Backing up previous rumors about filming locations, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn has confirmed that Star Wars Episode VII is filming in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Brent Lang, the Senior Film & Media Reporter for Variety, tweeted a number of tidbits regarding what Horn had to say about Episode VII. You can see some of those tweets below:
Alan Horn says #StarWars7 second unit shooting happened in Abu Dhabi, casting almost done— Brent Lang (@BrentALang) April 22, 2014
Note that he said "happened," rather than "happening." That means that the filming there is either underway or already completed. Given that the cast hasn't been announced yet, the second unit filming was likely for location shooting. If it filmed in the desert, could we be seeing the return of Tatooine?
Disney Studios chief says #StarWats movies may revert to May release dates from Dec debuts. Depends on screenplay readiness.— Brent Lang (@BrentALang) April 22, 2014
Presumably the above comment refers to future film releases, like Star Wars Episode VIII, given that the screenplay for Episode VII is already completed and Disney probably would not want to change the release date for Episode VII again.
Confirming what we already knew, Horn also said what George Lucas' role is for the new film:
George Lucas is a consultant on #StarWars7, Alan Horn says— Brent Lang (@BrentALang) April 22, 2014
Alan Horn going to London this week to go over Star Wars 7 script with JJ Abrams— Brent Lang (@BrentALang) April 22, 2014
If Horn is going to London to meet with J.J. Abrams, the director of Episode VII, then presumably that means J.J. is already there getting ready to begin principal photography—which will commence next month. We're getting close!
UPDATE: Variety has posted more information from Alan Horn. According to the chairman, Episode VII was filming in Abu Dhabi "to give that 'Star Wars'-ian look," and to accomplish that "we need to go to these places." He also said that the final budget for Episode VII has yet to be determined, but that it will be somewhere between $175 million and $200 million in order to "give the audience... a full meal for their affection for and devotion" to Star Wars.