Top 10……Films Set Around Christmas!

It’s Christmas time and holiday cheer is very much on the horizon which often involves people watching classic festive films like ‘Scrooge‘, ‘A Christmas Carol‘, ‘Santa Clause: The Movie‘, erm ‘Jingle All The Way‘ or many of the special TV episodes filmed for this time of the year.

Others like ‘Home Alone‘ (1990), ‘Die Hard‘ (1988), ‘Gremlins‘ (1984) and ‘Lethal Weapon‘ (1987) which are just set during the Christmas season are also popular choices so I have delved into the archives to find some movies (of course ones that I have been to some filming locations of!) with seasonal connections whether it be a major one or a really tenuous link!

So here then, in no particular order, is the TF top 10……

1. In Bruges (2008) – Certainly not the first one that comes to mind when you think of films taking place at Christmas! Two Irish hit-men hide out in Belgium during the holiday season not that it’s at all important to the storyline. The woman at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel, where they stay, is doing something with the Christmas tree in one scene and their angry boss, Ralph Fiennes, shouts at his wife in front of their tree and kids in another.

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2. Ghostbuster II (1989) – The sequel is set in New York City during the Christmas period and culminates on New Years Eve as a crowd of locals sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. A Christmas tree is visible during at least one scene and I guess one other festive link this has is that it was made (according to some critics!) to sell toys at Christmas time!

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3. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – This Stanley Kubrick-directed erotic thriller is not your traditional Christmas film in any way! It opens at a big Christmas party before  Tom Cruise’s jealous character goes on a sexual odyssey so that he can feel equal to his “cheating” wife. However, not all is straight forward as he soon witnesses a secret sex society and people begin dying. It’s lacking in festive tunes and the common joviality shown by many at that time of the year. Christmas trees can be seen throughout as London doubles up for New York in holiday season.

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4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – In his one and only appearance as James Bond, George Lazenby takes the reins of the double agent in the sixth 007 movie. Part of the film takes place at Grindelwald in Switzerland during the Christmas season snow is all around. Festive connections include a Christmas tree at the Piz Gloria clinic, presents for the ladies and there’s even a Christmas song called “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown.”

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5. Love Actually (2003) – By far the most festive film in this list as a large group of inter-related people are followed for the five weeks leading up to Christmas, exploring their various love-states. An all-star cast take part in this feel-good film.

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6. About A Boy (2002) – Bachelor Will (Hugh Grant) has no job and doesn’t need to have one as he can just live off the royalties of “Santa’s Super Sleigh”; a Christmas song his father composed in the past. Towards the end of the film we see Will hosting a Christmas gathering at his place with his new extended support system.

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7. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) – Thirty-something singleton Bridget is introduced to Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at her parents’ Christmas party and is not impressed. He’s snooty and wears Christmas jumpers but as we know that eventually changes over time among several pivotal holiday-themed/snow scenes.

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8. The English Patient (1996) – A Hungarian cartographer choosing to maintain the assumption by others that he is an Englishman is badly burned in a plane crash during World War II and relays parts of his past via flashbacks and one of these includes a Christmas party scene where amidst a chorus of Silent Night, Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is seduced by Almásy (Ralph Fiennes).

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9. When Harry Met Sally (1989) – Several Christmas and New Year’s-related scenes take place in this romantic comedy which spans over 15 years.

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10. I am Legend (2007) – A viral outbreak occurs on Christmas Eve 2009 in Manhattan, and quickly spreads across the world. The epidemic seemingly begins in the lead up to the Christmas season and festive decorations can be seen throughout the early parts of this Will Smith movie.

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Bonus: The Bourne Identity (2002) – Remember when Bourne and Marie seeked refuge in the French countryside? Well, they go to stay at her stepbrother’s place where Bourne notices the Christmas lights are still on. That sign of recent occupancy tells him that they have to leave before the owners return. It is also snowing throughout most of the film which is usually a good indication that it’s the holiday season.

Top 10……Movie Locations Where You Can Stay

Hot on the tail of the top (double oh) 7 hotels featured in James Bond films here are the top 10 recommendations for other places where you can spend a night amidst movie history. Just to get things clear you have to pay to stay in all of the listed accommodation rather than just rocking up and pitching a tent outside the filming location!! This list, which is in no particular order, will take you around the globe and offers the full spectrum of price range.

1. Sidi Driss, (from $9 per night) Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Matmata (Tunisia): Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) – No surprise that this one is featured. Coach loads of tourists stop off here every day yet very few of them actually stay the night! That’s probably because it’s very dirty with poor service! I was the only guest when I stayed there…..but it was a privilege to spend the night at Luke Skywalker’s home! Cheap too!More details here.

