Star Wars: Episode VII is officially shooting in Abu Dhabi, leading to reports that director J.J. Abrams is attempting to re-create the desert landscapes of Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine. United Arab Emirates media company twofour54 confirmed the location news Wednesday, with unnamed sources offering the Tatooine tip to The Hollywood Reporter.
Abrams arrived in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, bringing along his cast, which includes familiar faces from the original trilogy – Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) – along with new recruits like Adam Driver, Andy Serkis and Oscar Isaac. Other members of the production staff have been working in the region since January.
Tatooine is not only the home of Luke and Anakin Skywalker but also the headquarters of the grotesque, toad-like crime-lord Jabba the Hutt. In earlier films, Tatooine scenes were filmed in Tunisia, but THR‘s sources say the crew didn’t seek out that North African country as a filming location due to its hostile political climate. Abrams and company are also planning to film scenes at Pinewood Studio in England.
The shoot remains shrouded in secrecy, and little is known about the plot – except that it takes place 30 years after the story in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Along with directing the Disney and Lucasfilm-produced picture, Abrams also serves as co-writer with Lucasfilm veteran Lawrence Kasdan, replacing original scribe Michael Arndt. The movie, produced by Disney and Lucasfilm, is scheduled to hit theaters on December 18th, 2015.