Back in 2012, a group of 'Star Wars' fans from around the world set off to a remote location in Tunisia… and what they found was the most important run-down shack in movie history.
Appearing near the beginning of 'A New Hope' the Lars Homestead was an iconic structure - the home of our favourite Jedi wannabe, Luke Skywalker. Raised on a moisture farm by Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, this young farm boy from some godforsaken backwater planet was to become the focus of the original 'Star Wars' trilogy… and the last of the Jedi.
But despite its appearance in both 'Attack of the Clones' and 'Revenge of the Sith', the Lars Homestead had seen better days… that was, until a group of dedicated 'Star Wars' fans went out into the harsh Tunisian desert to repair Luke Skywalker's humble home.
I caught up with a member of the Save Lars project, Terry Cooper, about this incredible renovation and what made it so important for the fans.
What a desolate place this is.
"I first visited Tunisia with Mark Dermul in 2003," he explained. "It wasn't long after the shooting of 'Attack of the Clones' so the Lars Homestead was in pretty good shape, except for the control panel on the door frame and the ribbed rubber blocks that go around the entrance archway - both of those were gone. Otherwise it was neat and tidy, no holes or significant damage."
But by the time he returned in 2010, that definitely wasn't the case… Faced with a rapidly deteriorating shack, the decision was made to come back once more. And this time, they meant business. "As lifelong Star Wars fans, we knew how iconic and important a site like this is," Terry explains. "We wanted fans around the world to be able to have something to visit, just as we did - to stand there during sunset and really feel that connection to the movies. It's truly magical."
It took the crew just 10 months to raise the money needed to fully fund their expedition and by May 2012, they had embarked on their incredible expedition into the Tunisian desert. But by this point, the Homestead wasn't looking too good. "We saw that it had really begun to deteriorate - there were major chunks of the walls coming off and holes in the dome. The wooden inner frame was beginning to warp and push the homestead out of shape."
I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating...
"There was a lot to do," he explained, "but we had a policy of not removing or discarding any part of the Homestead that was sound and intact." And it seems this policy was a wise-move for the group - which was now attracting the attention of 'Star Wars' fans world-wide. "We were aware that a very small number of fans had concerns that our renovation would be like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa." So every step was taken to preserve as much of the original structure as possible.
Of course, there was still plenty of work to do. "We added new panels of wood, sealed them with a water resistant solution, attached chicken wire to provide a key for the cement, and then the cement went on."
However, it wasn't just larger structural work that went into this impressive project. As well as repairing damage to the building itself, the crew also added some finer touches to complete the look. "After the cement had dried, the homestead had a thick coat of white plaster, mixed entirely by hand, and then painted with a white emulsion. For finishing touches, I sculpted and cast a control keypad to go in the front door recess and we screwed over 200 wooden blocks inside the arch way to simulate the ribbed rubber detail strip that was once there."
Keep an eye out for the locals.
But while the crew certainly weren't afraid of a bit of hard work, it was local help that proved to be priceless. "The local government were very helpful and as part of our deal to get permission to do this, we used a local company who supplied invaluable advice and lots of help."
Despite an unforgiving climate and the staggering amount of work to be done, the fan-organised project was able to fully renovate the Lars Homestead. And I have to admit - it's looking pretty impressive.
"Having visited it six months after we finished," Terry explained, "it's still in remarkably good condition. I've noticed that visitors to the site have respected it, left it undamaged and someone has even been there to clean out the sand that inevitably blows into the recess where the front steps are. It's still in great shape."
But then, it won't always be that way. "If any future maintenance is required - and it will be, because the desert is unforgiving - we are sure to give out help and advice for another team of fans to go out there once again and do what needs to be done."
So if you're a 'Star Wars' fan and you happen to be heading to Tunisia anytime soon, I'd recommend you check out their amazing work. After all, this is the one pivotal place in the entire galaxy where the saga really began.
Have you visited the Lars Homestead? What do you think of this amazing fan project?