Where in the galaxy is Luke Skywalker? This question was at the center of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and was only answered in the final scene of the movie, when — spoiler alert — Rey tracked Skywalker down at the top of a mountainous island, assumed to be one of the last Jedi temples. Rey had previously seen an image of the island in a vision she had when she first touched Luke's lightsaber and connected with the Force over at Maz Kanata's, but the island was never specifically named. The beautiful setting has caused many viewers to wonder where the end scene in The Force Awakens was filmed, because it just seemed too idyllic to be real.
Luke's island might not have a name in the Star Wars universe, but it does in real life: Skellig Michael (aka the island of Skellig Michael or Skellig Island for short). Skellig Michael is a small, remote island off the coast of Ireland. Known for its lush green scenery and 600 steep stone steps, the island is the home of exotic wildlife — the Force Awakens crew encountered puffins upon their arrival — and the site of an ancient Christian monastery. With its ancient feel and absence of modern human settlements, Skellig Michael was the perfect place for director J.J. Abrams to shoot the closing scene of The Force Awakens.
"You think 'This is beautiful,' then you realize, 'This is perilous also,'" Abrams said at TFA's LA press conference about shooting on the island. In fact, the isolated nature of Skellig Michael coupled with the 600 steps makes it a slightly dangerous place to be, let alone shoot a multi-million dollar film. Armed with 40 odd crew members and expensive camera equipment, Abrams embarked with stars Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill to film the final scene on location.
The filmmaker and his crew shot on location at Skellig Michael for three days, giving them ample time to admire the island in all of its glory. One thing that particularly stuck with Abrams, however, was not so much the scenery as the wildlife. "We got there and, there were, I think like 10 million puffins. I mean, there were more puffins than I knew there were puffins," Abrams joked at the press conference.
All of the eccentricities of the island were exactly what Abrams was looking for. When he signed up to be the director of the new Star Wars movie, Abrams was determined to film with as many practical effects as possible, which also meant filming on location as much as possible. "When I saw Star Wars for the first time, it was all practical and real. You knew it when you saw the movie. So I felt that the standard had to be authenticity. The standard had to be reality," Abrams explained in a video for Discover Ireland.
If you want to go to Skellig Michael island to see where Rey and Luke Skywalker finally met, you're going to have to wait a while. Skellig Michael is only open to visitors from May to September. Until the island opens to tourists in the spring, fans desperate to go will have no choice but to see The Force Awakens again instead.
Images: Walt Disney Studios