Anchorhead and After
The Lost Scenes

image © Lucasfilms™
DATELINE: Tunisia, April 16, 2002
They say "Don't look back", but when the chance came to re-visit the Star Wars Tunisian shooting sites with Gary Kurtz, the co-producer of Episode IV, I couldn't refuse. Gary is directing a documentary on the making of the film, produced by Jason Joiner, and it promises a lot of exciting material, interviews with many of those who helped create the film and a panorama of the old shooting sites.

When we landed the sun was setting in a fiery ball over Djerba airport. A flurry of fine sand swept over the tarmac. Djerba, the island to the east of Tunisia, where the film unit was based back in April 1975 looks much the same, a huge complex of tourist hotels spread along the Mediterranean coast, sand and scrub, horses, goats and camels wandering untethered in fields, half-built houses and crumbling shanties mix with luxurious villas along the roads.

Next morning we drove to the Anchorhead location at Ajim, where the original Toshi Station scene was shot, the famous "Lost Scene", which begins with a scene inside the station with Deak, Fixer, Camie and Windy and Biggs and ends with Biggs saying 'so long' to Luke.

It was now 26 years later and the dawn felt the same, the road as bumpy, our car kicking up the same dust, the sun as hot on the side of the car as we headed along the coast road. But somehow the journey seemed less long. Maybe because I had no tension in the pit of the stomach, it was not the first day on a major film, there was no huge film crew to meet, no pages of dialogue to get through, no new director to discover.

Jason and Gary (click for larger image)

Then, there it was, at the bottom of a dirt track, the old white mosque perched on the coast outlined against the blue sky, a fisherman on the coast below preparing his nets, a local Tunisian in his dark robes parking his old bike and resting for a moment on the promontory staring across the water. It was silent, just the sound of a cool breeze over the lapping sea, and somewhere in our minds a distant echo of old memories of a bustling film crew preparing to shoot another scene in the saga.

Gary and I did our documentary interview on the ledge outside the mosque where I had walked with Luke trying to persuade him to leave Uncle Owen's farm and join the Rebel Alliance. Some of the old dialogue of that scene was stilled wedged in my mind, and Mark Hamill's comments as we filmed through the morning and afternoon, his terrific energy and support, and at one point his whispering "I don't think we've ever shot so many takes." The endless refills of the 'malt' drink we were sipping as we left the station. My black berber cape (the inspiration of the costume department) blowing in the wind and knocking the microphone fixed somewhere under my blue shirt.
(click for larger image)

Apart from the graffiti on the mosque walls and the difference in the size of the film crew shooting from the beach the feeling was the same. This time round we had only a cameraman, Dylan, and a soundman, Johnny. When we finished the documentary interview, I had a feeling of expiation. Gary even explained, with structural analysis, why the Anchorhead scene had been cut. (Performances were not in question!) Only time will tell whether the scene will be resurrected in some future edition. As it was, there, on the headland at Ajim, almost 26 years to the day after the 'missing scene' was filmed, its ghost had been laid.

The rest of the trip was new territory for me: first to one of the Uncle Owen homestead sites, then by ferry to the mainland and a long dusty exhilarating ride south across the salt flats to Touzeur where we took expeditions out to the stunning canyon at Sidi Bouhlel then by camel to the dunes further south and finally we filmed a glorious sunset over the endless flat horizon by the site of the set for Uncle Owen's house, re-constructed for Episode 2 . It was magic.

While we were there a Land Cruiser full of fans, or maybe just tourists, arrived to take pictures of the site. Pilgrims all, travelling a well-worn path.

(click for larger image)


The Anchorhead scenes as the world knows are featured on the Lucasfilm CD-Rom "Behind the Magic" and are worth a look. One reviewer wrote:

"As the scenes unfolded before my eyes for the first time I was spellbound at the richness-so much shading, so many dimensions of character in the brief exchanges of dialogue."*

(Hey, the gang up at Anchorhead would like that!)

* From "Anchorhead - The Lost Scenes"
by David West Reynolds
Star Wars Insider No. 35