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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: INSIDE MOS ESPA


Our small band of heroes enter into the unusual and unpredictable world of Tatooine's Mos Espa, a street set specially built on location fifteen miles away from Tozeur, Tunisia (a triumph from Production Designer Gavin Bocquet, his UK team (supervised by Ben Scott), and the sterling efforts of local construction talent), and one that's still around today (thanks to worldwide fan efforts that have helped maintain it). With a myriad of locals dressed and masked as varying background aliens, the exploration scenes would be lens captured in the midst of incredible and physically trying temperatures (reaching on one day up to 132 degrees!), affecting both people and equipment, during two schedule-packed weeks in the Summer of 1997.

"I could have built all of Tunisia on the backlot in England but there is a look, there is a smell, and there is an adventure for us shooting in the desert. And then you have to achieve that quality of light, the extras, the wear and tear of the costumes. And that heat... Even if you don't feel that heat when you see it, it's still a question of being there, of being a part of it. Just the experience of going there is still worth all the effort, both in economic and creative terms."

Rick McCallum - Total Film magazine - August 1999



"None of those sets had tops. We knew what we needed. But if George decided, at the last minute, that he wanted to tilt up more, we'd just slap up bluescreen so ILM could fill in the sets digitally."

Rick McCallum - The Making of EPISODE I book - 1999


Shooting on a day off, Warwick Davis has another fun cameo as a strange Mos Espa vagabond.

"It was very hot! Just very hot! A trench was dug around the shooting location in Tunisia. It was several feet deep, and was dug to keep all of the desert creepy crawlies away from our camp. Snake catchers were employed to patrol the area and make safe any locations. The cast had tents as dressing rooms, it reminded me of 'Lawrence of Arabia', the only difference being that Lawrence didn't have air conditioning in his tent!"

Warwick Davis - TheForce.Net online interview - 1999



"As difficult as it was (filming in the heat of the location), Tunisia was the place that brought back the most memories for me. It looks like Tatooine- it must be Star Wars!"

George Lucas - 1997

A special posed image taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine's world-exclusive coverage of EPISODE I in 1999.

Jira's fruit stand stall.


Out of storage from the Lucasfilm Archive, Luke's Landspeeder from the original Star Wars would be painted green and used for background scenes.

The street set from behind.

"The trick was to have the extras rehearse their scenes without their heads on. When we were ready to shoot the scene, we'd put the heads on and keep the extras under an umbrella, with plenty of water available, until the cameras started rolling. If an extra started to feel uncomfortable, we'd just stop shooting." 

Nick Dudman - The Making of EPISODE I book - 1999


Certain street scenes would be enhanced with digital additions from ILM.


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