Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Jedi knights and storm troopers land in sleepy rural village as Star Wars comes to a remote corner of Ireland

Portmagee Pier, where crew members are leaving from to travel to Skellig Michael Island
Production crew and sets on Skellig Island
The Skellig

It's a remote outpost used to the roar of the Atlantic ocean and the cry of birds descending on it.

But the tiny island of Skellig Michael was yesterday transformed into a galaxy far, far away as filming on the eagerly anticipated new Star Wars got under way off the west coast of Ireland.

The Co Kerry pier of Portmagee was a hive of activity as film crews gathered to be transported 12 kilometres out into the Atlantic for the first day of filming under the strictest of security.

Mark Hamill, the original Luke Skywalker, is expected to be taken to Skellig Michael today as one of the cast members working on Star Wars: Episode VII.

A production clip board on the pier yesterday contained the names of Hamill's three children, Chelsea, Nathan and Griffin, who are accompanying their father who is filming on location at the UNESCO World Heritage site. So far, there have been no sightings of Harrison Ford.

At Portmagee yesterday, security personnel took up their posts on the pier at 6am even though it was closer to 8.45am before the first boats left for the island carrying crew members, catering staff and people employed by the production company to carry the equipment and props onto the island.

Director JJ Abrams was also on the island yesterday on the first day of filming.

About 1.5km away on Valentia Island, just across the bridge from Portmagee, Con O'Shea's farm, or 'location 2' as it has been called, has become a base for the film crew.

The choice of the O'Shea farm at Corabeag is no coincidence as it contains the only helipad on Valentia Island.

Mr O'Shea's father Patie is a retired lighthouse keeper and the helipad was built on his land to accommodate him for easy access to the Skellig.

Tents have also been erected on the land, where it is understood some of the workers are staying for the three days of filming.

A private jet landed at Kerry Airport at 10.30am with 16 more crew members and the film's entourage who were flown over from London.They were transported to Portmagee before boarding boats at lunchtime, which caused a flurry of excitement on the pier.

However, there was film related activity on the island all last week when the crew first moved into the area.

A photograph posted on social media that showed Mr Abrams posing with a local was removed at the request of the production company. Owners of local B&Bs, guesthouses and private houses where the production team is staying are all bound by confidentiality contracts.

So are the boatmen, understood to have been paid £800 per day for each of the three days of filming to compensate them for projected loss of earnings.

Most are also employed on the film to transport crew to the island daily.

Local woman Eileen Whelan who owns the Skellig Mist cafe in Portmagee said she has never seen so much activity in the village in the 17 years since she opened her business.

She has been feeding the troops over the past week but catering duties were taken over yesterday by an outside catering company, who will cater for cast and crew on the island for the three days of filming.

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