Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Watford)

On the 23rd December I was back in England and in the capital itself so I decided to go on the underground to Watford station (at the end of the Metropolitan line) with the idea of walking from there to Whippendell Wood. The roads were very icey though and difficult to walk on plus I lost my sense of direction so just took a taxi to the area which was used as the Naboo forest in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

 

Due to the recent heavy bout of snowfall that had pretty much brought the country to a standstill (yet again!) the place was more reminiscent of the remote ice-world of Hoth. Having entered the wood through the Grove Mill Lane Car Park I came to the sign shown in the picture above on the right. From here there are three paths and I took the one on the right for about two minutes whereby I came to the first shot which is recognisable by a huge drop and an interesting mark on one of the trees which is where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi save Jar Jar Binks who in return agrees to guide them to Otoh Gunga.

 

To get there they travel underwater which involved the use of CGI to add water to a wood which has no swamps or lakes. This part of the wood was nearby but it was like trying to find a needle in the proverbial haystack so I gave up and settled on some easier to find locations. Going back through the car park and over the country lane I then arrived at what looked like a golf course where a few scenes were filmed and these were far easier to locate. In fact they were all in one place but just shot from slightly different angles. This is where Amidala and the rebels make plans to attack the city of Theed (the capital of Naboo) towards the end of the film.

      

I then headed back to the station on foot this time thanks to some directions by locals. It took about 40 minutes in the snow. I’d been meaning to do these locations for a couple of years and was fairly satisfied with my mornings work but maybe I will return one day when I am next back in England. Though the snow added a bit of festive beauty to the area I would still like to see it in its more normal setting but I can’t say its gonna be too much of a priority.

*** 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 – 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

Star Wars Traveller: Naboo (a.k.a. Como)

You may think that an afternoon of seeking out Casino Royale‘ and Star Wars Episode II film scenes at the Villa del Balbianello would be enough for one day. Not for me though because while I was walking back to my hotel I came across the Parco Civico di Tremezzo which featured in a cut scene from ‘Attack of the Clones‘ and was where Anakin and Padmé left 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 Lake retreat a.k.a. the Villa del Balbianello. We saw that at the very start of Euro Trip 2010 Pt VI but it appears that their clothes have changed there whereas they are the same on arrival in Tatooine as they are in the first photo below.
I took some pictures of the steps and that rectangular sign at the top of them as well as the male toilets 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 for her which was just a stones throw away from the steps seen in the screenshot. I woke up early the following morning and in order to recreate this screenshot I had to get into the water with my camera 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!!      
Later that morning I set out on foot following the excellent directions from Mark Dermul’s third Star Wars filming locations book to find the picknic meadow where Anakin and Padmé get closer. Lots of overgrown grass in the foreground of some amazing, huge waterfalls in the film but in reality it was just a private field which could be anywhere in the world to be honest! The falls 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 aforementioned John Knoll book. By that I mean the shabby building in one of my photo’s. There had been a heavy downpour the night before so with the grass still wet I could only crouch down rather than immitate their sitting pose.
   
A different field was used nearby for the scene where Anakin was playing around on the back of the Shaak until he fell off and played dead in the name of luring Padmé into his arms whereby the viewer assumes they kiss not that we see that. The rodeo bit was obviously done against a blue screen but the rolling around was done in this very field which again really could be any grassy area.
 
A restaurant (Fagurida) frequented by Sir Alec Guiness (Obi Wan Kenobi) in the 1960’s and a house used as Hayden Christensen’s and Natalie Portman’s dressing room rounded off my Star Wars adventure.
 
 *** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello) here
 *** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba) here

Star Wars Traveller: Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello)

Ask almost anybody what their 6th favourite Star Wars film is and chances are that they will say ‘Episode II: Attack of the Clones‘. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with episodes I and II but my opinion changed with the former after visiting the filming locations in Tunisia last year. Visiting the Plaza de Espana in Seville at the start of the year heightened my interest in episode II and that was extended even further in anticipation of seeing the following at the Villa del Balbianello in Como.
Unlike the ‘Casino Royale’ shots (done at the same place) Star Wars episode II included a bit of CGI here and there. The first such example is when we see the villa from the lake albeit with 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 Skywalker and Padmé Amidala arrive at the lake retreat on the latter’s home planet of Naboo. They arrive by boat but this 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 (not on camera) we then see the pair of them walk along a terrace with a pond in the foreground and a bush in the background.
   
