December 12, 2006

Tatooine Now Open for Tourism!

real-life-tatooine.jpgForget Hawaii. Don't even think about the forest moon of Endor... unless you're into tey ghey. It's Tatooine or nothing for me. I'm serious.

Seems that Tatooine is a real place, not just the state of mind of the bin Ladens of the world. And the abandoned Star Wars set is the home of squatters who just sort of took over after the evil George Lucas left.

If there are Jawas there, no problem. You can deal with Jawas. It's the Tuskens who you have to watch out for. And the troglodytes. I. Kid. You. Not.

I don't know where Imperial Minister of all things Kylie Minogue's fantabulous backside, Ghost of a Flea, finds this stuff, but I sure do appreciate his thinking of us whenever he comes across some non-Europop related material and sends it our way.

I have never been a "Star Wars" aficionado, to tell you the truth. The closest I ever came to appreciating the movie was singing along to the "Star Wars" ring tone on my colleague's cell phone.

That is, until I took a trip to the planet Tatooine itself a real place in the middle of the north African desert, a well-kept secret of Tunisia.

While ruthless Hollywood knocks over the set of each movie as soon as the director shouts his final "Cut!," Tunisia, where George Lucas shot most of the "Star Wars" scenes, still keeps the original set from the '70s, protecting it from the burning sun and the evil winds of the Sahara.....

What seemed to be just another pile of desert rocks, gradually, as we approached, took the shape of the rockets, satellites and spheres of the 1976 "Star Wars'" production, the real-life science fiction amid the ancient desert....

As I peered inside one of the impeccably built constructions, I noticed a mattress and a small teapot on the sand floor. In a mere moment, the "owner" of the house was there: an elder Arab man dressed in a typical desert fashion.

Surprisingly, his French was perfect and he explained to me that since he had neither family nor money, he came to live in the movie set. He looks after the place, the real roof of the fake house protects him from the sandstorms, and if a tourist throws him a small coin every once in a while, he can buy some more tea and some food. And he is hardly the only one living in the Lucas-built wonderland in the middle of the Sahara....

Sidi Driss used to be a real troglodyte house, and in the beginning of the '70s it was transformed into the hotel. When Lucas came to Tunisia to shoot the original "Star Wars," he came across the hotel and liked it so much, that not only did he sleep there; he also built additional "space" decorations inside the structure to shoot the necessary scenes. I received my first insight on the Sidi Driss' role in movie location history from an extremely excited American "Star Wars" fan, who was having dinner at the next table in the hotel's tiny canteen....

Having consumed both the food and the info, we left the "restaurant" and took numerous pictures near the real Skywalker memorabilia the interior of the hotel. Then we went into the "Star Wars Bar" a small pit in the hotel used to film the famous bar scene, and continued our investigation over the fancy-spacey-named cocktails.

If the surreal could get even surrealier, I don't know how.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 09:42 PM | Comments |