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2. On On Hotel (from $3 per night), 19 Phang-Nga Road, Talad Yai, Muang, Phuket  (Thailand): The Beach (2000) – Another ridiculously cheap place to stay. Leonard DiCaprio checks in to this rundown “Kao San Road” backpacker place but its nowhere near the legendary Bangkok spot where western travellers congregate. It is in fact way, way down south in Phuket town. More details here.

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3. Imperial Palace (from $49 per night), 3535 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109  (USA): Austin Powers International Man Of Mystery (1997) – This Nevada state city has been used in many movies over the years and could probably have it’s very own top 10 list (now there’s an idea!) but just the single hotel for this entry and that’s Alotta Fagina’s penthouse suite where Austin shagged her rotten to use his exact words!! It’s since been re-named as The Quad Resort & Hotel. More details here.

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4. Tiki Motel (from $?? per night), 7301 Santa Fe Avenue, Huntington Park, Los Angeles (USA): The Terminator (1984) – John Connor was conceived at this very run-down in what is perhaps the most pivotal point in the whole Terminator franchise. You could stay in the same room where Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese did the deed but in all honesty you probably wouldn’t want to! More details here.

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5. Royal Eagle Hotel (from $627 per night), 26-30 Craven Rd, London W2 3QB (UK): Trainspotting (1996) – The boys take a break from Scotland and head down south to London to do a drug deal. Sick Boy leads the guys out of Smallbrook Mews, across Craven Road in a parody of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. The “small-time wasters” then wander into the Royal Eagle Hotel. More details here.

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6. Grand Hotel Evropa (from $30 per night), Vaclavske namesti 25, Prague (Czech Republic): Mission: Impossible (1996) – This was the headquarters of mysterious arms dealer Max (Vanessa Redgrave) in the first of this action spy film series based on the TV series from the 60’s and 70’s. More details here.

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7. Westin Grand (from $274 per night), Friedrichstrasse 158 – 164, 10117 Berlin  (Germany): The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – The luxury hotel where Landy stays. Bourne cleverly finds out at reception that she is staying in room 235. He then watches her leave from his position on the 4th floor and then takes the stairs down and goes through the hotels revolving doors where he gets in a taxi and follows her to the CIA hub. More details here.

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8. Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel (from $216 per night), Wollestraat 41-47, Bruges (Belgium): In Bruges (2008) – Dark, comedy thriller featuring Colin Farrell (Ray), Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Ralph Fiennes (Harry) with the former two Irish hit-men lying low in the Belgian city at this canal-side hotel. More details here.

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9. Four Season’s Hotel (from $750 per night), Teyfikhane Sok No 1 SultanahmetIstanbul 34110 (Turkey): Midnight Express (1978) – This used to be the infamous Sultanahmet jail depicted in this biographical crime drama. More details here.

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10. Plaza Hotel (from $550 per night), 768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019 (USA): Crocodile Dundee (1986) – What could be better than washing your backside in the same bidet that Mick Dundee (presumably) washed his posterior in? Well sadly that can’t be done here as the facilities don’t have bidets! The interior scenes were shot in the studio but you could still pretend and shout it from the window down to pedestrians on the street below!  More details here.

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BTM Top 5……Indiana Jones Filming Locations

Poor old Indy! A classic iconic character from a highly popular franchise but belonging to a franchise that often gets forgotten about when everyone is going on about the Star Wars with regard to Disney’s acquirement of LucasFilm. When they paid $4 billion dollars to buy out the production company they also gained Indiana Jones too. With Walt Disney Studios announcing a week ago that it had reached a marketing and distribution agreement with Paramount Pictures for future Indiana Jones films the process of making and releasing Indy 5 should be much easier. To celebrate the news that there may finally be some more Indiana Jones material on the way, we have managed to cobble together some Indy locations for this feature! Here then, in no particular order, is the TF Top 5……Indiana Jones Filming Locations (that we’ve been to!!)

