I still remember the first time I watched Star Wars, and while there are so many scenes that I’ve found definitive over the course of my life, one of the most poignant is the last view of the double suns of Tatooine setting over the smoldering ashes of the Lars homestead. At that moment, we were all Luke Skywalker- nothing holding us back and a desire for revenge and adventure burning the sadness from our veins. But what ever happened to that ill-fated group of desert homes after Star Wars wrapped up filming and moved on to galaxies far, far away?
The Star Wars Lars Homestead – Galactic Ruins of Future Past
When the production left the Tatooine set, deep in the Tunesian desert, the Lars homestead continued on much as it would have if it had been the real scene of a senseless massacre. No one bothered to tear the set down. It wouldn’t be worth the pain and the effort; better to walk away and start fresh elsewhere. It quietly waited in the sand, with the memories of the people who lived there slowly eroded and softened by wind-driven grains. For years, the architecture degraded in the face of the elements, and the homestead sat, completely forgotten as if it had never been. Then, photographer Ra Di Martino happened to spot the smudged outlines while looking for interesting geographical features on Google Earth.
Finding her way out to the Lars Homestead was an adventure in itself. While she had determined the rough coordinates from the satellite views on Google Earth, when she actually got to the country, it took some intrepid questioning to find anyone who found her descriptions of the site familiar. Eventually, lead out into the desert by someone who vaguely recognized what they were looking for, she found the Lars homestead, and shot these amazing images of the vestiges left.
Though it’s sad to see something that played a prominent role in cherished memories reclaimed by the desert, I almost wish that I would have someday had the chance to see the Lars homestead in this state. There’s something fitting about having the site become a lost ghost in the desert, versus a well trod attraction. Tatooine represents the stifling sameness that everyone struggles to buck while growing up and finding themselves- the harsh land, the ‘boring neighborhood,’ the overwhelming desire to get up and find a more exciting life somewhere else in the stars. In these pictures, in this last stage of its life, the Lars homestead has mystery and depth that it never could have possessed in the eyes of a teenager who just wanted to do something more than bullseye womp rats. However, when the photos spread, movie lovers and Star Wars geeks around the world decided this was not the fate that the Lars homestead should suffer.
Dedicated fans raised money and sent engineers out into the desert to save the Lars homestead, and they managed to get it looking as good as new. Now, they occasionally send someone out to check on the “igloo” and report back on how it’s holding up- which, as it turns out, is fairly well. If you want to learn more about the project, you can read all about it here at the Save Lars Homestead website. There are a ton more excellent photographs at this site:
What do you think should happen with old movie sets? It’s not like very many movies these days build props to scale with the likes of Star Wars- green screen and animation technology is rendering it expensive and pointless. Should we be cherishing and preserving old sets, or letting them fade with time?