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Abu Dhabi to feel the force?

The new Star Wars film will be filmed in the UAE, sources claim

The seventh instalment of the Star Wars film franchise started filming this week, but the rumour mill has gone into overdrive with speculation that Abu Dhabi will be one of the locations used by director JJ Abrams to shoot the epic blockbuster.

Disney studios chairman Alan Horn, whose company recently bought the Star Wars franchise from creator George Lucas for $4bn, recently told The Hollywood Reporter filming had begun on the much anticipated film.

While production on the franchise has always been top secret, some websites have claimed that Cairo was the setting for the first round of shooting.

However, Jedi News – Europe’s biggest fan news website for all things Star Wars – claims Abu Dhabi is also set to feature in the film and production will move to the UAE soon.

A clear link to the UAE is evident in the fact that new director JJ Abrams, who also recently gave a new lease of life to the Star Trek franchise, owns production company Bad Robot, which oversaw Tom Cruise’s stuntwork atop the Burj Khalifa during 2011’s Mission Impossible IV: Ghose Protocol shoot.

Online sources also claim production company Lucasfilm has been in the UAE in recent months scouting for possible desert locations.

All this is purely speculation as Twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s movie production arm which is currently already busy with the upcoming shoot for the seventh instalment of the Fast and the Furious film franchise, has remained tight lipped on the speculation and hasn’t confirmed or denied anything.

That said, Morocco has also been mentioned as a possible location. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Arab world has featured in the film series, as Tunisia featured heavily in episodes I, II and IV.

We’ll just have to wait and see if the rumours prove to be true and Abu Dhabi does feel the force of Hollywood dollars rolling into the UAE and all the excitement that comes with it.

UPDATES:

April 10: Sources tell movie trade publication The Hollywood Reporter that Star Wars will begin shooting in Abu Dhabi in mid May for four weeks. It said the UAE shoot will recreate the desert planet Tatooine, which was the home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker. However, Disney refused to comment and so far has not revealed any locations, cast or story details.

April 16: Abu Dhabi government-owned newspaper The National printed photos of what it claims are the first images of the Star Wars set, which it says is located in the dunes near Qasr Al Sarab resort. Abu Dhabi's Twofour54's official line is still "no comment".

April 22: Walt Disney boss Alan Horn finally confirms filming has begun in Abu Dhabi. “We have to give it that ‘Star Wars’-ian look... So we need to go to different places that give us the right look and feel,” he said at a Bloomberg Business of Entertainment event in New York.

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Posted by: Mark Renton (in Jedi guise)

Since the story of Star Wars from 1 - 6 was essentially the Tragedy of Darth Vader, it's going to be difficult to reboot it as something else, although no doubt there will be plenty of spectacular CGI to take people's minds off that fact. As the evil empire was defeated at the end of episode 6 it will take a "Rocky" style plot device to return the former rebels to the underdog role...

Apparently it's been set about 30 years after episode 6 in order that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford can reappear and be the right age!

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