1. Petra (Jordan) – ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade‘ (1989): The search for the grail leads Indy through the narrow Siq to the splendour of The Treasury at this world heritage site. It featured less memorably in ‘Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger‘ (1977) before our favourite fedora wearing doctor made it more famous over a decade later with Sean Connery, who played his father, by his side. More details here

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2. Sidi Bouhlel, Nefta (Tunisia) – ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark‘ (1981): When it comes to popular cultural references, yet again Indiana Jones lives in the shadows of ‘Star Wars‘ where the canyon memorably featured in the 1977 original film. George Lucas was obviously impressed with the area as he used it again years later for the scene where Indiana threatens to blow up the Ark. More details here

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3. Chiesa di San Barnaba, Venice (Italy) – ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade‘ (1989): Indy finds an important clue relating to the numeral ‘X’ in this place which is a library in the film. More details here

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4. Royal Horticultural Hall, London (UK) – ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade‘ (1989): This place in Westminster on Greycoat Street portrayed Berlin Airport as it did yet again in ‘The Saint‘ (1997). More details here

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5. Kairouan (Tunisia) – ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark‘ (1981): The streets of this Islamic holy city in Tunisia’s carpet capital represented Cairo in Egypt and many of these places look very similar today. Perhaps the most famous scene is the one in the market where Harrison Ford (kind of!) improvised a scene and just shot the sword-wielding assassin as the extreme heat was affecting his health and he just wanted a short end to the filming. More details here

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I Did A Presentation At An English Club In Tokyo

The Kiyose International Club is a volunteer group that hosts events and parties for foreigners and neighbouring guests as well as also having Japanese classes, a choir and conferences for foreigners. One of my students is in charge of organising these events and often asks me in class to check posters and speeches for English mistakes. Inevitably, she got round to asking me to be a presenter at one of these events such is their desperation for native English speakers at these things!! Though not so keen at first I eventually agreed to do it as I was happy with the topic and having bored her this last year with tales  from my trips she knew I was a seasoned traveller with a few anecdotes up my sleeve to keep an audience awake!

Furthermore, I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to do something different and see if I could actually entertain to any level beyond doing farting noises with a few five year olds!! It’s been a while since I did any kind of presentation. Ages in fact, as the last time was at University over 15 years ago when I had to regularly do them as part of my course.

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My Travel Memories‘ was the theme for the one today (17th November) with the “My” referring to each attendee as well as the guest speakers. Having informed the organiser  that I wanted to do it about my trip to Tunisia in 2009 she thankfully gave it the green light and so my plan began to tell the story of travelling around a country in what was at the time for me an untouched continent. Oh and of course it gave me the chance to incorporate a bit of Star Wars stuff into the proceedings too!

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This was certainly not a Star Wars convention so I had to keep that part to a minimum and so instead focused on the other parts of the country (above) which often get forgotten about (especially by me!). My presentation was supposed to last about seven minutes but was more like 11 minutes with the first segment focusing on the nightmare of my birthday travelling between Tunis in the north and Tozeur in the south.

In the days preceding this event I spent a fair bit of time putting together some notes, remarks and photos together into a flashy Google Drive document but once I’d realised I would need wi-fi to go ahead with that I changed it to a more simplified iPhoto slide show. I needn’t have bothered though as on my arrival at the Naka-Kiyoto Area Civic Center we soon realised that there wasn’t the right cable to connect my laptop to the giant projector screen. I was a bit peeved with that not that I was ever really confident of such a thing ever working smoothly. Time for plan B!!

The event started at 2pm with my student giving the opening remarks followed by a few more speeches before the session leader David introduced us presenters and the foreigners present including people from Afghanistan, Korea, Philippines, Zambia and  Thailand. Following a short discussion on our tables an elderly Japanese guy Matsumoto-san (below left) kicked things off with his presentation about his time in Egypt with the main focus being the tipping culture differences.

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A summary of my speech was given in Japanese beforehand (above right) which I thought a bit strange as it’s kind of a spoiler but I guess it has to be done to prepare the non-native speakers for what was about to come. Despite not being able to use the big screen for my presentation I decided to use my computer still though many would have needed binoculars to see what was on screen! I did have some larger copies of some of my pictures which I could hand to my student to show to the watching audience of fairly well-travelled people.

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The speech seemed to go on for far longer than in my rehearsals but that didn’t matter. My voice just about managed to hold up for the duration and I got through everything I wanted to. The set-up wasn’t quite how I envisaged it but I muddled through and was just about able to juggle holding the mic in one hand, cue cards in the other whilst also having to do some technical wizardry on the computer (hit a button a dozen times or so!) which was facing the audience rather than me.

It was a shame I couldn’t use the big screen to display stuff as that meant I had to rely more than ever on my scripted “ad-libs” working better than they should have had to. I soldiered on though and thankfully there were a few questions at the end (about tipping, food & health, misunderstandings and something else which I forget) rather than silence!

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Once I had done my presentation I could relax far more and really enjoyed talking in our groups about our own travels not that I added any further by way of my other experiences. The final presentation was by a Filipino lady called Rosevel (below) who gave a very entertaining and passionate speech on the cultural gap between her homeland and Japan. She put me to shame in terms of not showing her nerves so much but I guess she was performing on home turf whilst I was in unknown waters.

