'Star Wars': On Location

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George Lucas directs Anthony Daniels as C-3PO in "Attack of the Clones" (2002). 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

Over nearly 40 years, Star Wars has turned some of Earth's most varied and exotic locations—including Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates—into its galactic universe. Some of these spots may surprise you.

This article is excerpted from a Newsweek Special Edition, Star Wars—The Legacy that Lead to The Force Awakens.

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This photos taken 20 earlier than the first, is again of George Lucas directing Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. This time in A New Hope (1977). AF archive/Alamy

Tunisia
For more than three decades and five films, Tunisia was transformed into the desert planet Tatooine, home of rogue criminals, legalized slavery, moisture farmers and Anakin and Luke Skywalker. The set locations were scattered throughout the African nation, which also served as a site for Obi-Wan Kenobi's 19-year hideout and the first rumblings of the Galactic Civil War.

Italy
The scenic banks of Lake Como and a once-royal palace in Naples stood in for premier locations on the planet Naboo. The former saw the marriage of Anakin and Padmé, while the latter was the home of the planet's monarch. A contrast to the lush greenery of Naboo, the fiery planet of Mustafar was established near Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily. The lava pits and rivers served as the backdrop for the infamous duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.

Norway
Serving as the Rebel Alliance's Echo Base, Hoth was built upon the snowy banks of Hardangerjøkulen, Norway. During the Battle of Hoth, vicious AT-AT walkers confronted the Alliance's ground troops. Though key Rebel leaders evaded capture, the battle was a major loss for the Alliance.

Switzerland
Grindelwald, Switzerland, was transformed into the influential world of Alderaan in Episode II. The home of Rebel heroes such as Princess Leia and Bail Organa, Alderaan was a prime target for the Empire. Once the Death Star was operational, Grand Moff Tarkin targeted the beautiful world, obliterating it swiftly, leaving only a lifeless asteroid field behind.

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Bearing a slate with the name Blue Harvest, a code name for Return of the Jedi, two ewoks ham it up on the California set. moviestillsdb

California
Scenes involving the secluded planet of Endor were filmed in California's Redwood National Park. Home of the Ewoks, Endor is the gravesite of Darth Vader—and, less literally, the Empire itself. It's here where the Rebel Alliance won it's most critical victory. Parts of Death Valley National Park and the Yuma Desert were also utilized for areas of Tatooine.

England
The woods of Watford, England, were utilized for the forests of Naboo, where the indigenous Gungans believed the forest to be sacred. While a majority of spacefarers would consider the amphibious creatures as primitives, the species created an advanced technology for themselves.

China and Thailand
Guilin, China, and Phuket, Thailand, were made into Kashyyyk, the forest-filled planet of Wookies. One of the final battles of the Clone Wars was fought here under the leadership of Yoda. Wookies and clones fought the droid army until the Emperor issued Order 66, instructing all clones to annihilate the Jedi. Yoda survived with the help of Chewbacca and Tarfful, utilizing a hidden shuttle to evacuate the planet.

United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, was used as a stand-in for Tatooine-like conditions following political unrest in Tunisia. The deserts will be featured in Episode VII in December 2015.

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A model of the surface of the Death Star II of Endor reveals the numerous trenches and features that allowed the Rebel Alliance victory in the Battle of Yavin. album/newscom

Guatemala
The Rebel base on Yavin 4 was filmed in the forests of Tikal, Guatemala. It was here where Princess Leia fled after her escape from the Empire, and where the Rebellion initiated the attack that destroyed the first Death Star, known thereafter as the Battle of Yavin.

Ireland
The larger of two Skellig Islands off the western coast of Ireland are rumored to have been turned into the place where Luke Skywalker, now a recluse, has been holed up in Episode VII.

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The crew looks on as Alec Guinness, playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, looks over the unconscious body of Luke Skywalker. The character had just been set upon by Tusken Raiders. lucasfilm/photofest

Spain
The city of Theed was filmed in Seville, Spain. Known as the capital of Naboo, Theed was home to the Royal Palace and House of Learning. Gifted Naboo youth would attend the prestigious institution to pursue a higher education.

This article is excerpted from a Newsweek Special Edition, Star Wars—The Legacy that Lead to The Force Awakens, by Issue Editor Tim Baker.

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Illustration by Tsuneo Sanda
'Star Wars': On Location | Culture