They walk over to the balcony overlooking the lake. Notice the strange shape trunk on the right of each photo.
   
This balcony is where the two heroes kiss for the first time although Padmé later pulls away as their love is forbidden. Sadly my girlfriend wasn’t with me on this trip to re-create such a scene which I would have insisted upon no doubt to her disproval. By that I mean the geekiness of it rather than the kiss!
We return to this part of the villa for the film’s climax as Anakin and Padmé get married in secret with R2D2 and C3PO the only ones in attendance. The former managed to turn up for my appearance again as he did in Tunisia and Spain. Sadly the beautiful red flowers in the movie are not so distinct now.
  
 
The loggia which appeared in ‘Casino Royale’ was used a little differently in ‘Attack of the Clones‘. 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.
 
“Jedi don’t have nightmares” is what Anakin tells Padmé 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. The sunlight made this one hard to re-create but typically I didn’t think about closing the door until later that evening.
 
The following shot was done using a platform and fake window and window sill but in reality it is just the garden out the back of the ticket office and bookshop. This was cut from the movie but does appear in the deleted scenes chapter on the DVD. It see’s Anakin being questioned in the garden by Padmé’s father about his intentions.
 
Another scene to end upon the cutting room floor was Padme’s bedroom (no, not a sex scene!) and this started with a view of the villa shot from below in the garden although as you can see CGI magic makes the two look quite different.
 
The deleted bedroom scene (seen on the dvd) 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.
 
 The Villa del Balbianello as seen in ‘Casino Royale’ can be seen here.
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville) here.
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba) here

The Empire Strikes Back 30th Anniversary

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back which for many, many years was my favourite film of the saga. That changed last year though to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope following my visit to some of the filming locations used in that movie. The battle scenes of Hoth in Empire were filmed in Finse in Norway and even though I have the guidebook I can’t really see myself going to the trouble to just see a bit of ice but never say never I guess!
Anyway, I recently made (thanks to a link on the official Star Wars website) a rather rushed one minute Empire parody video featuring me as both Luke Sywalker and Han Solo with m’lady as Princess Leia which can be seen here. Check it out! It’s funny even if I do say so myself!
I remember being stunned to discover that Vader was Luke’s father which is a classic movie moment and one that is difficult for the younger generation of Star Wars fans to discover the way I did. Empire is great for the following reasons:
* The “I am your father” revelation
* John Williams’ foreboding “Imperial March” music
* The introduction of Yoda, Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett
* Han Solo uses a lighsaber for the only time
* The gigantic AT-AT’s (All terrain armoured transports)
* Han Solo gets heroically frozen in carbonite
* Darth Vader slices off Luke Skywalkers hand
* We see Vader briefly appear out of his helmet in a meditation chamber
* Lando trying to use his charm on Princess Leah
* erm , that incestuous kiss between Luke and Leia!

Star Wars Traveller: Naboo (a.k.a. Seville)

A lot of my time in Seville was spent at Plaza de Espana which is a semi-circular open place featuring ceramic tile buildings, a fountain, bridges and a canal. This place was my first port of call for the main reason that it was used for about 30 seconds in ‘Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones’ when Anakin and Padme followed by R2D2 arrive on Naboo and walk to the Queen’s palace. It was also used in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and played the part of ‘Cairo’ officers’ club. CGI was used in the Star Wars film to add domes, modify buildings, alter towers and mirror the whole place to create an oval.
First impressions as I entered the site were of disappointment that parts of it were like a building site which often seems to be the case when visiting tourist hotspots. They are seemingly always under construction! Thankfully, that was only near the entrance and although the canal was dirty it wasn’t really noticeable as I wandered round the place. Although it was a bit run-down and decrepit in parts it really was a beautiful place and I am quite surprised that it features so little in the guidebooks on Seville. There were basically only three parts of the plaza used by the Star Wars film crew (only two made the final edit – all three can be seen in the first couple of minutes of this video) and they included the fountain, one of the bridges and the undercover rim of the plaza. Having used my R2D2 figure in Tunisia I couldn’t resist the idea of using it in a few photo’s at the Plaza. What luck that I just happened to have it in my bag!!
You can see all my Seville photo’s here.
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba) here

A Galaxy Not So Far Away (From Where I Live)

The week before my final day in Tokiwadai I did a special kids lesson about Momotaro (Peach boy) and afterwards I got talking to one of the fathers who wanted to see my Star Wars travel photos from Tunisia and Italy. This was no coincidence though as the receptionist had informed me about him as they had somehow got onto the subject of the Sci-fi saga the week before. Anyway, he very kindly gave me a set of Star Wars stamps (see bottom picture) and offered to show me his collection. Now its certainly not like this one in Korea but nevertheless it was interesting to see his pride and joy which is inevitably hated by his wife! He had some very expensive figures and other rarities which p*ss all over my Pepsi Nex freebie collection from last year! I may collect a fair few Star Wars related things but I have never really been too bothered about figures and don’t want to be as that can be an expensive hobby.