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Overall, I had a lovely afternoon and it was nice to do something a bit different for once and I left with a very positive image of all those present who were very nice and welcoming to me and, though I thought I was a bit nervous at times, the feedback I got was all positive…not that you’d expect anyone to come up and say it was rubbish!!

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‘Beyond The Movies’ – Behind The Scenes + Full Interview

‘Beyond The Movies’ is the title I’ve been using for the last few years on my Facebook film-related albums which feature mostly shooting locations but also include screenshots, memorabillia, exhibitions, toys, events and anything which takes the reader beyond the surface of that particular movie. These albums include Star Wars, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Terminator, Back To The Future, Mission Impossible, Super Heroes, Tokyo, Kansai, Asia, The USA, Australia, Europe, The UK and so on.

I often (well occasionally) get asked how I find out the details of each shot which I take so here, by way of a recent online interview I did, is a sneak-peak behind the scenes look at how things fall into place at the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Tokyo.

 

Here is the full transcript of the interview which will no doubt be edited down quite a bit when it finally sees the light of day later in the year.

How did this obsession come about? I’ve always been interested in seeing such locations but after years of travelling and seeing the usual stuff like waterfalls, beaches, churches, temples and so on I became a bit bored of just doing the sights when I visit a place so hunting down these famous filming locations allowed me to see places in different ways whilst getting off the well worn and proverbial beaten track at the same time.

Do you choose your holiday destinations based solely on films shot there? Apart from maybe Tunisia I have never solely gone to a place just for locations but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play a major part. Its usually a combination of a few things.

What were the first filming locations you went to? The first one I really remember was one of the Fijian islands which was used in the Tom Hanks survival movie ‘Castaway‘ but that was way back in 2002. It wasn’t until a trip to Phuket in Thailand in 2008 with my mate Ethan that I realised I was more interested in seeing the island from the James Bond film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ and the hostel and beach from ‘The Beach‘ rather than your typical usual touristy sights. Of course a couple of those places I’ve just mentioned are sights in their own right but the hostel certainly isn’t and that was fun.

What has been your favourite location? There have been many. Something like Petra in Jordan which featured in ‘Indiana Jones & the last Crusade‘ was great but that’s a famous sight in its own right so I’d have to say that its the Star Wars stuff in Tunisia. Random places completely unknown by locals who have never seen the saga.

 

What’s been the most difficult one to find? Some of the ones here in Tokyo actually. I needed help from a couple of Japanese people to help me find locations from ‘The Grudge‘ as there was nothing in English and my Japanese skills don’t quite stretch to searching pages and pages of information written in Japanese kanji.

Have you ever failed to track down a place? Yes and I’m still a little gutted about it as it was a big important one. My driver and I just could not locate the igloo in the south west of Tunisia which was the exterior of the Lars Homestead in Star Wars Episodes IV and II.

What preparations do you make in advance? I watch the film with a notepad and pen taking notes on the time of the scene and using the pause button regularly. I then draw a rough sketch of the scene I want to replicate. The end credits of the film sometimes give a bit of fairly vague info on the locations or who the producers thank can give a helping hand. Basically I utilise the DVD extras to maximum effect by watching ‘making of…’ documentary, deleted scenes & listening to the directors commentary. Computer-wise I used to copy photos of scenes from the web if they were available and then printed them out for comparison shots. In recent times I have become a bit more modernised and use my iPad or iPhone to store the pictures on which is far better than a badly printed screenshot picture. I have also used my PSP in the past for ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘Bourne Identity’ stuff but the UMD format is basically a failed one so isn’t going to be so beneficial as very few films were released as a PSP video.

  

What resources do you use to help you? Having decided where I want to go to on a trip I cross-reference that place with ‘The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations‘ (Tony Reeves) book and website which is the grandaddy of filming locations information. Furthermore, I search Wikipedia, YouTube and the net in general where other movie fans have posted their stuff online but its not always so easy as certain ones, particularly the ones here in Japan, are not detailed well. Imdb can sometimes be as vague as just saying the country name but its filming locations section occasionally if I’m lucky goes much further in detail and even gives addresses. I also search out books and programmes with Mark Dermul’s Star Wars books in particular assisting me for finding the exact points which George Lucas used.

You appear in a lot of your photos so who takes them for you? Apart from a few trips with friends the vast majority have been taken by myself using a tripod and timer. For the record I appear in my pictures to stop people wanting to steal them off the internet and pass them off as their own…and of course because I’m very vain! haha!

Where does the name Tokyo Fox come from? Well my team Leicester City, who play in the league below the Premier League, are nicknamed the Foxes and I live in Tokyo so there you go.

