House of Luke Skywalker
The first installment of one of the world’s most profitable sagas, Star Wars: A New Hope is one of the most profitable feature films of all time. It has earned more than 530 million dollars at the box-office, for “only” 11 million, and has given birth to an incredible extended universe, with numerous sequels, spin-offs, series and comics.
Pushed by the success of American Graffiti in 1973, George Lucas entrusts Alan Ladd Jr, one of the vice-presidents of 20th Century Fox, his project entitled Star Wars. The latter, aware of the young director’s talent, granted him the necessary funds for his project. After founding Industrial Light & Music to control the special effects budget, completing his script and working with Ralph McQuarrie on the set design, the filmmaker searched for the perfect locations for his shoot. His chief decorator, John Barry, advised him to choose Tunisia to represent his hero’s host planet. In 1976, George Lucas decides to make a reconnaissance trip before taking his team there. It is then planned that the filming on site will last only two weeks. After only one day, the biggest rain shower in fifty years falls on the desert where the team has settled. The sets suffer from these deplorable conditions. Then it’s the heat’s turn to test the organisms. Nevertheless, all can count on Sir Alec Guinness. The veteran actor, who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi, shows incredible professionalism and kindness, pushing the various people involved in the project to redouble their efforts. Mark Hamill would recall years later that the man was as sincere as he was humble: “I always called him ‘Sir’ Alec until one day he tapped me twice on the cheek, followed by a fairly firm slap! Him: ‘I want to be known by my name, NOT my accolade!’ Me: ‘Can I call you Big Al?’..
Once all the Tunisian scenes are completed, the team can fly, relieved, to Elstree Studios outside London. No one suspects that this stage in North Africa will greatly contribute to making Tunisia a leading tourist destination. In addition to the desert, the cameras were able to capture some very real places. This is the case of the Lars’ farm, where young Luke Skywalker lives at the beginning of the film. Seven years before Star Wars invaded the area, the Sidi Driss Hotel opened its doors, trying to live off the income generated by the then nascent tourism. However, thanks to these few days of filming, the establishment quickly became a top destination. The decorations visible today in the courtyard of the hotel are unfortunately not the original ones. In 1976, after shooting the necessary scenes, the various elements were dismantled and shipped to the UK. It is only in 2000, during the shooting of the episode 2, Attack of the Clones, that the production team, back on the spot, left as a souvenir the various elements of decoration.
But they are not the only ones. In 1995, Philippe Vanni, a French Star Wars fan, stayed in the hotel and completely restored the splendid paintings in the Lars’ dining room. This gigantic project required scraping off the lime that had covered the motifs before patiently reproducing them with a brush. A storage room has become a particularly pleasant place to have lunch or dinner. However, the dome used to enter young Luke Skywalker’s home is not in the same location. The outside of the farm is located off the beaten track, 245 kilometres west of Matmata. The small igloo, built for the occasion, is lost in the middle of a dry salt lake. However, when the weather is not suitable, the surroundings quickly become impassable. So much so that in 2012, the emblematic residence was severely degraded. Once again, many fans mobilized to rebuild the building and preserve the magic of Star Wars. Tunisia will also play an important role in the other films, especially in Episode I, The Phantom Menace, the young Anakin Skywalker and his mother are in Ksar Ouled Soltane, a fortified village near the town of Tataouine. The name of the Tunisian city inspired George Lucas to name his fictional planet Tatooine.
Many of the desert scenes, including the Sandcrawler, were actually shot in Death Valley. As for those shot in Tunisia, the production almost triggered a major conflict. While the team of technicians was assembling the various parts of the incredible vehicle, Algerian soldiers intervened. “They saw this name, Star Wars, and they thought we were building a war machine”, recalled Roger Christian, a decorator on site. “They had to come over and verify that it was a film set.” Afterwards, the team was keen to get out of there at the speed of light.
The workers and technicians worked for two months for two months to build the sets for Tatooine.
Sidi Idriss Hotel
A troglodyte residence built by Berbers several centuries ago, the Sidi Idriss hotel has now become a flagship tourist attraction, known as the Star Wars Hotel.
Open all year round, the establishment offers, for just under 25€, a room, dinner and breakfast for a stay in the universe once imagined by George Lucas. The huge galleries of the hotel include many rooms, decorated in the image of the saga. Guests can enjoy, on the terrace or inside, typical dishes of the region such as tagine, pea stew, crispy bricks or couscous. The bar of the Sidi Idriss offers local beer or a delicious mint tea.
The Fantrippers Buying Board
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By Damien Duarte
Passionné par la culture pop depuis son enfance, ses références vont de Donald Duck à Batman en passant par Marty McFly. Fantripper dans l'âme, voyager sur les traces de Ghostbusters, James Bond ou des héros de romans comme Cotton Malone fait partie d'un séjour idéal et réussi !