It is sandy, sparsely populated, and – say some – the perfect setting for Star Wars: Episode VII.
Abu Dhabi’s spectacular Western desert has for weeks been tipped as the setting for Tatooine, a desert planet that will feature in the much-anticipated movie.
Yet rumors gained force this week after a top UAE film-industry figure confirmed to Al Arabiya News that Abu Dhabi will indeed be used as a backdrop in the seventh Star Wars movie.
“They should be working on it now [in] the Western region of Abu Dhabi,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
Further evidence of the top-secret film shoot was published today in local newspaper The National, which published what it said could be the first image of the Star Wars set deep in the Abu Dhabi desert.
The photograph shows “a giant, round, grey disc, which bears a striking resemblance to parts of an escape pod on which C3P0 and R2D2 crash-landed on Tatooine in the original, 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope film” the newspaper said.
According to a March blog posting by Walt Disney, filming will start in mid-May – suggesting that, if the image published by The National is genuine, set-building is at a very early stage.
In earlier Star Wars films, Tunisia has been used as a setting for Tatooine. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, the “political climate in the North African country is currently too dangerous to house a big Hollywood production”.
Other local film-industry executives hinted that Star Wars is indeed coming to the UAE, despite no official confirmations.
“Any major studio that comes in is going to put someone under a non-disclosure agreement,” said one. “I know they want to shoot in Abu Dhabi,” another told Al Arabiya News.
The Abu Dhabi Film Commission and the media zone twofour54 both declined to comment. Walt Disney Pictures did not respond when contacted by Al Arabiya News. Bad Robot Productions could not be reached. Lucasfilm said there are no announcements to make about the production of the film.
Though some scenes may be shot in Abu Dhabi, Disney and Lucasfilm have said previously that much of the film will be made at Pinewood Studios near London. There have also been reports that Cairo in Egypt could be used as a setting for the movie.
A handful of blockbuster films have been shot in the UAE. The movie Fast and Furious 7 is currently being shot in Abu Dhabi, while some scenes from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol were shot in Dubai.
Star Wars: Episode VII is due in cinemas in December 2015. The film, directed by J.J. Abrams, will continue the Star Wars saga, taking place 30 years after the events depicted in 1983’s Return of the Jedi.SHOW MORE