Star Wars legend Mark Hamill records message for Donegal locals
Mark Hamill had a special message for Ireland as Disney hosted special screenings for Co Donegal residents who helped transform some of the island's best known beauty spots into a galaxy far, far away.
Hamill's Luke Skywalker and co-star Daisy Ridley character Rey appeared in scenes in the Last Jedi that were shot on Ireland's rugged Atlantic coastline.
Those who welcomed and helped the cast and crew on locations that spanned the rocky island of Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry to Ireland's most northerly point, at Malin Head in Co Donegal, were invited to exclusive screenings of The Last Jedi in the early hours of Thursday.
And before the movie started, Hamill said his own thank you in a specially pre-recorded message.
"I can't wait to come back to a country that made me feel like a member of the family," he said.
"So may the force be with you all and pour a pint of Guinness for me, will you."
At Century Cinemas in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, two Stormtroopers from a costuming club were waiting to greet more than 200 locals who were involved in the shoot at Malin Head.
The guests were treated to champagne and canapes, courtesy of Donegal County Council, before settling down for their own private showing.
Joe and Geraldine Divers are Ireland's most northerly residents. Their farmland at Malin Head was used as the film crew's base camp.
"I enjoyed the film," said Mr Divers after the show.
"I was totally unaware and had no history of Star Wars so when they all arrived it was surreal and to be here tonight and to see the magnitude of the galaxy and how small Malin Head is, it's absolutely amazing."
Mrs Divers said she spotted the landscape she knows so well at different points in the film.
"It's amazing to see it now and it's lovely to have been part of it," she said.
The long-awaited release of the latest episode in the Star Wars saga meant that tradesmen, caterers and other local business owners were finally freed from secrecy agreements that prevented them talking about their experiences.
Scaffolding expert Eddie Gallen and his team built the Millennium Falcon on one of Malin Point's rocky cliff edges.
"Until we saw it finished we only knew then what it was, because everything was done piece by piece," he said.
"When the decorators finally came in and did the decorations and added on the different little gadgets, simple wee things, it turned into a space ship overnight."
Bren Whelan runs a climbing company in Malin Head. His rope skills were used to safely transport Hamill and Ridley on and off rugged outcrops to shoot their scenes.
"This was certainly one of the coolest crews out there," he said.
"Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley were brilliant - really, really nice people, so easy to work for and work with.
"It was really a dream job for someone who works at Malin Head all the time - very unusual and very exciting too."
Dominic McDermott served coffee and tea on set from his mobile refreshment bar.
Luke Skywalker was one of his regular visitors.
"Mark Hamill always stopped with us, he'd come behind the bar and pretend to make coffees," he said.
"He loved being in Malin Head, he loved being in Ireland and he loved the people - he would chat and chat to people - it was just a joy to see him."
Hugh Farren runs a pub that sat within the tight security cordon erected round the film set.
"When people see it on the screen it's going to make another big reason for people to come this far north," he said.
"Mark Hamill came to the bar on the Sunday night, after the third day of filming, he came to the bar and I got a photo with him and he signed a boot so I got a little bit of memorabilia to show people - the photo's up on the bar now as well."
Aideen Doherty, from the Donegal Film Office, played a key role in persuading Disney to shoot at Malin Head.
"We are a dot on a map which is a dot on a map on the edge of Europe," she said.
"But we are one of the most spectacular places in the world and Star Wars has demonstrated that to a global audience."
Belfast Telegraph Digital