Wars: Episode I - Leavesden
Home base of STAR WARS Episode I..
Please bear with me while I make a point:
The Fate of British movie studios has proven to be very fickle. Over the decades they have slowly fallen into the hands of Property Developers and steadily shrunk to a fraction of their former glory. Lets look at the record:
Ealing Studio, which gave birth to a wealth of British Classics in the 40's and 50's became unrecognizable as a center for movie production and appeared for a long time to have died, (I am told that it is in the process of being resurrected).
MGM Studios Elstree, where I made my entry into the industry in 1969, closed a year later.... it was nothing to do with me..... honest! It was swallowed up into a trading estate.
Elstree Studios was cut back a few years later selling off part of their land and becoming EMI Studios, (later taken over by Cannon), where all the STAR WARS movies to date were made.
Shepperton Studio had a wonderful back lot. It included a maze of realistic Victorian streets built for OLIVER which found their way into a wealth of other movies. That too was sold off and the studio became part owned by THE WHO and became a favorite rehearsal room for many bands whilst I had my workshop there in the late 70's.
Pinewood Studio did it's best to hold on while small cheaper alternatives like Twickenham Studios, Denham Studios, Lee Studios (where I had my first workshop) and Bray Studios (which was little more than a collection of barns) attracted small independent productions.
It got to the point where production companies even started making movies in London's derelict dockland under the fancy name of Jacobs St Studios, the dirtiest, noisiest, most aggravating place that it was ever my misfortune to work. (We made HIGHLANDER there)
Why am I telling you all this? Well..... it seems strange in the light of the demise of British film facilities that the largest indoor studio in Europe should suddenly pop up out of nowhere! Originally built as a Rolls-Royce jet engine factory, complete with its own landing strip, Leavesden Studios is an immense complex with well over half a million square feet of space. Besides being the largest indoor studio in Europe, its 100 acres of open space for outdoor filming give it the largest studio back lot in the world! Who, considering the plight of other studios, would decide to invest huge sums of money into such a project?
In the late 70's there was a lot of talk amongst STAR WARS technicians about George buying Elstee Studios. He had been involved in the putting up of a hangar like non soundproofed stage there which became the Dagobah set. Then there was talk of a studio in California. I wonder what kind of deal George has with Leavesden. It would make a perfect setting for 20 years of "STAR WARS Studio Tours" while we're waiting for EpisodeVII
I guess I'm generating rumors.
Either way, the STAR WARS crew took full advantage of the facility and built constantly.
This type of construction is typical of movie sets. What appears solid from the front is actually just a plastered and painted "flat" held up at the rear by scaffolding. (Hands up anyone who didn't realize they were looking at the back.) If you would like to see the front of a few of the new sets click here.
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