The posters say it best: “Episode VIII: A long time ago on a headland far, far away...”
A piece of West Cork will be forever be in a galaxy far, far away after beautiful Brow Head near Crookhaven became the latest location for the Star Wars series, entrancing locals who, since Monday evening, have been on starwatch amid expectations that Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, and other actors in the sci-fi epic are in the area.
The brow was certainly furrowed yesterday as the West Cork summer weather continued to baffle and confound, going from blue sky and sunshine to a carpet of grey and soggy drizzle. Like the Force, it surrounded us all.
In a galaxy not a million miles away — Goleen, to be exact — the welcoming tone had already been set. The window of Denny O’Meara’s Bar has been turned into a display guaranteed to appeal to any Star Wars fan.
There’s a model landspeeder, two Stormtroopers — one big, one small, both equally bad shots — a Darth Vader the size of a toddler brandishing a red lightsaber, a Millennium Falcon dangling from a string, and an Anakin Skywalker action figure holding a small sign reading: “Give us a job Mr Johnson! We could be there in six minutes... Come on buddy! We’re old hands!”
It seems the direct appeal to director Rian Johnson has so far gone unheeded, but people on the Mizen peninsula still live in hope. Sherry, who works in O’Meara’s, said Eileen O’Meara, daughter of the pub’s owner, had put together the window display, while local artists Angelique Muller and Magda O’Driscoll had designed the special Brow Head/Star Wars t-shirts and posters, respectively, examples of which adorned the front of the bar.
“They all love it,” Sherry said of the reaction to the filming just a few kilometres down the coast, “but they’re all staying in Crookhaven.”
Since Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, Ridley, who plays Rey, et al arrived at Cork Airport on Monday from Belfast, all the preparations that had been undertaken on Brow Head in recent weeks built to a culmination. Due to confidentiality agreements, many local people were reluctant to go into details but it is estimated that as many as 200 cast and crew could have been staying in the Crookhaven area on Monday and Tuesday night. It is understood more than 50 of those are staying in privately owned chalets close to the Barleycove Beach Hotel, as well as in B&Bs, with others in Goleen and in Schull.
Weather permitting, it might prove a short stay, with speculation that cast members could be moving on to Kerry today or tomorrow. Then again, once you’ve waited this long for Jedi to arrive, who cares if it’s a close encounter of a brief kind.
Dermot O’Sullivan of O’Sullivan’s bar and shop has certainly put on a welcome, with the shop window also featuring a Stormtrooper mask and another of Angelique Muller’s t-shirts, this one declaring ‘The Force is with you in West Cork’.
“They’ve been flying out the door,” Dermot said, displaying a personalised shirt with the bar’s name on the back and a picture of Darth Vader on the front, holding a pint and bearing the legend ‘Fancy some dark stuff’.
“I don’t think she was expecting the demand we have been having.”
He said filming appeared to continue on Brow Head on Monday until late, and that locals had yet to spot any of the stars. However, people in the area were delighted with the influx of crew, while security staff and scaffolders have been in the area for a number of weeks preparing the ground for shooting.
In Jorg’s Goldsmith Studio just up the street in the village, artist Jorg Uschkamp and Anne Barry have been engaging with the galactic theme with a new range of jewellery based on stars, such as the star garnet ring, which must weigh about the same as an Imperial blaster, and the Crookhaven star brooch.
Anne admitted that she hasn’t seen any of the Star Wars films, but it hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for this week’s action.
“I’m kind of easygoing about it but it’s fantastic that it’s happening,” she said, adding that the real bonus for the area could be after the film is released at the end of next year. “It could be a year or more before people come here to see where it was shot.”
There was a visible security presence in the area as well as gardaí monitoring the one access road up to Brow Head, while a crew car parking and catering area was set in a field on the road into Crookhaven. No one was giving much away, including the security man who answered “7,142” when asked how many people were on the headland yesterday.
Some people speculated that it was actually a stunt which was being shot on Brow Head, and that it was a case of “maybe, maybe not” as to whether the stars were all the way down the headland, perched on the tip of the rocks. From a distance it was possible to make out elaborate scaffolds with what could have been a zip line or pulley between them, artfully built into the edge of the rocks.
Across on the drive to Mizen Head, some people were taking advantage of the early afternoon sunshine to peer across with binoculars, among them Swedish holidaymakers Sarah Berqvist and Eva Dalenstam.
The sisters are touring around the West Cork coast with their parents, but their reaction to being told that Star Wars was being filmed nearby was priceless.
“No, no kidding,” Sarah exclaimed, admitting that while they had read that cast members had arrived, they never believed they would get so close to the action.
“We almost fell out of the sofa yesterday when we heard that they are here,” said Sarah, an environmental engineer from Stockholm. They both said they had family members at home who are huge Star Wars fans.
“They are going to be so jealous,” Eva said with a grin. “We are visiting Luke Skywalker.”
Was Luke actually there?
It seems he was, with Irish Examiner photographer and part-time Jedi Dan Linehan spotting Mark Hamill out of the corner of his eye driving through Goleen in the direction of Schull shortly before 5pm, by which time the weather had well and truly broken. Maybe he was scoping out O’Meara’s for a pint later on, before he headed on to the Liss Ard estate near Skibbereen, a place that even has its very own Sky Garden.
He, and the rest off the Star Wars team can rest assured that, on this particular galactic headland, they are very, very welcome.
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