What kind of person looks at the Tokyo Fox website? Good question! Apart from my parents, who themselves probably skim over all the film stuff, I know of very few of my family or friends who regularly look at it. I get a lot of hits for the Star Wars, Bourne, Back to the Future, James Bond, Terminator locations in particular from like-minded fans scouring google in search of these places which have played a part in movie history. Of course theres other stuff on there about Japanese life and travel etc which is quite popular too.

Do you have any plans to release a book? Well I’ve certainly considered it a few times and did start work on a Japan filming locations title but as ever these things get put aside while other things in my life take over. I’d like to pull my finger out one day and get something published but whether it will happen I don’t know. Watch this space…

 

What locations would you like to see in the future? Hmmm, not too many must-sees left but I am going to New York next month which has more films set there than anywhere else. Other than that then maybe Guatemala to do a Star Wars shot and maybe some of central america may be of interest. I still have places to see in London and it would actually be nice to travel my own country a bit more in the name of shooting locations.

‘Star Wars Episode IV: ‘A New Hope’ Filming Locations

Following in the footsteps of my ‘Phantom Menace‘, ‘Attack of the Clones‘ and ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ (the latter can only be seen on Tokyo Fox’s sister site ‘Beyond The Movies‘) compilations comes the shooting locations of the original Star Wars movie which after its 1977 release was retitled ‘Episode IV: A New Hope‘. For this film the crew went on location to Guatemala and Tunisia with pick-up shots later done at Death Valley in California.

The first spaceship to be seen is the Rebel Blockade Runner, a.k.a. the Tantive IV and on 3 mins we are inside the ship with the guards awaiting the arrival of Darth Vader not that they knew he would be arriving. There is a set piece of this at the London Film Museum on Southbank next to the London Eye and it costs £7 per photo (two for £10) on top of the entrance fee. Richard Richard and I had no qualms about spending that money on the photos below.

   

C3P0 is seen in the Tunisian desert on 10 mins and that bit was filmed just behind the Mos Espa set in Nefta but when we see Artoo’s dunes seconds later its actually Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley, California making its debut.

   

A few more location switches occur as the story develops. Artoo’s Arroyo on 11 mins is Artists Palette which is one of the more beautiful spots in Death Valley. A minute later its back to Tunisia where the Jawa’s carry Artoo to this specific rock which is at Sidi Bouhlel more commonly known as Star Wars canyon to fans but certainly not to locals!

   

15 mins in and its Desolation Canyon in Death Valley where the sand crawler appears and this can only be matched up using the mountains in the background and the directions given on this article. A 1.6 yard-long radio-controlled model was used for the wide shots and whilst I did have droid figures with me I never gave a thought to bring my sandcrawler toy which would have been a good idea. Oh well! Furthermore I later noticed a mark on the camera lens which is now in a lot of my photos such as the one lower left which is a match-up of the screenshot above it.

   

Luke gets called by Aunt Beru on 17 mins as we see the Lars Homestead exterior for the first time which is in Chott el Djerid near Nefta but the next shots of him looking down into the underground home (below) were shot 300km away in Matmata.

     

However, one of the first time we were supposed to see Luke Skywalker were of him watching the ongoing battle in orbit between the Star Destroyer and Princess Leia’s blockade runner. He then takes his land speeder to Tosche station to tell his friends about it but by the time they go outside to look at it it’s all over and they think Luke was just making it all up. This scene was shot in the north-west of Djerba in Tunisia and ended up on the cutting room floor but appears in deleted scenes on the blu-ray.

One of the most famous scenes shot at Hotel Sidi Driss (a.k.a. The Lars Homestead) in Matmata is the dining room scene on 23 mins (below left) where Luke drinks blue milk and chats to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Its a new day on 27 mins as Uncle Owen walks through the courtyard of the hotel which was used in ‘Episode II: Attack of the Clones’ 25 years later.

        

Desolation Canyon in Death Valley appears again (above right) on 28 mins and its this place where the Bantha (a large native Tatooine animal with a long furry tail) filming took place which was basically just an African elephant in a costume! As the name implies this place was completely desolate and yes I did strip off for a photo which can be seenhere but the one on this page is a far more modest one.

Obi-wans house only appears on the original cut of the movie (below left) and not the special editions which I’ve been using the time codes of. It appears on 32 mins for a brief second. It can be easily found on the west coast of Djerba in Tunisia. George Lucas shot it at a low angle to make it look like it was in the middle of nowhere so its quite a surprise to find it next to the sea.

