I'm thrilled the Force has finally awakened. Let's face it, during the last three prequels it was basically asleep, wooed into slumber by some atrocious casting, questionable characters, and CGI animators who were one crate over their daily Red Bull allowance. But all is well again, even if the new villain is the pouty dude from Girls, and you can't swing a light sabre without hitting a merchandising opportunity. The original Star Wars series was produced right here on Earth, and you might recognize some of the scenes should you find yourself wandering about:
Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine looks remarkably similar to Tunisia, and his home very much like the traditional Berber house known as the Sidi Driss Hotel. Open year-round, the hotel is located in the town of Matmata. Exteriors on the desert planet of Tatooine were shot in hundreds of kilometres away in the salt flats of the Star Wars-sounding Chott el Jerid.
Tikal National Park, Guatemala
Filmmakers outdid themselves finding a location for Yavin 4, a jungle moon housing the secret Rebel base in Episode IV: A New Hope. They selected one of the largest and most spectacular Mayan ruins in Central America, Tikal. Located in Northern Guatemala, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see in the region. Some of the temples can be seen in the movie, along with a landing Millennium Falcon.
Redwood National State Parks
One of my favourite scenes in the series is the speederbike chase in Return of the Jedi, where our heroes are chased through the giant trees on the forest moon of Endor. The scene was filmed among the giant redwoods of Six Rivers National Forest in California, and the Redwood National State Parks in northern California’s Humboldt County.
Located outside of Petaluma California is the world’s largest privately owned Star Wars collection, amassed over 37 years but someone who clearly is strong in the force. The former Lucas Film employee has all the memorabilia, toys, props and artefacts a jedi knight could want.
Comic-Con, San Diego
The mammoth gathering that is Comic-Con celebrates all things science fiction and fantasy. Star Wars is always represented, through panel appearances by its stars, fans and collectors. Owners of the franchise use the 4-day event to announce news about the ever-expanding Star Wars commercial empire.
Palace of Caserta, Italy
In Episodes 1 and 2, you’re probably thinking: where did they film Queen Amidala’s magnificent Threed Royal Palace? The answer is the Palace of Caserta, the largest royal palace in Italy built in the 1700’s, boasting over 1000 rooms, sprawling gardens, and plenty of romantic escapes for Star(Wars)-crossed lovers. Staying in Italy, Anakin and Padmé were married on the terrace of Lake Como’s Villa del Balbianello.
Star Wars Weekends, Disney World
Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, located within Disney World, used to offer special Star Wars themed weekends. Before you throw a Kylo Ren tantrum, rejoice in the fact that you can now experience all new Star Wars experiences, going behind the scenes on the making of The Force Awakens, and undertake Jedi Training. Work is underway on a new 14 acre Star Wars themed "land" within Disney World. Did I mention you will find merchandising?
Death Valley National Park, California
3CPO and R2D2 wander lost in the desert in A New Hope. The scene was supposed to be filmed in Tunisia, but production hiccups brought our lovable droids back to California’s Death Valley, in particular the impressive sand dunes at Stovepipe Wells.
The Empire Strikes Back, the best film in the first series, opens in snow and ice. The scenes were filmed in around the town of Finse, located between Oslo and Bergen, where crews had to battle extreme temperatures, and the worst storm in 50 years. Hey, nobody said filming on the frozen planet of Hoth would be easy.
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After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.