(l to r) Kahunna, Steve Cote and Peter
(click for larger image)
If you got the newest Star Wars Insider, you might've read the
great article entitled Star Wars Road Trip, where the Insider
staff visited Star Wars filming locations located in the US. It is
surprising, as well as exciting, to find out that many sequences
originally believed to have been filmed in Tunisia were actually
pick-up shots filmed in Death Valley, California.
With a few days notice, I organized an "expedition" or sorts out
to Death Valley on Saturday to search for a few of the filming
locations. Although our main goal was to experience the excitement
of standing on the exact spot used for a SW movie, it would be nice
to win some SW booty. The "booty" is a butt-load of SW collectibles
that the SW Insider would award to the first person/team to send in
pictures proving they found the filming site called "Artoo's
Arroyo." (We found out before we left that another team might have
found it already). Even if the location was indeed found earlier, we
felt it was our duty as Star Wars fans to visit this newly-inducted
Star Wars filming location only a few hours drive from our homes in
A trip to our "Mecca" was about to begin...
On Saturday morning at 4am, with only 3 hours of sleep, Pete
Genovese, Steve Cote, his wife Amy and baby child Dana and I headed
out to (on average) the hottest place in The United States: Death
Valley. We supplied ourselves with detailed maps, gallons of water,
and 2 hand-sketched screenshots from ANH which Pete drew (we
couldn't locate any good screenshots on the web before we left.) We
headed off into the desert full of high hopes and bottled excitement.
click for larger
After driving through seemingly endless desert, we arrived at our
first location around 10am: Dante's View. In the Star Wars Universe,
Dante's View is known as the cliff overlooking the valley containing
Mos Eisley Spaceport. It is here where Ben Kenobi warns young Luke
Skywalker of what awaits them in Mos Eisley. It was near impossible
or us to stand there overlooking the valley without saying the
famous line: "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and
villainy." The wind tugged at our hats and shirts on top of the
5,475 foot high point, but the worst weather was yet to come...
We drove down into the Valley and stopped by the Furnace Creek
Inn, the 70-year-old hotel in which the LucasFilm staff stayed while
they were out there filming the pick-up shots. We got out of our car
and the hot wind blasted our faces. It wasn't hard to picture what
it might be like to live on Tatooine. Other than entering our car or
a building, we would not find comfort from the harsh weather until
we arrived back in Southern California.
It was only a week ago where I spent countless hours online
trying unsuccessfully to find clues to the filming location. Just as
the Insider did for their article, I called Ranger Charlie Callagan
for help in finding this elusive location. The Insider understated
how nice Charlie was in their article - this man's happiness and
willing to help was as genuine as it could get. After talking with
him for 20 minutes on the phone, he gave me a general direction to
go in order to find Artoo's Arroyo.
Death Valley, the lowest point on dry land in the Western
Hemisphere, is renowned for its high temperatures and heavy winds.
Combined with the surrounding scenery, we expected to look up and
see two Tatooine suns in the sky. The thermometer in the shade of
the country store read 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the winds were
whipping up to 40 miles an hour.
After we adapted (somewhat) to the harsh climate, we stopped by
the ranger station to see if we could meet Charlie. Unfortunately,
he wasn't due in until 3pm, some 4 hours away, so we took what info
he gave us on the phone and began our search through Death Valley.
Although we immediately found the correct canyon in which Artoo
traveled before being captured by Jawas, our goal was to capture on
film the EXACT camera-angle as seen in ANH. Our excitement was so
great, we momentarily forgot how hot it was. We pulled out Pete's
"treasure map" of a drawing and analyzed it. We would like to think
that we could find it without ANY type of screenshot, but Pete's
detailed pictures helped us out just enough to locate the shots.
After hours of searching and dehydration beginning to set in, we
found the first angle: the first shot of Artoo entering the canyon
at Sunset. (It's interesting to note that all of the sky and
mountains in the background of that shot in SW is the wizardry of a
CG artist. If we knew that before we left, I believe we might have
found the location sooner.)
click for larger
After finding the first shot, the second shot of Artoo rolling
away from the camera came a little easier. All it required was for
us to match up the background with the foreground. General rule of
thumb: Match up the background FIRST and THEN try to match up the
Due to the life-threatening dry heat and powerful winds, we
didn't stay to find the other filming sites: Artoo's dunes and the
Tusken Raider's Canyon. But there's always next time, right?
All in all, it was the best Star Wars trip of my life.
Return to Star Wars Locations
(If you want to view more pictures from our trip, go here.)
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page copyright (c) Peter