Bad weather halts Star Wars filming on Skellig Michael

It is the fastest selling item in gift shops in South Kerry, but yesterday the ‘Skellig Wars’ T-shirts were the only evidence the force had returned.




Weather conditions and sea swells dictated that Skellig Michael was not going to be accessible by boat for the film crew hoping to begin shooting Star Wars Episode VIII yesterday, with all filming postponed until today.

A crew of around 100 people and cast members, including Mark Hamill who will reprise his Luke Skywalker role, are expected to be on the boats due to leave Portmagee today at 7am.

Hamill’s son Nathan was spotted checking in to the Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville yesterday afternoon — no surprise as the actor’s three children accompanied him to Kerry last year also for filming.

Nathan Hamill, son of Mark Hamill, pictured at the Butler Arms Hotel on Monday ahead of filming of Star Wars on Skellig Michael. Picture: Don MacMonagle

A private jet landed at Kerry Airport at 10.30am yesterday and some time later, four limousines were seen exiting the airport.

Other crew members are staying in the newly refurbished Sea Lodge Hotel also in Waterville, while others will stay in the Ocean View holiday village in Portmagee, which has been booked out for the duration of filming with security men on duty around the clock.

Although the pier of the seaside village was a hive of activity with an increased security presence, the boats remained moored for yet another day in what has been one of the worst seasons recorded by the boat operators.

Security men protect the pier at Portmagee on Monday ahead of filming of Star Wars. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Across the narrow band of sea, a security crew was also stationed at Con O’Shea’s farm on Valentia Island where a marquee has been set up. Mr O’Shea is a retired lighthouse keeper who was stationed on Skellig Michael and his property has the only helipad on the island.

This will facilitate the limited number of helicopter flights, understood to be four per day, that will be allowed operate to and from the Unesco World Heritage Site during filming, carrying director Rian Johnson and the other key figures of the production team, who were spotted in Kerry earlier this month.

Just down the road from O’Shea’s farm, John O’Sullivan of the Skellig Experience visitor centre was busy answering questions from inquisitive tourists.

“People who are arriving in this area do seem to know a lot about it and September has been busy and there’s a great buzz around the place,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“They’re asking questions but the information we have is limited because anyone involved locally has signed confidentiality contracts but we know that what’s happening this week is geared for two years’ time and the release of Star Wars Episode VIII.”

Disney Lucasfilm had been in contact with the centre asking for permission to use its pontoon.

Skellig boats remain moored at the pier at Portmagee on Monday ahead of filming of Star Wars. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Mr O’Sullivan says that although the centre concentrates on the monastic settlement that gained Unesco World Heritage Site status, they will probably add a Star Wars wing because of the interest in the film.

“The ‘Skellig Wars’ T-shirts made by Declan Mulvaney in Killarney are flying out the door. We just can’t get enough of them. Every time we order more, they’re gone and it’s not teenagers who are buying them. It’s Star Wars fans in their 50s and 60s.”

Mr O’Sullivan says he hopes to get in contact with Disney about stocking official Star Wars merchandise in the future.

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