Recce: Episode I – Tunisia (1995)
The principal Episode I pre-production recce to Tunisia took place in early/mid-December 1995. Rick McCallum (producer) organized the week-and-a-half-long recce to survey the original Star Wars film sites and scout new potential filming locations in southern Tunisia for Episode I Tatooine scenes. McCallum, traveling in tandem with Gavin Bocquet (production designer) and David Brown (production supervisor), invited David West Reynolds, a final-year Ph.D candidate in archaeology at the University of Michigan at the time, to join the recce on account of Reynolds’ groundbreaking article (“Return to Tatooine”) fortuitously published just months before in Star Wars Insider 27 (Fall 1995). (The article popularized Reynolds’ late March/early April 1995 Star Wars film site expedition to Tunisia).
Taieb Jallouli (director/producer), employed as Art Director at CTV Services (Tunisia) for the prequels, also joined the trip to provide location recommendations and local cinematographic expertise. Reynolds functioned as the Episode IV film site specialist, while Jallouli guided the group to a string of new locations across the diverse topography of southern Tunisia (from Djerba island in the east to the mountains on the Algerian border in the west), focusing on the best-preserved, well-established, and visually dynamic Tunisian sites. The group visited all of the locations used 1.5 years later as film sites for Episode I principal photography (late July to mid-August 1997). In addition, several locations were toured as potential film sites, but not used for Episode I production.
REVISITING THE KSOUR
The Médenine and Tataouine governorates in southeastern Tunisia are populated with over 100 ksour, centuries-old Amazigh fortified granaries consisting of a series of ghorfas (elongated, vaulted storage chambers) stacked multiple stories high surrounding a central courtyard of various shapes and sizes. Jallouli guided the group to scout several ksour in search of Mos Espa slave quarters streets and hovel exterior locations. The Episode I pursuit to link ksour to Star Wars franchise filming fulfilled proposed but discarded plans developed decades earlier in late 1975/early 1976 to use ksar architecture for Episode IV Mos Eisley slums sequences.