Following a meeting arranged on the UK FanForce last week, two of us met up at Ealing Broadway Underground station, and headed on to the studio. That was the plan anyway...
Some time later, having walked around what seemed like half of London in trying to find the studio, we eventually found our way to it, at about 9.30am. Since Star Wars was being filmed there, it would be a logical assumption that the security there would put an Imperial base to shame, and that we would, at best, spend our time standing outside the gates hoping to see the cast arriving and leaving. Not a bit of it! Virtually as soon as we arrived at Ealing, someone walked straight in and past the people who were presumably there to screen visitors, without getting any sort of check whatsoever. We immediately went straight in as well, also without being stopped and questioned. The fact that there were only two of us was probably in our favour, since there weren’t that many people around, and it would probably have been fairly obvious what a larger group was. So far so good!
No one seemed to be paying any attention to us either, as we walked round the studio complex trying to find exactly where the filming was taking place. It didn’t take long, and the fact that several doors had "JAK Productions: NO entrance without prior permission from the site office" on them gave us a fairly good clue that this was the right spot!
One of the two main stage doors was shut, presumably since they were using it for filming, but the other one was wide open and deserted apart from the studio employees, as far as I could tell. There were two or three large wooden sets right at the back, possibly for the Jedi Council scenes, although I couldn’t see much of them, and bluescreens everywhere. The main point of interest was a full size swoop bike, which I was able to get a close look at later on.
We settled down outside the stage, near where everyone seemed to be going in and out, and were almost immediately rewarded with our first success. We were lucky enough to see Hayden Christiansen emerging for some fresh air, presumably during a break in filming, in full Jedi costume!
We then spent the rest of the morning trying to keep warm (I should mention that it was very cold!), with only brief glimpses of Anthony Daniels and Rick McCallum going backwards and forwards to keep our spirits up. Eventually, we surrendered and beat a tactical retreat to the canteen to feed and water ourselves, plus the little matter of getting warm again!
Our perseverance was to pay off after lunch, though. We’d got bold enough at this point to slip into the empty bluescreen stage to sneak a couple of quick looks at the swoop bike there (without touching it, I add) and the sets from close quarters, or at least as close as we dared. My opinion of security on site took a further knock, as one of the studio crew appeared while I was in there, but seemed indifferent to what I might be doing there.
The best was yet to come though! At about 2pm, it seemed that filming stopped for lunch, since a number of people emerged from the stage building, with one of them wearing a red jacket with “Star Wars” on the back. Sadly, I was looking at the jacket, because at that moment, Rick McCallum walked right past me with someone who had a strangely familiar grey beard and hair, and vanished into the canteen.....
However, that marked the end of our venture into the studios. One of the cast (who shall remain nameless to avoid any repercussions from turning a blind eye to the presence of unauthorised fans on the set), appeared. Since he knew one of us, he realised that we weren’t studio employees, and asked what we were doing and how we got in. We told him the truth, half expecting to get thrown out, but he was very gracious about it, even going so far as to advise us to bring a clipboard next time we tried sneaking onto a film set! Nevertheless, we’d already decided that we’d seen enough. Our glimpse of Lucas was the icing on the cake, and we agreed that now would be a good time to leave.