When the cast and crew of Star Wars: Episode VIII returned to Ireland, they headed straight to Skellig Michael in County Kerry, where Rey finally discovered Luke. But this didn't signal the end of the Irish Star Wars journey. The location scouts were so taken with the Wild Atlantic Way, locations from Cork and Kerry to Clare and Donegal were also handpicked to appear in Episode VIII. And so, cast, crew and Jedi made the western edge of Ireland their home during filming. And the locals? Well, they were delighted The Force was coming to town!
"Go mbeidh an fórsa leat! — May the force be with you!"
When filming at The Skelligs wrapped, the crew headed to Malin Head in Donegal – Ireland's most northerly point, on the Inishowen Peninsula. Hugh Farren, proprietor of Farren's Bar, recalls the visit well: "it was unbelievable that Star Wars was filming a mile and a half away from us. The buzz that we had for the month was surreal". Naturally, Hugh wanted to mark the occasion, so he painted a mural of Yoda on the side of his pub.
Yoda didn't go unnoticed. During his downtime, Mark Hamill (AKA Luke Skywalker) popped into Farren's Bar for a pint and some inter-galactic banter! And, despite heavy security, Hugh recalls that fans also flocked to Malin Head to catch a glimpse of their heroes. As one of the few pubs past the first line of security, Farren's was often full of fans. "It was out of this world," said Hugh. For a few weeks, Malin Head felt like a galaxy far, far away.
"There was a real camaraderie between [the locals and crew] with a lot of good banter going on. By the end of filming, it felt like a little family".
When the cast and crew journeyed to Loop Head in County Clare, things continued in the same manner. Not surprising really, as Loop Head is famed as much for its big, beautiful lighthouse as it is for its views. Delivering dramatic scenery by the bucketload, it's also home to Keating's Bar – aka "the nearest bar to New York", so if any of the American stars of Episode VIII fancied a swim home, they knew how to get there...
Further south takes you to Dingle, County Kerry – once called "the most beautiful place in the world" and whose most famous resident is a dolphin called Funghi. Until now, that is: Justin and Luke Burgess from Bean in Dingle recall: "It wasn't until someone came in a few times that [we] realised that they were from the crew!" Filming centred around a spectacular headland called Ceann Sibéal (Sybil Head) in Ballyferriter, where lots of activity was going on!
And it was light sabers at the ready again when Peter Mayhew – 7ft 3in Chewbacca – popped into a local school, Scoil Baile an Fheirtearaigh, to say hello to the kids! The final location was Brow Head, near Crookhaven, County Cork. No stranger to films in this part of the world, former Star Wars actor Liam Neeson filmed some of his 1990s movie, Michael Collins, right here in West Cork.
...the enthusiasm and support of all the people of West Cork have made our Irish adventure one we will always treasure.
The Star Wars folks obviously enjoyed their time here. In fact, when the entire shoot wrapped, Lucas Film took out no less than eight thank you ads in local newspapers up and down the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as an ad in national newspaper the Irish Examiner! To paraphrase their stay here, the cast and crew were "captivated by the Wild Atlantic Way and their journey to Ireland".
Now, all we have to do is wait for the movie's release to see exactly what they were doing, so watch this space...