Over two weeks after The National first reported on speculation that Star Wars: Episode 7 was set to shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert, and more than a week after we published what are assumed to be the first photos from the set, widely identified by fans as the foot of an All Terrain Armoured Transport (AT-AT) from the film, Disney has finally stepped up to the mic and admitted that filming is indeed taking place in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking at the Bloomberg and Tribeca Film Festival Business of Entertainment Breakfast on Tuesday in New York, Disney’s chair Alan Horn said: “We did some second-unit work in Abu Dhabi. We have to give that the Star Wars-ian look, if I can use that as an adjective — we need to go to these places.”
Horn may have finally confirmed what had become one of the worst-kept secrets in showbusiness, but he wasn’t giving too much away. His use of the past tense was noteworthy – has Star Wars shooting in Abu Dhabi already concluded? Our own sources suggest multiple sets are being created in the desert, which seems a lot of effort for a bit of second unit work. But then this is one of the biggest films of the last 20 years, so the producers can probably afford some effort – Horn suggested a budget in the region of US$200 million (Dh734m) at the same event.
The Disney chairman remained tight-lipped about casting information, saying only that casting is “almost complete”. He added: “I’ve learned to be very careful about Star Wars. If I say, ‘There will be no skateboards in Star Wars … that gets headlines.”
Horn further confirmed that principle photography will begin at London’s Pinewood Studios in May, which we already knew, and that’s about as much drip-feeding as fans are getting for now.
We still have no confirmation of a local production company. Twofour54, who by all accounts remain odds-on favourites, remained silent when asked for comment on the latest developments.
We may be getting too caught up in internet forums having been tracking this story for over two weeks now, but it's looking increasingly likely that more information will be revealed on International Star Wars Day – May the 4th (Be with you). Of course, we'll be keeping you updated before, during and after this momentous date.