 

On 42 mins we see Ben Kenobi showing Mos Eisley. The lookout is at Sidi Bouhlel in Tozeur but the view we see is in Death Valley of Dante’s Peak which, unlike most Star Wars locations, is actually a major sightseeing attraction by its own right. It’s where Ben famously introduces Luke Skywalker to Mos Eisley spaceport by telling him ”You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy“. The screenshot is below rightwith my shot beneath it and the views were naturally way more impressive than what was described by Ben Kenobi.

  

Droids aren’t allowed in the Cantina bar so on 47 mins we see R2D2 and C3P0 waiting  outside it moments after Obi-Wan cut someones arm off and met Chewbacca. On 52 mins C3P0 is seen at the door of the cantina but in reality there never was a door for the building was given a fake entry during filming in 1976.

   

Aboard the Millennium Falcon we see the chess table on 55 mins (and again on 93 mins) as they escape with new pilot Han solo from the stormtroopers. Of course my photo on the Millennium Falcon is a set prop specially constructed for photo opportunities at the Star Wars Celebration Japan event in 2008. The blast off alley can be found a few streets away from the Cantina in Ajim on the island of Djerba in Tunisia.

   

Its studio-set space scenes all the way from thereon until 105 mins when Tikal in Guatemala is shown a few times but as I haven’t been there (yet!) I will include my friend Chris’s photos from that place until I have my own ones to replace them. He was in Tikal a couple of years ago but had no idea that this played any part in the Star Wars saga.

    

*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Como, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville, Spain) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Watford, England) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Death Valley, USA) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – The Phantom Menace Filming Locations here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Attack Of The Clones Filming Locations here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Revenge Of The Sith Filming Locations here

‘Star Wars Episode III: ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ Filming Locations

Ok so this entry is pretty lame and not such a serious one but as today (19th May) is the 7th anniversary of ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ I thought I might as well follow up my articles on ‘The Phantom Menace‘ and ‘Attack of the Clones‘. So here goes with all that I’ve managed to cobble together regarding the final piece of the Star Wars jigsaw.

Whilst Episodes I and II were filmed both in the studio and on location the third and final part of the Star Wars saga was filmed almost entirely in the studio. That studio was Fox Studio’s Australia which is in Moore Park in Sydney which I went by in March when I was on holiday down under.

Obi-Wan Kenobi makes his first appearance in this film on 3 mins and here is a Pepsi promotional can I have with his face on it. I did warn you that this would be full of some tenuous links!

Plate shots of Guilin in China and Phuket in Thailand were used to make up Kashyyk; the planet where the wookies including Chewbacca live. It seems that there is no information on the internet about what parts of these places were shot though the mountains of Guilin can be made out around the 49 minute mark. Not sure what part of Phuket was used so here is a random photo of me somewhere in the Thai place!

The Rebel Blockade Runner spaceship a.k.a. the Tantive IV, which first appeared in ‘Episode IV: A New Hope‘, is back on our screens on 86, 90 and 130 mins. There is a set piece of this at the London Film Museum on Southbank next to the London Eye and it costs £7 per photo (two for £10) on top of the entrance fee. Richard Richard and I had no qualms about spending that money on the photos below.

     

Undoubtedly the icon of the Star Wars saga is Darth Vader and in the scheme of things he first appears in ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ after 127 mins. I have met the evil with lord on various occasions and in many guises but I have limited it to these pictures taken at Star Wars Celebration Japan in 2008.

Finally a proper location appears for the films climax on 132 mins as Padme’s twins are delivered to their new families with Obi-Wan arriving on Tatooine at the Lars Homestead exterior in Chott el Djerid, Nefta. This Tunisian location was of course used far more prominently in Episodes I, II and IV. The picture of me in front of the binary sunset is undoubtedly just me taken in front of a big picture at the aforementioned Star Wars Celebration Japan event. You don’t need to be a Jedi to work that one out!

    

After the film came out ‘The Art of Star Wars’ exhibition was around in Tokyo for a couple of months which I went to with fellow SW fan and rival blogger Gideon.

The final tenuous link in this ever-so-lame feature on ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ comes by way of this FunFax file which I picked up in a second hand book shop a few years after the film came out.

‘Star Wars Episode II: ‘Attack of the Clones’ Filming Locations

With the 10th Anniversary of ‘Attack of the Clones‘ coming up on May 16th (not to mention that today is unofficially Star Wars Day!) and hot on the heels of March’s ‘Phantom Menace‘ filming locations compilation comes the Italian, Spanish and Tunisian scenes from the second of the prequel films. I was fairly underwhelmed when I first saw it a decade ago but as the years have rolled by and with the saga more complete I have been able to watch and enjoy it a whole lot more and this of course was heightened by my visits to the various locations used.

