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How to take a cheap 'Star Wars' location vacation

Will Lerner
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

So you’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi and still need another Force fix? How about taking a trip to the home of Luke Skywalker? It’s easier than you may think.

A two-hour drive west from Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park is home to several scenes from both the 1977 original, A New Hope, as well as Return of the Jedi, all of which can easily be visited in a day (or two if you want to luxuriate).

How did Star Wars wind up in Death Valley? In A New HopeStar Wars audiences were first introduced to Tatooine, home planet of Luke Skywalker and hiding place for Obi-Wan Kenobi. With its dual suns baking the surface, Tatooine has a stark landscape dotted with odd architecture. Wanting to film in a location unrecognizable to audiences, director George Lucas decided against the desert environs of the American Southwest, and instead took his crew to the North African nation of Tunisia when production began in 1976.

R2-D2’s capture by the Jawas was filmed in Death Valley National Park. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Lucas almost immediately regretted his choice. Only days into production, a rainfall unseen in the region in almost half a century drenched the area, creating mud so thick that production trucks could barely negotiate the terrain. Along with scorching heat that cooked crew and cast alike, a malfunctioning R2-D2, and an untrusting neighboring Algerian army that thought the Sandcrawler might be a weaponized vehicle, Lucas left for England with only two-thirds of the footage he needed. In his words, it was a “disaster.”

To complete the rest of R2-D2’s capture by Jawas and scenes with Tusken Raiders, Lucas led a small team to Death Valley in January 1977. Many of these filming locations might have been forgotten or overlooked if not for the yeoman’s work of blogger-adventurer Steve Hall, who laid out a simple itinerary for fans on his site.

Take in the same epic vista Luke Skywalker saw when he gazed upon Mos Eisley from above (located at Dante’s View), or the long dusty road that leads to Jabba the Hutt’s palace (the endearingly named  Twenty Mule Team Road). Death Valley has several affordable hotel options around the periphery (and a not-too-expensive hotel within), allowing you to experience both the exotic trappings of a beautiful national park and get your geek on. Get going! And may the Force be with you.

Mark Hamill thought Luke Skywalker was never meant to return to film:

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