The appearance of the island indrew a spontaneous round of applause from the audience at the Killarney Cineplex, where the movie was given one of its first viewings in The Kingdom. The preview was a special thank you from the filmmakers to the people of Co Kerry for the use of their island and for hosting the shoot.
And the film captures the rock in all its splendour, giving magnificent views of The Wailing Woman, Christ’s Saddle, and the monastery, as well as detailing the 100 stone steps built by monks on the hostile terrain that lies in splendid isolation more than 11km from the mainland in the Atlantic.
A dull and wet Wednesday afternoon in the tourist town was lifted by the magic of the movies as the red carpet was rolled out by hosts Killarney Chamber for an invited audience.
This included boatmen who had ferried cast and crew to the island and local members of the crew who ensured their safety while on the sixth century monastic settlement.
Also in the audience were guesthouse and B&B owners, caterers, and anyone involved who had been sworn to secrecy throughout the three days of filming in July 2014 and again in September this year.
It’s understood Skellig Michael will also feature in the opening scenes ofbut the filmmakers’ love affair with Kerry doesn’t end there.
They’re due back next year this time to west Kerry, where it’s thought the Dingle Peninsula will provide the backdrop for the epic.
Former arts minister and local TD Jimmy Deenihan revealed he didn’t even let Taoiseach Enda Kenny know until he had secured an deal with Disney and LucasFilm that the Unesco World Heritage Site would be used.
He said secrecy was key to sealing the deal but, unfortunately, he was removed from the ministry in a Cabinet reshuffle, just one week before filming began.
It was his party colleague and successor Heather Humphreys who got to visit the film crew on Skellig Michael. However, yesterday, the diaspora minister was singled out for special mention by Naoise Barry of Pinewood Ireland, formerly film commissioner for the Irish Film Board.
He said it was Mr Deenihan who insured Ireland, and Kerry in particular, had played its part in the film.
Boatman Des O’Connell revealed what it was like working under secrecy and said it was strictly on a need-to-know basis.
“Conditions sometimes were a bit tricky and the final day coming home was quite rough and a few of them got a little bit wet, to put it mildly,” Mr O’Connell said. “But I think once they realised we knew what we were doing, they trusted us.
“At first they were very guarded with us but then they realised we weren’t talking to [the media] and they relaxed and trusted us.”
Yesterday’s premiere was a proud day for Sean Kennedy, 11, from Portmagee, who entertained Mark Hammill in his parents’ bar and restaurant The Moorings, where the star poured his own pint.
“We played music for him and sang songs for him and got his autograph. He wrote ‘To Sean. Forcefully yours’,” Sean said.
However, in true Portmagee fashion, Sean knows how to keep a secret. He said that when he goes to school he won’t reveal the plot to his friends, no matter how much they beg.