Ask the experts: Star Wars fans give their theories on Abu Dhabi filming

In celebration of Star Wars Day, local fans share their thoughts about the movie's Abu Dhabi shoot.
 Frantzy Magsakay, a senior designer. Lee Hoagland / The National
Frantzy Magsakay, a senior designer. Lee Hoagland / The National

April was certainly a hectic month for Star Wars fans around the world and especially those in the UAE. We already knew that Art Wars would be auctioning off Stormtrooper helmets at the Middle East Film and Comic Con at the start of the month and that the uniform’s designer, Andrew Ainsworth, would be appearing at the same event. In any other month in the past 10 years or so, that would have been a huge moment in itself for the region’s Star Wars fans. Not this year, however.

No one predicted the rumours that would start circulating at around the same time that the latest and seventh instalment in the popular sci-fi franchise would be filming right here in Abu Dhabi. First it was whispers on the odd fan forum, then we started to hear of crew being hired among the local production industry. Next, it was actual images, captured by The National’s Mona Al Marzooqi in the Abu Dhabi desert, that were widely accepted as the first shots of the new set.

After that, the global press was all over the story, too. Finally, on April 22, Disney’s chairman Alan Horn confirmed that the film was indeed shooting in Abu Dhabi, while last Wednesday finally saw some of the cast revealed, though no details of roles or plot were released.

Today, of course, is Star Wars Day – May the 4th be with you – a day that is widely held by fans to be when Disney will finally give away substantial new details about Episode VII. We hope we’ll have more of that for you in the coming days, but in the meantime, we asked some local fans what they make of the story so far.

More local fans

Michael Hestness, a manufacturing engineer and member of the Texas Garrison of the 501st Legion

“I’m excited by the thought of filming here. The UAE has a lot to offer and could attract more fans from around the world if permanent sets such as the Lars Homestead were constructed.”

Ben Caddy, organiser, Middle East Film and Comic Con

“We cannot either confirm or deny any knowledge or lack of knowledge about what may or may not jeopardise our chance of appearing as extras in what is or is not possibly maybe happening in the Abu Dhabi desert.”

Andy Buchan, journalist and DJ

“The pictures give us little to go on, but that’s all that Star Wars fanatics need – it will be great to have some of the next set of films based here, hopefully they’ll leave some permanent sets behind as they did in Tunisia. I feel sorry for Peter Mayhew if he’s out here filming as Chewbacca, though!”

Giovan Paz, “Father” of the Cosplay group Order 66

“When Lucas made Return of the Jedi they went to great lengths to hide the set from the locals. In fact, they came up with the dummy title ‘Blue Harvest’, designed to dispel any notion. Looking at the pictures, it could be a part of the production set of Star Wars, but what bugs me about this photo is the lack of security and why they would just leak it to the press? What I feel about the film? Hell yeah! Never mind sweating under the baking sun.”

Omar Ismail, founder and chairman of the Gulf Roleplaying Community

“I am very much looking forward to seeing how the Star Wars-verse continues. They’ve apparently mixed a lot of the Expanded Universe [the comics, books, etc] so this will essentially be something of a reboot which, as per usual, has the fans irked.”

Ian Trebinski, executive officer, 501st Legion’s UAE Outpost

“It’s great to see Star Wars come to the UAE, and the desert outside Abu Dhabi will be a fantastic setting. And it gives us local fans a chance to get involved and see the latest instalment of our favourite movies taking shape in our own backyards.”

Muhammed Ali J, Sith Lord of Dubai Media City (so he tells us)

“The images definitely give the impression that those are stage props. It would make perfect sense to come here. We have the desert and we have world-class facilities to help production in any manner needed. As a fan who grew up watching the original Star Wars as a child in the UAE, I love the fact that the next instalment on the franchise will be shot in the country where I grew up. I would love to get a gig as an extra in the movies.”

For more of our images of local Star Wars fans, go to

Published: May 4, 2014 04:00 AM


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