New Star Wars movie shooting in Emirates
The rumours began swirling a long time ago – now the United Arab Emirates is finally acknowledging it is standing in for George Lucas's galaxy far, far away.
The next instalment of Star Wars is currently filming in the oil-rich Middle Eastern emirate, a media company backed by the Gulf federation's capital of Abu Dhabi has announced.
It was the first definitive word from the Middle East nation that filming had begun. Officials had previously refused to confirm any involvement with the seventh instalment of the galactic franchise, even after a Government-owned paper reported on the preparations.
The media company, known as twofour54, said director JJ Abrams and cast arrived in early May.
"We are extremely excited about being part of such a huge movie," said Paul Baker, executive director of twofour54.
"It's a good demonstration that we are well on the way to establishing a long-term production environment in Abu Dhabi," he added.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy described Abu Dhabi as "an incredible place to commence this journey" in the twofour54 statement.
More than 600 international and regional crew as well as lead and supporting cast members are in the Emirates for the shoot.
Star Wars: Episode VII is set for release in December 2015.