Star Wars Traveller: Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba)

I just missed a louage to the island of Djerba at 5.30am and then had to wait over an hour for the following one to become full. The cost of the taxi included the ferry crossing and culminated at the north of the island from where I then hired a taxi driver to take me round the places I wanted to visit. This island is a very popular destination for tourists who frequent the eastern side of the island and its beautiful beaches so my driver must have thought I was a right oddity for wanting to see three old run-down buildings on the west side in Ajim.
First stop was the marabout of Sidi Jemour which played Anchorhead in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and was also used as the outskirts of Mos Eisley. Personally, I wasn’t that bothered about this place but as I was in the vicinity I thought I may as well see it.
Further down the coast and close to the ferry port was Ben Kenobi’s hermitage; a lone derelict building which appeared on screen for about one second with Luke Skywalker‘s landspeeder outside it. The film portrays it as being in the middle of the desert by using a low camera angle but it is fact right next to the sea. This was very geeky but very exciting although there was nothing whatsoever inside for that was no doubt filmed in the studio.
 
My final port of call on the Star Wars trail was the Mos Eisley Cantina bar where Luke and Ben were introduced to Han Solo before escaping in the Millennium Falcon; filmed on a nearby sidestreet which I found thanks to the map in Mark Dermul’s ‘Trip to Tatooine’ book. Without such a map it would have been fairly impossible to find the Cantina, the blast-off alley and the stormtrooper checkpoint. They were still difficult enough to find even with the map! Of course its been over 30 years since the movie was filmed so needless to say that the buildings are not in good condition but it was nice to finish my Star Wars journey at such a pivotal place in the whole saga.
 
You can see my Tunisia photo’s here.
You can see my Tunisia Star Wars Collection photo’s here.

Star Wars Traveller: Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours)

I left the Sidi Driss Hotel in Matmata and caught (by luck) an over-packed 7.30am bus to Gabes where I checked into a hotel and then went straight out again to the louage station to get down to Tataouine, the name that inspired the name of planet Tatooine in the Star Wars saga. While waiting for the taxi to fill-up with people Xavier came along and once we’d got to Tatouine we were prepared to go our separate ways. Before this I asked him if he could just help me out with the arrangements and invitable haggling with a taxi driver for what I wanted to do which somehow eventually lead to us both taking a taxi to his hotel, Ksar Ouled SoltaneKsar Hadeda before dropping me off in Medinine and then taking him back to Tataouine. I was more than happy with this deal as it was reasonably cheap and meant I would have a travel companion for a bit in a country where its fair to say I hadn’t had too much conversation due to my French not stretching so far!
We had been expecting some sign of civilisation before we reached our first sightseeing spot but that never happened as one moment we were driving through the middle of nowhere and then the next we stopped and walked into the beautifully coloured Ksar Ouled Soltane (a Ksar is basically a fortified granary whatever that really means – a place to store grain?) which was great. No-one there (apart from a few artists selling their paintings of which I bought one), no surrounding fence, no entry charge and so we were free to climb all over the building to view the surrounding area which was nice as the Ksar is on the top of a hill.
Ksar Hadeda was next and we were there much sooner than I had anticated. This was similar to the previous one but not quite as aesthetically pleasing as it had fallen into disrepair in places. It was the location of Shmi Skywalker’s home in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the scene where she told Qui-Gon Jinn that her son Anakin didn’t have a father. This place is now part hotel, part Ksar and part building site and so made it difficult to locate the exact filming shots.
The final location was Ksar Medenine where I said a bientot to Xavier and then went to the alley on the back of the Ksar which was also used as the home of Anakin and Shmi Skywalker. The scene where Anakin had to say bye to his mum was filmed here with sand added to the street to make it look more desert-y so inevitably it looks a little different now with no set dressing remaining and it looked like people actually lived there.
You can see my Tunisia photo’s here.
You can see my Tunisia Star Wars Collection photo’s here.