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It's been a long time since Mark Hamill filmed the original Star Wars: A New Hope. A lot has happened to the actor since then, but there's one thing he remembers about filming that movie that came back while making the newest entry in the saga. Hamill says the desert of Tunisia and the Island of Skellig Michael have something in common. In both places, you can actually forget you're making a movie, as the environments were both so foreign to him that he really felt like he was in a galaxy, far, far away. According to Hamill...
I remember, I had this feeling that rushed over me when I was at the top of Skellig Michael [Island], because the first thing we did on the original Star Wars, before Carrie [Fisher] came over or Harrison [Ford] came over. I went with Sir Alec [Guinness] and Anthony [Daniels] and Kenny Baker --- the two droids --- and we went and we did the desert scenes in Tunisia. We were out on the salt flats, which was 360 degrees of horizon, because it was built over- nothing grows there, because there was salt water underneath, and in between shots if I turned away and had the crew to my back, you could look out and in this unearthly terrain and the robots by your side and the floating car and the stand, and you're in this outfit... It was very easy to just be transported and really feel like you were in a galaxy far, far away. It was just --- y'know, I got the chills.
While Mark Hamill filmed two more Star Wars movies after the first, which were also set in unique locations, he tells JOE that those movies never gave him that same feeling of being someplace else. They were environments he was familiar with, even if he'd never been in that particular place before. However, the wide-open desert, and the view from the top of Skellig Michael, were unlike anything he'd seen before...
And I never had that feeling again, until --- not in Empire, when we went to Norway, it was brutally cold, but snow is snow, I've seen it before. In Jedi, we went to the Redwood forest [of northern California], and again, gorgeous, but again, it was something that I was familiar with. Skellig, you're up at the top, and I didn't expect this to happen but I was sort of off to myself, and it was just at sunset, and there was the craggy rocks coming up, and I had that same feeling: 'Oh my gosh, this is like being in another world.'
In the age of digital effects, it's easy to create an alien world on a movie screen. However, since so much of that is added in post-production, it makes it harder for the actors themselves to believe that they're really on another planet, as they never see much of what ends up on screen during filming. Apparently, the trick is just to find those places in the world that are so unlike what the actors are used to, that they feel truly alien. If Star Wars: A New Hope had never been able to convince its audience that they were seeing another galaxy, it's unlikely the franchise would have captured the imaginations of so many people. If Star Wars: The Last Jedi is able to make Star Wars fans feel the way they did when they saw A New Hope for the first time, then the new film could be something truly special.
We'll find out when we finally get to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi when it arrives December 15.