The new trilogy of Star Wars films have made it a point to be as practical as possible (when they can afford to be). Not only does this mean creating an actual working BB-8 robot and advanced makeup effects for aliens, but several scenes were shot on location rather than being created on a soundstage. The planet Jakku, for instance, was filmed in the Rub al Khali desert near Abu Dhabi. Star Wars: The Last Jedi continued this tradition by filming the pivotal scenes on Ahch-To at Ireland's Skellig Michael, which was way better than just using a green screen, according to Rian Johnson.
I'm sure it would have been more economical, but it was so worth it to do it the way we did it. We got a feel, we got a vibe, we got a grounded kind of look that we never could have gotten on the green screen. I guess I should add that I was just trolloping up the stairs without a pack on my back. All of our great Irish crew, who acted as sherpas carting our equipment up the stairs, it was much more difficult for them. I don't want to be cavalier about the stairs.
Star Wars fans definitely remember the moment when Rey flew to a mysterious planet to find an isolated Luke Skywalker living in an abandoned Jedi temple amongst a series of beautiful islands. That planet is called Ahch-To, and it's lush greenery and ocean are about as real as it can get. The scenes on Ahch-To were shot at Ireland's UNESCO world heritage site Skellig Michael, rather than in front of some green screen. Director Rian Johnson admits to The Hollywood Reporter that it would have been way cheaper to just stick to a soundstage, but it was "so worth it" to film on location. The look and vibe of Skellig Michael could never have been recreated on green screen. Judging from the shots we've seen so far, it's a safe bet they made the right call.
Suspended 700 feet above the surf sits the vacant Jedi village home only to Luke Skywalker and, of course, the porgs. The village was designed by Oscar-winning production designer Rick Heinrich, but filming at Skellig Michael was not without its challenges. The steep hillsides meant that cast and crew had to climb 600 steps just to get to work in the morning. The Irish crew helped out immensely with lugging equipment up and down the steps every day. But hey, it's worth it to get those beautiful landscape shots right?