism Ireland's digital audience of more than 600 million people worldwide.

Speaking at its launch, Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe said: "'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' has been the most anticipated and publicity-generating movie for years.

"The fact that Skellig Michael features in all its glory brings the dramatic scenery of Co Kerry and the broader Wild Atlantic Way to an audience of potentially hundreds of millions of people. By the end of November 2015, we had surpassed our best ever year on record for the number of overseas visitors.

"We are determined to build on that, recognising the role tourism has to play in strengthening our economic recovery.

"Tourism Ireland's phase two of its Star Wars campaign will further promote Ireland's tourism offering, encouraging even more people to travel to Ireland in 2016 and beyond."

Tourism Ireland hopes to maximise on findings that 35pc of people are influenced in their choice of travel destination by what they see in film and TV: "'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' has been breaking box office records around the world, bringing the magnificent scenery of Skellig Michael and the Wild Atlantic Way to the attention of millions of people everywhere," said Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons.

"Tourism Ireland is taking every opportunity to capitalise on the publicity around the film, to help whet people's appetites to come and visit."

Irish Independent

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