There's a disturbance in the Force in Ireland
THE plot for the next Star Wars film is guarded more closely than the Death Star but one thing is certain, it will feature plenty of Irish mist and rain.
The regular downpours - helped by tankers of water brought on set just in case - failed to dim the enthusiasm of hardy fans and local businesses cashing in as director Rian Johnson began shooting last month on a remote stretch of coastline in southwest Ireland.
"There's a buzz around and the exposure worldwide is unbelievable," said Donal O Cathain, a bar owner in Ballyferriter, the small village nearest the set constructed on Ceann Sibeal, a rocky promontory.
Christy Mac Gearailt, who runs a local restaurant, said: "I don't know if the Force is with us but it has certainly forced us to work a lot harder because of the increase in the number of visitors."
The last movie in the Lucasfilm Disney Star Wars series, which was released in December, has generated more than US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) at the box office, making it the third highest grossing film of all time.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens also featured Ireland in a dramatic ending filmed in a sixth-century monastic settlement off the west Irish coast.
Among the fans eagerly awaiting the premiere will be American Jack Sullivan who was in a group trying to catch a glimpse of a structure jutting out from the hilltop, believed to be a Jedi temple.
"This is a real bonus on our trip to Ireland," he said. "It's just a pity we can't get to see it up close."
But some locals complained about the disruption in this rural spot.
Louis Mulcahy, who has been hosting some of the visitors at his pottery shop to view the set through a telescope, complained about the traffic around the Dingle Peninsula, which is already a busy tourist route.
Trucks have been navigating the narrow roads in recent weeks to ferry equipment to a camp at the bottom of a hill near Ballyferriter.
Around 450 people were working on the set amid tight security to prevent any leaks about the new film.
Landowners have signed onerous secrecy agreements and none will speak openly about the layout of the site for fear that they would not receive the promised compensation for the use of their fields.
Nor were they prepared to talk about their windfalls.
Workers have had to check in their mobile phones to prevent them taking pictures and the Irish Aviation Authority has imposed a no-fly zone over the area.
Still, the village's bars have been humming with conversations about that day's happenings on site and how the stars are conducting themselves.
The down-to-earth manner of Mark Hamill, who plays the saga's main hero Luke Skywalker, was singled out by several locals for praise.