When director J.J. Abrams yells “Action!” on the first new “Star Wars” film in almost a decade, it will be on a location or soundstage far, far from Abrams’ home base of Los Angeles, where his Bad Robot production outfit is headquartered.
Burk maintains that the producers had been obsessed with trying to figure out a plan to keep the “Star Wars” shoot local, and gushes over the experience Bad Robot had shooting “Super 8” and the past two “Star Trek” films in California.
“We had wonderful experiences everywhere we shot and L.A. is our home,” Burk says. He also laments that “like all producers, we factor in crews, studios and the best place to recoup incentives that are available.”
While press reports have surfaced about U.K. chancellor George Osborne pushing multiple U.K. locales, no other locations beyond the famed Pinewood Studios outside London have been confirmed for “Star Wars.”
That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill. Albuquerque Studios president Dana Arnold says there has been talk for two years that parts of “Star Wars” may shoot in New Mexico, his facility’s home state. He’s also heard talk of locations as disparate as Iceland, Jordan, Scotland and Ireland.
Arnold figures Burk, Abrams and Lucasfilm chief and “Star Wars” executive producer Kathleen Kennedy must be swamped with sales pitches from film commissions and facilities to win a part of the Disney production.
“Every location and facility across the globe and every state in the U.S. must be offering the moon and stars,” Arnold says. “And they’re all willing to offer things on a one-shot basis, everything they can imagine the producers might want, just to be able to say they got the new ‘Star Wars’ shoot. That din is probably the first challenge facing any location or facility that wants to be seriously considered.”
Burk confirms he’s getting a barrage of pitches “by mail, by phone and sometimes when I show up at events.”
One L.A. production insider estimates the incentives package to be gained across the series is “astronomical. Disney will get so much money from the U.K. that I don’t know how they could say ‘No.’ ”
Still, other pros point out that “Star Wars” is unlikely to deliver the tourism dollars which are the ultimate upside.
Says Arnold: “The irony of ‘Star Wars’ is there won’t be a single location that is identifiable. We had one of the biggest-grossing films in history, ‘The Avengers’ shoot here, but ‘Breaking Bad’ has more impact on tourism than anything we’ve ever done in New Mexico. Identifiable locales are what drives tourism.”
Trina Vargo, founder and president of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, which hosts its annual Oscar Wilde Awards at Bad Robot’s Santa Monica offices, says she’s eager to get a different J.J. Abrams blockbuster to highlight the advantages of shooting in Ireland.
“If I could get Tom Cruise to rappel down the Cliffs of Moher, in the next ‘Mission Impossible,’” says Vargo, “it would be a bigger boost to Irish tourism than any scene they might do in Ireland for ‘Star Wars.’ ”
(Pictured: The first of three pics from Disney/Lucasfilm will lense at Pinewood Studios.)