Episode 8 Bits: The Millennium Falcon And A Mysterious Tree, A Few Royal Cameos, And Proof That Daisy Ridley Can Kick Your Butt

In today's Episode 8 Bits:

  • New aerial footage reveals the Millennium Falcon on a mysterious set...
  • ...and clear photos of that set reveals something else.
  • GLAAD wants Star Wars: Episode 8 to include gay characters.
  • Prince William and Prince Harry may have cameo roles in Episode 8.
  • A glimpse at Daisy Ridley's intense training.
  • Ireland really wants Star Wars fans to stop by for a visit.

The final scenes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens took place on an isolated planet called Ahch-To and this beautiful, mysterious location was created by filming on the Irish island of Skellig Michael...which turned out to be a huge pain in the butt for everyone. In addition to being an island full of rocky cliffs and steps that made hauling equipment difficult and dangerous, the island is a protected heritage site. The production couldn't even step on the wrong blade of grass without feeling the wrath of the local authorities.

Naturally, that meant that Skellig Michael filming was brisk and limited for Star Wars: Episode 8 and that the Ahch-To sets were recreated in Ireland and at the famed Pinewood Studios in London, where the bulk of the film is being shot. And despite stories of the production employing drones that are designed specifically to take down other drones, someone managed to snag aerial footage of a very cool sight on the Pinewood set – the Millennium Falcon, parked near a grassy set complete with some familiar looking steps. Yep, this is definitely a new look at one of the Ahch-To locations, although it looks like a different spot than the one where Rey landed the iconic ship in the film. Maybe the change of location has to do with the big black something located up the steps. It's hard to tell what it is in this shaky, blurry footage.

force tree

However, some crystal clear images of this set have surfaced over at the Daily Mail and you can follow that link if you want to check them out (we're not in the mood to get sued today, thank you very much). In these images, that black blob now appears to be an ancient tree of some kind. As some fans have already pondered, this could be the Force-sensitive tree featured in Marvel's Shattered Empire comic miniseries, which takes place shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi.

In that four-issue series (which was written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Marco Checchetto), rebel pilot Shara Bey (the mother of Poe Dameron) accompanies Luke Skywalker on a mission to one the Emperor's top secret facilities to steal two small trees, which are all that remain of the larger tree that once grew at the Jedi Temple at Coruscant. Although Luke gives one of the trees to Shara Bey, he takes the other one to an undisclosed location. Maybe the ancient Jedi temple at Ahch-To?

While Skellig Michael itself will be featured less prominently in Episode 8, Discover Ireland (the country's official tourism site) has released a brief new video all about how this incredible location and the role it plays in the new Star Wars movies. Although the intent here is really "Come to Ireland! And bring your money so you can pump up our local economy!", the footage on display here is lovely and Skellig Michael itself truly does look like an alien landscape. You just know that Ireland took a look at how the Lord of the Rings movies led to a New Zealand tourism boom and they want a piece of that action. And you know what? Good for them. Give us Star Wars nerds an excuse to go see the world.

Star Wars The Force Awakens poe dameron 3

Although certain corners of the fan community have made it very clear that they wouldn't mind in the slightest if Poe Dameron and Finn turned out to be gay (and yes, there is plenty of explicit fan art out there), GLAAD has officially called upon the Star Wars films to feature gay characters. Noting that no 2015 Disney films featured any gay characters whatsoever, the organization released a statement on the matter, requesting that the Star Wars universe complete its journey toward depicting a diverse universe:

As sci-fi projects have the special opportunity to create unique worlds whose advanced societies can serve as a commentary on our own, the most obvious place where Disney could include LGBT characters is in the upcoming eighth 'Star Wars' film. 2015's 'The Force Awakens' has introduced a new and diverse central trio, which allows the creators opportunity to tell fresh stories as they develop their backstory. Recent official novels in the franchise featured lesbian and gay characters that could also be easily written into the stories.

GLAAD President/CEO Sarah Kate Ellis also included this statement:

It is not enough for LGBT characters to simply be present; rather, these characters must be crafted thoughtfully and better reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community. Leaving LGBT people out of the picture — or including them only as a punchline — keeps old prejudices alive and creates an unsafe environment, not only here in America, but around the world where most audiences see these depictions.

There are gay characters in the Star Wars universe if you go beyond the the films, so the heavy lifting is already done. The truth is that including a gay character in the saga would be the easiest thing in the world. There's no reason for a Star Wars character, whether it be Poe Dameron or Luke Skywalker, to not be gay. Only good things could come from this – Star Wars would only become more inclusive and the fanbase would only grow larger.

A few weeks ago, Prince William and Prince Harry visited the London set of Star Wars: Episode 8 to commend the series for employing so many English citizens. While the public version of their visit involved a bunch of sweet and silly photo opportunities involving Resistance fighters, Chewbacca, and BB-8, the Daily Mail reports that the royal duo also filmed cameos as Stormtroopers. Since this is the Daily Mail, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt, but it sounds plausible enough. After all, Daniel Craig visited the set of The Force Awakens and played a bit part as the Stormtrooper who is tasked with guarding Rey and gets Jedi mind tricked for his efforts. Anyway, the Daily Mail claims that their cameo takes place during a scene where Poe and Finn infiltrate a First Order base and find themselves in an elevator with Benicio del Toro's new villain and two Stormtroopers, both of whom are secretly British royals. So there you go.

So @liangstunts (TRAITOR) is WUSHU FRICKING MASTER and I always try to get him to teach me things... This was today!!! Obvs not great but HE'S amazing and he's also featured at the end ???????????? our stunt team are the most incredible group of people, so lucky I get to train with them!

A video posted by @daisyridley on Apr 25, 2016 at 10:37am PDT

If you've ever wanted evidence that Daisy Ridley could actually kick your ass in a fight whether she's armed with a lightsaber or not, this Instagram post should provide a helpful assist. Ignore the humble tone of the caption – this lady will wreck you.