Five things to expect when ‘Star Wars’ returns to the UK

What effect will the British Isles have on the new 'Star Wars' movie?


It was announced last week that Disney’s upcoming ‘Star Wars’ movie – the first of an intended trilogy – is to be shot in Britain. But what effect will this development have on the ‘Star Wars’ series, and on the British film industry? Tom Huddleston takes a few semi-educated guesses as to what to expect…

As ‘Star Wars’ producer Kathleen Kennedy has affirmed, the decision to shoot in Britain marks a back to basics approach, returning the films to their scruffy ’70s roots. The UK (and, more specifically, Elstree Studios just outside London) is the series’ spiritual home: the original trilogy were all shot there between 1977 and 1983. Although Lucas brought his team back for bits of the prequels in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we like to think that the decision to shift base to Australia was one of the reasons those films went so far off the rails.

But now the team will return to the UK (it hasn’t been announced exactly where; Pinewood is assumed), and although technology may have moved on, in many respects they’ll find that little has changed: our studios are still vast concrete monstrosities, our gaffers still demand regular tea breaks and our tabloids are still the most – ahem – ‘investigative’ in the world. Let’s hope the films can follow suit and recapture the bolshy analogue insouciance of the original series.

The Sun reports that some scenes for the new ‘Star Wars’ will be shot on location on islands in Scotland. While confirmation has been slow in coming, we reckon that the desolate Hebridean landscape could make for an impressively alien and unforgiving backdrop (once they’ve digitally deleted the herds of marauding haggis).

Add the fact that several recent blockbusters – including troubled Brad Pitt vehicle ‘World War Z’ – have been based in Glasgow, and the prospect that the ‘Star Wars’ gang might avoid London’s better-known studios in favour of cheaper northern pastures does raise its head. They’ll have to change his name to CU, 3PO (and other terrible Scots puns…).

A noteworthy outcome of the ‘Star Wars’ series’ longstanding links to the UK was the acting talent on show: not just iconic British character actors like Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing, but all those recognisable faces from TV and adverts, like ‘Grange Hill’ villain Michael ‘Mr Bronson’ Sheard’s appearance as the doomed Admiral Ozzel in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ or the frightfully demure Celia Imrie popping up as a random spaceship pilot in ‘The Phantom Menace’.

With every jobbing actor in these isles currently hassling their agents for even the tiniest bit-part, expect the background of every shot to be populated by a rogue’s gallery of film, TV and stage stars with blasters in their holsters and putty on their foreheads.

Along with all that stellar acting talent, the British film industry is also famous for behind the scenes expertise: those megabudget blockbusters don’t pitch up here purely for the sunny climate and the friendly atmosphere, you know.

In this age of the DVD documentary, the battles between Hollywood directors and British crews have become legendary. The impenetrable accents! The union-mandated working hours! The constant use of the word ‘guv’! But so have their mutual respect, as our gaffers, grips, best boys and lighting techs go beyond the call of duty to create some of the most memorable sets, costumes and practical effects the film world has to offer.

Our manufacturing sector may be faltering, our economy may be on the skids and our reputation as a global power may be all shot to hell, but by Jove, we still make the best lightsabers.

The new ‘Star Wars’ film has already been used as a political football, as committed Han Solo fan (really? Not Palpatine?) George Osborne trumpets Lucasfilm’s return to the UK as a vindication of his plan to offer generous tax breaks to big Hollywood productions. Expect the next few years to be a whirlwind of awkward photo ops, ribbon cuttings and dinners at Number Ten, as our elected overlords attempt to prove they’re down with the kids by cuddling up to a Wookiee or mispronouncing ‘Tatooine’ in the Houses of Parliament.

And just to rub salt in the wound, the tabloids will no doubt respond with some of the most face-slappingly awful headlines imaginable. Here’s a few to get them going: ‘Cam Solo!’ ‘A Star is Os-borne!’ ‘Pickles the Hutt!’ ‘Ed Cantina-band!’ Okay, we’ll stop now…

The first of the new ‘Star Wars’ films is expected to reach cinemas in 2015.

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