A not-so long time ago (Monday) in a galaxy nearer than you think (Australia), head Jedi George Lucas and his mates officially kicked off principal photography of the second prequel.
The shooting, taking place at Fox Studios in Sydney, started three years to the day after production began on Episode I; The Phantom Menace, according to the official Star Wars Website.
The still-untitled Episode II, the first installment in the Star Wars saga to go all-digital, is scheduled to wrap up in August in Australia before moving on to a month of shooting on location in Italy and Tunisia.
Monday's big day began with Lucas returning to a bluescreen-filled set from Episode I shooting scenes with actor Ian McDiamid (reprising his role as the conniving Senator Palpatine), which take place in the senator's apartment on the Republic's capital world of Coruscant.
"It's hard for me to remember if I'm still shooting Episode I, the special edition, the DVD or Episode II," writes Lucas, a man who's obviously got a lot on his mind. Other crew members were pumped up for the shoot as well.
Adds casting director Robin Gurland: "I felt like it was the first day of school, except I knew everyone in the class."
Before production began, Gurland trekked all over Australia auditioning actors from Sydney to Perth who fit the Star Wars mold.
Some of her finds include: Xena: Warrior Princess vet Jay Laga'aia, who's playing a loyal security officer, and Aussie Leeanna Walsman, who'll take on the physically-demanding role of a new highly-killed bounty hunter.
And speaking of bounty hunters, Boba Fett fans will be happy to learn that the ruthless bounty hunter and Han Solo nemesis will be making an appearance in Episode II. How much of an appearance is debatable, though, since Lucas is mum on the storyline as usual.
A casting team is also searching for pint-sized preschoolers needed to fill some extra shoes in Episode II--Ewoks or Jawas, anyone? They're also on the lookout for adult actors willing to sweat it out under those alien masks for hours at a time. (Somehow we doubt that'll be a problem.)
Of course, that clumsy (and much-vilified) Jar Jar Binks (played by Ahmed Best) is back for the prequel along with mainstays R2-D2, Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and the new Anakin Skywalker, Hayden Christiansen.
And good news for C-3PO; after spending Episode I sans visage, he finally gets to put on his golden face plate--EOnline.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)