5 Amazing 'Star Wars' Locations (With Horrible Real-Life Epilogues)
Despite the fact that it's mostly filthy and usually under the control of an evil wizard's fascist regime, a lot of us wish that we could step inside the Star Wars universe. After all, who wouldn't want to wield a lightsaber, ride a speeder bike, or get a bartending job at a Mos Espa cantina purely to pee in Watto's iced tea?
Amazingly, there is a way you can visit the world of Star Wars – one that doesn't involve handing over a single dime to Disney. It turns out that a lot of real-world locations were used in the creation of that galaxy far, far, away. Unfortunately, not unlike anyone with the last name "Skywalker," life has been pretty hard on some of these iconic destinations, such as how …
The Forest Moon Of Endor Was Deforested
The Forest Moon of Endor is home to the adorable Ewoks and also several species of bloodthirsty monsters that never showed up in Return of the Jedi for some reason. Instead of an ice planet, or a desert planet, or a planet full of dive bars and '50s diners, Endor, perhaps not coincidentally, is topographically identical to the Northern California woods that were within driving distance of George Lucas' home.
Originally, the production hoped to shoot in Muir Woods National Monument, just north of San Francisco, but since Stormtroopers use blasters instead of T-shirt cannons, the crew needed to employ pyrotechnics for several sequences, which was a "deal killer." Some scenes ended up being shot in a state park in Humboldt county, where fans are still able to visit to this day, presumably while carrying a boombox blasting "Yub Nub" at full volume the entire time.
But the "majority" of filming took place on "inaccessible lands owned by the Miller-Rellim Redwood Company." Yeah, since Lucas and company were obviously intent on having a bunch of explosions in their epic final battle, the only real option was to shoot on private property owned by a logging company where the crew "could do anything they wanted" with "no permits were needed."
While the deal was made under the production's fake name, Blue Harvest (an alleged horror movie that inexplicably wanted to film giant action scenes in the middle of a sea of redwoods), locals soon got wise when they noticed Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford hanging around town. Regrettably, for fans of Star Wars and/or trees, the Ewok's woodland sanctuary was decimated after filming wrapped since the loggers had already "scheduled to clear-cut the area" before the deal with Lucas was made. It's unclear whether or not this behind-the-scenes story inspired the Marvel comic in which the Ewoks are terrorized by alien tree-cutters.
Luke's Peaceful Jedi Island Is Full Of Vomiting Tourists
When Luke Skywalker went full space-Salinger prior to the events of The Force Awakens, he headed straight to Ahch-To, the distant planet full of adorable porgs, frog nuns, and the lactating sea creature that stole America's hearts. Not to mention that ancient tree full of the sacred Jedi texts (which, in retrospect, seems like the worst possible place to store ultra-rare books) and also the precarious stone steps, which we're guessing most Jedi just Force-jumped over to save time.
The real-life location, Skellig Michael, is in County Kerry, Ireland – and despite the fact that it's practically as remote as its fictional counterpart, this spot has predictably attracted a wave of Star Wars tourists.
Skellig Michael and its ancient monastic ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visitors are meant to be limited to "11,100 people annually." But in 2018, the year after The Last Jedi came out, "nearly 17,000" people toured the island. And this has come with some problems beyond simply tipsy fans loudly complaining about Snoke in the local pub.
Locals have expressed concern that visitors to the island are now "more interested in its Hollywood depiction rather than its ancient history." Also, since there are no toilets on the island, there have been reports of people peeing wherever they like, to the horror of other tourists and invisible Force ghosts. Skellig Michael was closed to the public in the summer of 2020 because the pandemic was incompatible with tourism that regularly encompassed people "panting" as they climbed the steps, and "vomiting in boats." Most recently, the island has been "under attack by drones," (that's drones, not clones) due to fans trying to "capture dramatic footage," leading preservationists to now consider making the area a no-fly zone. Which, to be fair, is how Luke would have wanted it too.
Mustafar’s Volcano is Sliding Into the Sea
Mustafar is, of course, the volcano planet where Darth Vader built his spooky castle, either as a symbolic tribute to his descent to the Dark Side or because the real estate there is simply cheap as hell. But it's most fondly remembered as the setting of Anakin and Obi-Wan's fateful duel in Revenge of the Sith.
Rather than risk burning Ewan McGregor beyond recognition, this was shot on a soundstage. Still, some real-life filming was utilized in the scene. Mount Etna, located in Sicily, coincidentally erupted in 2002 during the making of the movie. When Lucas saw the news reports on TV, he remarked that "the footage is extraordinary," so he sent a camera crew, who "rushed off to Italy" and filmed lava explosions for an entire week.
Sadly, the volcano that informed much of Mustafar is apparently sliding into the sea, with scientists warning people of a "potentially disastrous collapse" that could "cause a tsunami." This is certainly worrying for future generations, who may all have to attain some "high ground."
“Tatooine” Was A Rumored Isis Hangout
Perhaps the most iconic location in the entire Star Wars saga (with the possible exception of Chewie's dad's adults-only VR lounge) is Tatooine, and especially the Lars Homestead -- the desert-dwelling where Luke spent his awkward teenage years, only to have his lightsaber returned there by Rey decades later, presumably trapping his soul in his uncle's crappy farm for all eternity.
Luke's old home and many other landmarks first seen in A New Hope were filmed in Tunisia, with many original props simply abandoned in the desert for some reason – although the exterior of Lars' farm had to be restored by fans in 2012.
In 2015, CNN reported that Tataouine, the city in the East of the country "where Lucas filmed three installments of his series," had become a "way-station for jihadists" after "three men allegedly heading to Libya to join a terrorist network were arrested in the town earlier in the year." Which became a big public relations problem, since the National Office of Tunisian Tourism had recently produced a promotional video featuring Star Wars characters dancing to Pharrell's "Happy."
But the CNN report was "inaccurate" – while Lucas had taken the name "Tataouine" and appropriated it for his outer space fantasy, the actual Star Wars sets were located in the Eastern part of the country, which had "not seen any unrest." Unless you count electronic dance music festivals as "unrest."
Hopefully, season two of Obi-Wan Kenobi will just be seven hours of the Jedi Knight getting super-into EDM.
Yavin IV's Temple Was Damaged In An "End Of The World Party"
Yavin IV – it's the planet housing the secret Rebel base in A New Hope, and the site of the killer afterparty we're assuming went down following the destruction of the Death Star. We're first introduced to the planet with a shot of the Millennium Falcon landing in the rainforest while being tracked by a dude who is seemingly the Rebel Alliance's resident speed trap traffic cop.
Those moments were filmed "from the top of a Mayan temple in the ancient city of Tikal in northern Guatemala." Which means that children are able to faithfully recreate this scene, featuring everyone's 578th favorite Star Wars character.
Tikal was also the site of a big "end of the world" party in December 2012, back when everybody thought that the end of the Mayan calendar would somehow validate the events of a Roland Emmerich movie. Probably because they didn't think that tomorrow would arrive, and with it any consequences, partiers ended up causing "irreparable" damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Top Image: Lucasfilm