Star Wars in Kerry: The force is strong with this one...

Star Wars Episode VII director, J.J. Abrams out for a stroll in Kerry
Star Wars Episode VII director, J.J. Abrams out for a stroll in Kerry

The fact that Star Wars director JJ Abrams spent three days in south Kerry filming is prompting hopes that Skellig Michael may have more exposure in the movie than had initially been expected.

While the plot of Stars Wars: Episode VII remains secret, the feeling is that Skellig Michael, an awe-inspiring rock rising 200m out of the Atlantic, will appear for a few minutes at least, in the eagerly anticipated film.

The three-day shoot on the Unesco world heritage site finished yesterday and the latest Star Wars production is due for release in December 2015.

Mr Abrams flew into Kerry on Monday with about 15 key members of the cast and crew who were driven to Portmagee in a fleet of cars. They stayed in a hotel in Waterville, a village with close links to the late silent screen legend Charlie Chaplin, who holidayed there in the 1960s.

The 48-year-old director, who specialises in action, drama and science fiction movies, supervised operations on Skellig and is said to have been impressed with the rock as a spectacular backdrop.

He was accompanied by actor Mark Hamill, 62, star of the original series, who is reprising his role of Luke Skywalker.

Mark Hamill who plays Luke Skywalker in Waterville, Co. Kerry

Also there was Daisy Ridley, 22, a relatively unknown British TV and film actress who could well be playing Luke Skywalker’s niece.

Star Wars filming started earlier this year and moved to Abu Dhabi in May where massive sets were built in a desert location, including a shuttle-like spacecraft. Production later moved to Pinewood Studios, in the UK.

Meanwhile, boatmen who provide a ferry service from Portmagee will resume normal business today, having been contracted by the film company to take cast and crew to Skellig from Monday to Wednesday, for a reported fee of €1,000 per boat per day.

The Office of Public Works (OPW), the State body responsible for Skellig, has agreed to allow the boats run extra trips for tourists who had not been allowed on the island during filming.

While the local tourism industry has welcomed Star Wars, controversy continues arising from the decision to close off the island and to impose a navy-controlled exclusion zone for 3km around it during filming.

Former OPW director Michael Gibbons said allowing the film crew onto Skellig was an example of stroke politics and was in breach of Unesco rules.

He also said the creation of an exclusion zone to keep Irish citizens away while filming was taking place was disgraceful. He attacked the OPW for having what he described as a “culture of secrecy’’ surrounding Skellig over the past 30 years.

“This is a public property managed [by the OPW] on behalf of the Irish people. The manner in which this [permission to film] has been done is all wrong,’’ Mr Gibbons, an archaeologist, told Radio Kerry.

Unesco has confirmed it is seeking information from state agencies on the granting of approval for filming.

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