With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, it’s easy to forget that both Lucasfilm and Disney have some pretty lofty plans for the franchise in the coming years. Now, one of those extended projects is becoming a reality as the studio begins to lock down filming locations in exotic parts of the world.
Initially, when reports came out that Lucasfilm had struck a deal with the Irish government to return to film on the unpopulated island of Skellig Michael, many assumed that it was so that director J.J. Abrams could regroup the cast and crew of “Episode 7” for reshoots. However, Entertainment Weekly was able to confirm that Abrams’ project is locked, loaded and ready for its Dec. 18 premiere. Instead, the upcoming movie trilogy is simply hoping to return to one of its previous filming locations to shoot scenes in Rain Johnson’s 2017 follow-up, the yet untitled “Star Wars: Episode 8.”
It’s unclear whether returning to the picturesque Irish island means that the plot of Episode 8 will see characters return to a previous location that will be established in “The Force Awakens.” However, given what a difficult task it is to secure filming rights to this particular part of Ireland, odds are good that Johnson has some pretty important plans laid out for the setting in the upcoming sequel.
Skellig Michael is an island off Ireland’s Southwest coastline. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the land was labeled a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996, thanks to its ecology and bird life. The country’s Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht agreed that Lucasfilm is only able to film there under the supervision of the country’s National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Monuments Service, who will have representatives on set to ensure that no permanent damage is done to the island or its wildlife.
“Sceilg Mhichíl is one of our most dramatic and beautiful islands and it is very easy to understand why its stunning scenery has caught the attention of the makers of one of the world’s biggest film franchises,” said Irish government arts minister Heather Humphreys in a statement. “In considering Lucasfilm’s request to carry out limited filming on Sceilg Mhichíl this month, I have balanced the positive benefit it will reap for the Irish film industry and the South Kerry region with the need to ensure that the island’s unique environment and wildlife is fully protected.”
Unfortunately, the filming location won’t yield any potential spoilers until fans learn what director J.J. Abrams has planned for the location in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Johnson’s “Star Wars: Episode 8” is scheduled to hit theaters on May 26, 2017.