DVD chapter 15 ‘Return to Naboo’ on 38 mins sees Anakin and Padmé along with Artoo at the Plaza de Espana in Seville (below) for a fairly short scene which was cut down in the edit as the extended arrival on Naboo deleted scene appears on the dvd.

   

Caserta Palace (below left) in Southern Italy makes a brief return for this movie after 39 mins and the rest of the Naboo scenes which follow were all shot in Como in the north of the country. We first see the splendid Villa del Balbianello from the lake (below right) on 44 mins albeit with CGI domes added to the roof. Sadly I didn’t get to take a photo of the place from quite the same angle as I never took a boat to that part of the lake.

   

Anakin and Padmé arrive by boat at the lake retreat (below) on the latter’s home planet of Naboo which was a different place to where I arrived and this scene could not be perfectly re-created as it was shot from the stone wall which isn’t accessible to the public. I had to take my pictures of the boat dock and steps leading down to it from different angles.

   

After climbing the steps (off camera) we then see the pair of them walk along a terrace with a pond in the foreground (below left) and a bush (below right) in the background.

  

They walk over to the balcony overlooking the lake. Notice the strange shape trunk on the right of the photo below left. This balcony is where the two heroes kiss for the first time (below right) although Padmé later pulls away as their love is forbidden.

  

The picknic meadow where Anakin and Padmé get closer (47-50 mins into the film) was filmed in a couple of private fields in Como which could be anywhere in the world to be fair! The waterfalls and the shaaks (indigenous Naboo animals) were added by CGI of course and this field can only really be recognised thanks to some behind the scenes pictures in the ‘Star Wars 365 Days’ book by John Knoll. By that I mean the shabby building in the lower left photo.

       

The loggia (below left) at Villa del Balbianello, which also appeared in ‘Casino Royale’, features on 59 mins though only the area under the arches is seen beginning with Anakin in a Jedi trance looking out across the lake early in the morning following his nightmare.

   

The sunlight made the photo above right hard to re-create but typically I didn’t think about closing the door until later that same evening. “Jedi don’t have nightmares” is what Anakin tells Padmé at the loggia but she says that she heard him and then he explains that he saw his mother in pain in his dreams and that he must return to Tatooine to try and save her.

So its back to Tunisia on 64 mins and the Mos Espa set near Tozeur is used again as Anakin is re-united with Watto at the workshop (below left) where he was a former slave.

         

The Lars Homestead (above) is in Matmata (south east Tunisia) and returns to our screens for the first time since 1977 with Anakin and Padmé meeting Lars Clieg in the courtyard as they search for Anakin’s mother Shmi Skywalker. They then sit around the famous table in the dining room (below left) where Luke had some blue milk with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in the original Star Wars movie. The exterior of the Lars Homestead (below right) is actually many many kilometres away in the middle of nowhere in Chott el Djerid, Nefta. It can be seen on 71, 74 and 83 mins.

   

Attack of the Clones‘ draws to a close on 124 mins with the secret wedding of Anakin and Padmé at the Naboo lake retreat known as Villa del Balbianello in Como. The flowers seen on screen (below left) were far brighter and in much better condition than when I was there. Droids C3P0 and R2D2 were in attendance for the wedding (below right) whereas I only had R2D2 with me!

   

Deleted Scenes: Firstly, we will look at deleted scene #4 from the dvd which was an extended arrival on Naboo where we see a bit more of the Plaza de Espana below.

   

Parco Civico di Tremezzo in Como is where Anakin and Padmé leaving Naboo for Tatooine following the former’s nightmare about his mother being in pain back on his home planet. That’s one train of thought anyway due to the clothes they are wearing but the very chunky ‘Star Wars 365 Days’ book by John Knoll suggests that their spaceship landed near here and then they got into a gondola and sped across the lake to the Villa del Balbianello. It appears that their clothes have changed there whereas they are the same on arrival in Tatooine as they are in the photo above left. I had to get into the water with my camera early morning to recreate the shot (above right) which wasn’t easy as it was deep and swimming out for 10 metres or so while holding a camera up in the air out of the water is blo*dy difficult!! All that effort for a cut scene which didn’t even make it on to the deleted scenes chapter of the DVD!!

 

Above left is how the park looks at the top of the steps and the rectangular sign seen in the screenshot as well as the male toilets (below left) where Hayden Christensen (Anakin) got changed into his brown Jedi robe without complaint. Natalie Portman (Padmé) is a much bigger star and supposedly demanded something better so the crew cleared out a little domed building (below right) nearby.

