Before the restoration; Photo: Hoylen Sue
Mark Dermul has been touring Tatooine for over a decade now. The 42-year-old Belgian "explorer" first visited Tunisia in 2001, when he began leading international Star Wars fans throughout the country's stranger landscapes. But what constitutes the geographical extent of "the planet farthest from [the center of the universe]", you may ask? Interestingly, the "planet" exists as a kind of meta-region, an irregulated and loosely connected network of crumbling film sets George Lucas first constructed when he began filming his six-part sci-fi saga some 35 years ago. Lucas abandoned the structures after he wrapped filming (both after The Return of the Jedi and Episodes I-III), leaving few to no plans in place for their preservation.
Littered across the Tunisian paysage from the desert floor to the coastline, the sets have long attracted tourists, including Dermul who, when traveling along with 18 fellow "pioneers" in May 2010, was shocked to find the iconic igloo-like hut of the Lars Homestead in such rapidly deteriorating conditions. It was then that the erstwhile fan--Dermul tells NPR he first saw the films when he was 7, after which point he was "hooked"--embarked on the mission to save Luke Skywalker's boyhood home (or whatever was left of it).
Photo: Save Lars
Applying a fresh coat of plaster; Photo: Save Lars