Star Wars 7: Letter confirms film's location in the Forest of Dean

After fevered speculation, the earthbound set for the latest Star Wars film is confirmed

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The Independent Culture

It began (not so much a long time ago, more like July) when a mysterious film crew was spotted, refusing to divulge the nature of their business.

The intrigue only deepened when discarded movie production equipment and cabling were spotted in the woods.

Now a leaked letter has confirmed the fevered speculation: the setting for a new Star Wars film, supposedly located in a galaxy far, far away, will in reality be the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

Revealed the day after stars including Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher celebrated the end of filming in a party at London’s Science Museum, the letter sent to “the extraordinary cast and crew” of Star Wars: Episode VII, extolled their “professionalism, passion and patience”.

And then, revealingly, it added: “From the deserts of Abu Dhabi, to the Forest of Dean, to the stages of Pinewood, you have risen to every challenge and been as wonderfully kind as you are brilliantly talented.” 

For Star Wars fans, here at last seemed to be confirmation that the seventh film in the franchise was partly shot at Puzzlewood, near the market town of Coleford, where the cabling and uncommunicative (but “brilliantly talented”) film crew had been spotted.

As well as promising “a magical day out in the Forest of Dean”, Puzzlewood’s moss-covered rocks and twisted yew-tree roots have previously provided the perfect, otherworldly setting for scenes from TV series including Doctor Who and Merlin.

JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, is also said to have taken his inspiration for the forests of Middle Earth from Puzzlewood.

The choice of Puzzlewood as a location continues a tradition of every Star Wars film containing scenes shot in Britain.

For the latest instalment, Episode VII, some scenes have been shot at Pinewood studios in Buckinghamshire – although with mixed success following an accident with a door that left the 71-year-old Ford, reprising his role as Han Solo while nursing a broken ankle.

The possibility of Berkshire being the location for some filming was raised in September after a man taking publicity photos for a flying school returned home to find he had captured images of a grounded Millennium Falcon and X-wing fighter.

Film fans have speculated that Puzzlewood could double as Dagobah, the planet where Yoda trained Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, or the forest moon of Endor, home of the ewoks. Previously the ewoks had been filmed in the redwood forests of northern California.

The Forest of Dean tourist attraction’s precise role, however, may yet remain a mystery until the film is finally released in December 2015.

The letter, which appears to have been sent by Episode VII’s producers, did not go into any more detail about what the Forest of Dean would represent.

Instead, its authors talk about their ambition “to make a film that entertains millions of people, of all ages, for generations”.

This probably means that film makers and Gloucestershire residents are united in hoping that the Forest of Dean has more luck than Whippendell Woods near Watford, Hertfordshire, the location for the filming of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s first meeting with Jar Jar Binks – probably the most-unpopular Star Wars character ever.