July 25, 2014 – Star Wars: Episode VII is currently filming on location in Abu Dhabi and the soundstages of London’s Pinewood Studios. But by the end of August, filming will begin in or around Skellig Michael (Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl), or Great Skellig (Irish: Sceilig Mhór), a stunningly beautiful island in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest corner of Ireland.
The Star Wars crew has secured a filming permit for Skellig Michael, which is accessible only by boat and will be closed to visitors. A Christian monastery was established on the island sometime between the 6th and 8th century A.D./C.E. and occupied by a monastic order until the island was abandoned in the late 12th century. Perhaps no more than 12 monks and an abbot resided on the small island at any one time.
Skellig Michael was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1996 and declared to be a “unique example of an early religious settlement”. As a World Heritage Site, the uninhabited island features a very steep and winding ancient stone staircase leading to the remains of the monastery on a terraced shelf 600 feet above sea-level.
True to his word, director J.J. Abrams is using many more real-world locations for filming, and far less CGI, in his reboot of the Star Wars franchise. Might the remote location of Skellig Michael be an ideal retreat for a contemplative and older Luke Skywalker? Prior Star Wars episodes have shown certain Jedi in self-imposed isolation (think Yoda on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine in A New Hope). As usual, the crew is tightlipped, and we will have to wait and see.