‘Star Wars’ crew returns to Skellig as weather calms

Skellig Michael, where public access has been restricted while filming on 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' takes place. Picture: Madeleine Weber

Filming for Star Wars: Episode VIII has begun on Skellig Michael with a break in the weather yesterday finally making it possible for the Disney Lucasfilm crew to access the island.

Boats left the pier in Portmagee, Co Kerry, after 7am in perfectly calm sea conditions while passenger boats remained moored— their owners compensated for loss of earnings.

Public access to the monastic settlement has been closed during filming; but boatmen, who are bound by confidentiality contracts, are being compensated.

The 13 boats licensed to carry passengers charge €60 per head but are only allowed land a maximum of 12 passengers each day between the start of May and September 30.

‘Star Wars’ crew returns to Skellig as weather calms

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

However, fears expressed by environmental groups regarding an infestation of rats on the island have added to the stress of the carriers transporting equipment and catering supplies.

Each package bound for the island has to be individually checked, repacked in boxes and signed-off on, to ensure no stowaway vermin make their way onboard.

The Department of Arts, which granted permission for the shoot last week, said strict environmental and ecological checks would be in place to ensure the filming does not impact negatively on the monastic site or its bird population.

There was a flurry of activity yesterday on the pontoon in Portmagee at around 4.30pm when one of the actors, believed to be playing R2-D2, got off a returning boat, with security men attempting to block him from the view of two waiting photographers.

‘Star Wars’ crew returns to Skellig as weather calms

One of the ‘Star Wars’ actors on the pier after filming yesterday. He is thought to be playing the role of R2D2. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Star Wars: Episode VIII director Rian Johnson and the film’s producer, Ram Bergman, were among a party of around 10 crew members, who were spotted dining in The Moorings restaurant in the village on Monday night.

The group had come in unannounced.

Cast and crew members flew into Kerry Airport on Monday morning by private jet from London before being transported to accommodation in Killarney, Waterville, and Portmagee.

A fleet of limousines left the airport shortly after 10.30am and some cast members are said to be staying at the five-star Aghadoe Heights Hotel near Killarney, with others staying in the Butler Arms and Sea Lodge Hotel in Waterville.

Filming was due to begin that day on the Unesco World Heritage Site but had to be cancelled due to rough seas.

‘Star Wars’ crew returns to Skellig as weather calms

A dolphin and her pup play by Skellig Micheal’s slipway. Extra care is being taken with the film crew’s cargo to prevent environmental disruption. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Among the cast members who are in Kerry is Mark Hamill, who will once again reprise his Luke Skywalker character.

The new film, which is due for release in two years, is also expected to include Oscar winner Benicio del Toro, Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, and Daisy Ridley.

Disney Lucasfilm shot some of the closing scenes for Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens last year on Skellig Michael.

The film is due for release in December.

It also emerged that during filming, Hamill had to be rescued after he slipped on the steps leading up to the monastic settlement.

‘Star Wars’ crew returns to Skellig as weather calms

Nathan Hamil’s Lavabear on Skellig Michael.

This did not put him off returning for the sequel with his son, Los Angeles-based artist Nathan Hamill, who is also capitalising on Skellig Michael to promote one of his cartoon character toys, Lavabear on his website.

Lavabear is photographed on his travels at some well- known landmarks, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field in Liverpool and outside the beehive huts on Skellig Michael.

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