 

Deleted scene #5 is of Padmé‘s parents house and after arriving at the place and having dinner we see Padmé‘ talking to her mum and sister whilst supposedly looking out of the kitchen window into the garden where Anakin is being questioned by Padmé‘s father about his intentions. This shot was done using a platform, fake window and window sill and in reality is just the garden out the back of the ticket office and bookshop at Villa del Balbianello in Como, Italy.

   

Another scene to end upon the cutting room floor (deleted scene #6) starts with a view of the villa shot from below in the garden (above right) although as you can see CGI magic makes the two look quite different. The deleted bedroom scene (no, not a sex scene!) was shot in one of the loggia rooms (below) although they basically stripped it of its period furniture and imported a rug, bed and so on to make it more Naboo-like.

 

*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Como, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville, Spain) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Watford, England) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Death Valley, USA) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – The Phantom Menace Filming Locations here

Tangiers Filming Locations: The Bourne Ultimatum & The Living Daylights

I had been on my way to Algeciras in Southern Spain on 2nd January before I met an Australian couple who said that I could get the ferry from Tarifa instead and it proved to be a good decision as it saved me a lot of time. On arrival in Tangiers I set off on foot to get my bearings and completely lost my way in search of an ATM. I finally found one which didn’t accept my card and then I was horrified when the next one swallowed my card and if my other card hadn’t worked I would have been well and truly up sh*t creek without a paddle. Thankfully, I got my card back after some locals had hassled a guard into helping us all get our cards back on a Saturday afternoon when the banks were closed.
After that I found my way in the North African city and booked my bus ticket for 8pm that night. With five hours to kill I set about trying to find the old Forbes Museum on the outskirts of the city which featured in Timothy Dalton’s first outing as James Bond in the 1987 film ‘The Living Daylights’. Unable to follow the guide book map I walked fairly aimlessly and took a few photos of buildings which I thought could have been the militaristic villa of arms dealer Brad Whitaker from the movie and subsequent research on my return proved that I had got lucky in capturing the shot that I wanted.
I couldn’t get a place in a nearby cafe so wandered back to the medina area to have a mint tea while sat outside Gran Cafe de Paris which also featured on the big screen by way of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ which was the third part of the trilogy starring Matt Damon. It was this film which really brought Tangiers to my attention following perhaps one of films most exciting chase sequences through the medina and across the rooftops. Not so surprising then that my half day in this city was not so thrilling which was a bit disappointing as guidebooks and friends had said that people either love it or hate it. I thought it was OK but a little boring to be honest.
You can see all my Morocco photo’s here.

Tunisia Filming Locations

Another 5am start for my final full day in Tunisia. I was at the louage station by 5.45am waiting for the shared taxi to fill-up. Unfortunately I had to wait 90minutes for it to be full which is not that bad I guess but when yoh haven’t got so much time on your side its not so great. I was still in El Jem by 8am though and visited the amphitheatre there which was really nice and fairly empty when I got there though that didn’t last long as a load of German tour buses soon arrived thereafter.
A louage back to Sousse followed by a fairly instant louage down to Monastir followed. I visited the Ribat in Monastir which featured in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and the (fairly) unique thing about this place is that its right on the beach with the tower offering great views of the beach which I went to after for a quick swim. The sea was so refreshing given the temperature and for me, it was interesting to see Muslims in such a non-religious situation and believe it or not quite a relief to be free of the Star Wars sites which had dominated the trip up until then. Indeed, it would be quite nice to return to the country one day for a ‘normal’ holiday.
Once back in Sousse I later took another louage back to the capital city Tunis which I hadn’t spent any time in on my arrival into the country. The reason for the early starts to all of these days is because the louage situation can get quiet later in the afternoons so one doesn’t want to be waiting around for ages for the car to reach capacity. Having often been the only guest at my hotels in the south I hadn’t really anticipated the budget hotels being full but the first three I tried were. Eventually I ended up at the ironically named Hotel de la Tranquillite which was under three pounds for the night and was a basic prison cell sweatbox. Still, it did its job providing somewhere for me to lie down at the end of the day and that was basically the end of my first trip to the African continent and it was quite an eye-opener for me in terms of not being able to use hardly any English for the first time in my life. My French skills are fairly basic so I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for someone who doesn’t speak any French at all. I may have ticked most boxes while I was there due to some excessive travelling but there was just that something lacking which was not having much in the way of conversation, sharing experiences and so on with other travellers.
I had a quick look around Tunis but was too late to visit any of the major attractions in the area but what I did see was the Grand Hotel du Lac ad its strange shape which was maybe an inspiration (or inspired by) for the sandcrawlers in Star Wars.
You can see my Tunisia photo’s here.