Leave it to J.J. Abrams to begin production on Star Wars: Episode VII before making any official casting announcements for the hotly-anticipated blockbuster. The Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness director has managed to keep a lid on most of the movie's secrets, though of late small details have been sneaking through the cracks. (As Princess Leia observed, "The more you tighten your grip Abrams, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." Yes, that's the correct quote.)
Disney Chairman Alan Horn has confirmed that Episode VII picks up more than thirty years after the events in Return of the Jedi, with a storyline that features three young leads alongside "very familiar faces." So far, we know that the list of returning players from the previous Star Wars movies includes Chewbacca and R2-D2, while older versions of the "original trilogy" leads Luke, Leia, and Han are expected to play a role in the proceedings (a very important one, judging by the cast members' reported six-month commitment).
Horn also recently confirmed that shooting on Episode VII is underway, shortly after rumors emerged that filming has started in Morocco, which (according to those behind said rumors) shall partially "play" the desert planet Tatooine in Abrams' film. THR is now backing those claims, with a scoop that reveals that an "extensive recreation" of the Skywalkers' home on that world has been built in a "Morocco-like environment."
The location in question is technically the "desolate home of Luke and Anakin Skywalker," though it would be more exact to call it the Lars homestead. There, Shmi Skywalker lived with her husband Cliegg Lars after her son Anakin left to train as a Jedi, before Luke was raised by Own and Beru Lars there during the years between Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV - A New Hope.
Remnants of the Tatooine sets built for past Star Wars films are still around, including the Lars homestead in Tunisia; if the latter has been rebuilt in Morocco, however, it may be that location won't be featured in Episode VII solely for nostalgic purposes. Might the older Luke Skywalker be living in the place where he grew up, much like actor Mark Hamill has half-joked in the past? It's not impossible.
A return to Tatooine in Episode VII does make sense from a storytelling perspective. The setting embodies the western genre tropes which have long been a part of the Star Wars franchise, while its connection to the Skywalker clan befits a film that will introduce the next generation in that family. Now we just have to wait and find out which actors will be playing said young Skywalkers (at long last)...
Star Wars: Episode VII opens in U.S. theaters on December 18th, 2015.
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