‘Star Wars’ Fever Extends to an Ancient Irish Island
On Ireland’s windswept west coast, the rare day of fine weather finds a few dozen intrepid tourists descending on the tiny fishing village of Portmagee. There, they board boats to one of the country’s most mystical places — Skellig Michael, an uninhabited pinnacle of rock some 50 minutes west through the rough swells of the Atlantic.
Its remote location has kept the island, a Unesco site, under the radar — luring far fewer (and far more adventurous) souls than other Irish wonders with a high-wattage wow factor, such as the Cliffs of Moher. But now, its relative obscurity seems about to end in a blaze of silver-screen glory.
That became apparent in mid-September, when a man appeared in Portmagee who was no ordinary visitor. Locals whispered that he hailed from a galaxy far, far away — possibly as far away as Los Angeles. In the Bridge Bar, a pub overlooking the harbor, patrons fumbled for their cellphones to capture video as he pulled a pint of Guinness — tutored in the art by the barman, Ciaran Kelly. “It’s never too late to learn a new profession,” the stranger deadpanned. “Something to fall back on if this whole ‘Star Wars’ thing goes away.”
这种迹象出现在九月中旬，一个貌非普通访客的人出现在PORTMAGEE。当地人私下传说他来自遥远的银河系--很可能和洛杉矶一样遥远。在俯瞰港湾的名为THE BRIDGE的酒馆儿里，常客们掏出手机录下了，他在“艺术监导”--酒吧侍者CIARAN KELLY督导下，倒了一品脱GUINNESS的情景。“学习一门新的职业永远不会太晚。”陌生人面无表情地说，“等那《星球大战》都拍完了就有事可做了。”
Villagers who knew their Jedi from their Sith recognized him as Mark Hamill, forever famous for playing Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” film trilogy. He and a battalion of Hollywood directors, cameramen and crew launched a space invasion, of sorts, on Portmagee last summer and the summer of 2014 — filling bed-and-breakfasts to the brim, turning sheep pastures into helipads and hiring fishing boats to ferry props to Skellig Michael.
从SITH而知晓（《星球大战》的）绝地武士的村民们认出他是MARK HAMILL,凭籍在《星球大战》三部曲中，一直扮演天行者LUKE而闻名。2014年和2015年的夏季，在PORTMAGEE他和大批的好莱坞导演，摄影师和剧组成员发动了“星际入侵”——渔村成了“提供住宿和早餐”的所在，把牧羊场也变为直升机机场，还雇渔船把道具运往SKELLIG MICHAEL.
Though Lucasfilm, which is owned by Disney, is tight-lipped on details, the island most likely will be featured in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” set to hit theaters Dec. 18, and another “Star Wars” film scheduled for 2017, according to press reports.
Fan websites have been abuzz with speculation about Skellig Michael’s role in the movies. The smart money has the island standing in as an exile or refuge for Skywalker, just as it did some 1,500 years ago, when a band of early Christian monks retreated from civilization to worship God from the island’s precipitous peaks.
After braving the 11-mile passage across choppy seas, the monks carved hundreds of steps into Skellig Michael’s cliff face and, at the top, built a walled monastery complex — still marvelously intact — on a terraced shelf 600 feet above the churning sea.
Entranced by Skellig Michael since my first visit as a tourist in 1997, I returned to Portmagee in the summer, nabbing the last seat on the Myra Michelle, one of 13 boats licensed to ferry passengers to the island. After the boat cleared the harbor and we hit the open Atlantic, I ducked into the wheelhouse to talk to the boatman, Declan O’Driscoll.
1997年我作为游客首次到此，就被SKELLIG MICHAEL迷住了。今夏我又重返PORTMAGEE,抢到MYRA MICHELLE号渡船的最后一个座位，那是往返小岛有资质的13艘轮渡中的一艘。当渡船离开港湾，驶向一望无际的大西洋时，我很快地跑到驾驶室跟船员DECLAN O’Driscoll聊上了。
Like many in Portmagee, he had signed a nondisclosure agreement, giving up the right to dish details of the filming. But you’d sooner keep a Wookiee from roaring than an Irishman from regaling a willing audience, and soon Mr. O’Driscoll was dishing away. “A bunch of us boatmen were standing around, and Mark Hamill came over,” he recalled. “He said, ‘Any advice for climbing the stairs?’ We told him, ‘Just pace yourself, and don’t ever, ever look down.’”
Before long, I was facing that same, fearsome stairway — 618 steep, uneven stone steps winding heavenward, the only route to the monastery. The stairway offers almost no hand rails or safety guards, and many visitors are struck with paralyzing fear on the ascent. With the knowledge that two American tourists fell to their deaths while negotiating the stairs in 2009, I took each step slowly, one by one, wielding a walking stick for balance. At the top, I exhaled with relief, then ducked my head under a massive stone lintel and stepped into the monastery site itself.
There was something mournful and beautiful about it all: the six beehive-shaped monastic cells huddled together, two boat-shaped oratories, as well as crude stone crosses, serving as grave markers, and the ruins of a medieval church. The views over the Atlantic were endless, and gulls and gannets soared and dived, their cries echoing with either anguished loneliness or triumphant salvation, possibly a bit of both. No wonder George Bernard Shaw, following a visit in 1910, described Skellig Michael this way: “I hardly feel real again … I tell you, the thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in: It is part of our dream world.”
On the ride back to Portmagee, Mr. O’Driscoll told me, “The ‘Star Wars’ people spent a lot of time in the monastery.” I imagined Luke Skywalker in one of the dank beehive cells, crouching as the monks had centuries before, marooned on the island with his demons.
Will he be tempted toward the Dark Side on that inhospitable crag, I wondered as Skellig Michael shrank against the horizon. Whatever he finds there, it’s almost certain to be box-office gold.