Another major Hollywood movie is coming to shoot in the UAE this year – none other than Star Trek 3, the latest – as yet untitled – film in the rebooted, sci-fi franchise.
Although it has yet to be confirmed, and plans may change, three independent sources have told The National that Kirk and his crew will be beaming down towards the end of the year.
When you consider the circumstantial evidence, it's not entirely surprising. Three of the key players behind the new movie are: executive producer (and director of 2009's Star Trek and 2013's sequel Star Trek Into Darkness) J J Abrams; Simon Pegg, who stars as Scotty in the rebooted films and is co-writing the third; and William Shatner, the star of the original Star Trek TV show and films, who is widely rumoured to have a role in the new film.
Abrams last year filmed part of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in the Abu Dhabi desert around Qasr Al Sarab, Liwa and Tarif, and seemed so happy with the results of the scenes – set on the desert planet of Jakku – that they made up most of the footage in the new trailer unveiled over a week ago.
Pegg was seen loitering around the Abu Dhabi set of Star Wars, fuelling rumours that he has a role in the film. That has been denied. Denials are not conclusive, and Pegg is a huge Star Wars fan, but he had free access to the Pinewood set of the latest film, as reported on social media.
He has form with the desert, too. He came here as part of the cast of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) which filmed in Dubai, and even his latest film, Kill Me Three Times, was shot largely in the Australian desert.
Is this a man that just loves sand and Star Wars? Or was he here with ulterior motives – could he have been scouting locations to provide inspiration for his Star Trek 3 script?
Finally, the ultimate Star Trek source, James T Kirk himself. William Shatner, appeared at the Middle East Film & Comic Convention in Dubai this month. Shatner admitted while he was here that he had inadvertently let slip to a journalist in the US that he was in talks to appear in a cameo role in Star Trek 3, which may or may not have resulted in the departure of director Roberto Orci from the film (it will now be directed by Justin Lin, who directed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth Fast and Furious films).
Shatner spent much of his MEFCC appearance gushing over how great it would be to film in the desert here. Coincidence?
That is, of course, all circumstantial, and we hate to regurgitate internet rumours – but there aren’t any, yet. So since we’re starting our own, we asked around the local, UK and Hollywood industries.
What we’ve learnt so far is that the shoot will begin around November. We are told that non-disclosure agreements have already been signed with major local crew, and a significant part of the movie will be filmed here.
Filming will take place in Dubai, not Abu Dhabi – which is surprising given Abrams's work on Star Wars in Abu Dhabi last year.
Most recently, a friend from the UK’s comedy circuit said that “Si [Pegg] is going to be over your way for a few weeks later this year – you should hook up”.
Dubai Film and TV Commission declined to comment.