By Shane McGinley
Speculation had been mounting over the last few weeks
Hollywood studio Walt Disney has confirmed filming of the seventh instalment of the Star Wars movie franchise has begun in Abu Dhabi, it was reported on Tuesday.
Speaking at a Bloomberg Business of Entertainment event in New York, Alan Horn, chairman of the company’s film division, which bought the franchise in 2012 for $4bn, confirmed long-standing rumours that filming had begun in the desert dunes outside the UAE capital.
“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.
The rumour went into overdrive earlier this month when Jedi News – Europe’s biggest fan news website for all things Star Wars – claimed Abu Dhabi was to be one of the locations featured in the new movie.
This was backed up by 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 claimed production company Lucasfilm had been in the UAE in recent months scouting for possible desert locations.
On April 10, unnamed sources told trade publication The Hollywood Reporter that Abu Dhabi would be a location and the UAE shoot would recreate the desert planet Tatooine, which was the home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
Six days later, the strongest confirmation came when Abu Dhabi government-owned newspaper The National printed photos of what it claimed were the first images of the Star Wars set in the Abu Dhabi desert near the Qasr Al Sarab resort.
Despite the confirmation by Disney, Abu Dhabi’s movie production arm Twofour54 continues to stay silent on the matter and its standard response to queries is still “no comment”.
The movie is due to be released in December 2015.