WHEN the two big stars of Star Wars left West Cork last month, they also left behind a wonderful surprise for two very special boys – signed front pages of The Southern Star.
Young Tom (3) and Jack (5) Cunningham from Monkstown were already thrilled to discover that the Hollywood stars were using their Grandad’s house on Brow Head during the shoot. But when the owner of the house – Danny O’Keeffe – returned to his home last week, he discovered both Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley had left signed front pages of this paper, autographed for his grandkids.
The actors had been staying on the house closest to the set at Brow Head, which overlooks Crookhaven, and using it for hair, make-up and time out between scenes.
A member of the crew, Rossa O’Neill, had located two copies of our March 19th ‘Star Wars Mizen’ front page – when we had exclusively revealed the movie would be shot near Crookhaven. Rossa had given the papers to Mark Hamill – who plays Luke Skywalker – and Daisy Ridley who plays Rey, to autograph for Danny’s grandchildren.
‘Hey Tom, Force Yourself, All the Best! Mark Hamill’ wrote Mark on one, with an arrow pointing to the X-wing fighter jet in the photo, which had been Photoshopped onto a picture of Brow Head by graphic designer Donal O’Driscoll from Drinagh. On the same front page, Daisy had written ‘Thank you for letting us use your house. Hope you enjoy the film.’
And, on a separate front page for Tom, Mark had autographed: ‘The force is with Jack! Your pal, Mark Hamill.’ While Daisy had written: ‘Woop! Hope you are feeling the force!’ and an arrow pointing to the house in the photo.
‘The boys were delighted when they heard the front pages were signed for them,’ said Danny, adding: ‘They probably won’t realise how incredible it was, until they are much older. They can tell their friends the cast of Star Wars stayed in their house and autographed these for them.’
As the last trucks left the headland last Saturday morning, The Southern Star visited the site, with the stunning June sunshine revealing what a breath-taking location Lucas Films had chosen. The unspoilt horizon stretches for miles into the distance, with just the majestic Fastnet Rock breaking the line, seven miles from the O’Keeffe’s house – which is the most southerly house on mainland Ireland.
The production spent significant money extending the cul de sac road right into the headland, and left a comfortable pathway out to the head itself. The clifftop trail now makes for a wonderful walk on a clear day – a walk already a regular treat for locals in Crookhaven and Barleycove.
‘You can see, standing here, how this headland could represent anywhere in the galaxy, as there is nothing but blue seas for miles,’ pointed out Danny, who bought the house 29 years ago, never realising what prestigious guests it would one day host.
Like many of the homeowners in the area, the O’Keeffes had to sign confidentiality agreements to say they wouldn’t reveal who had rented the house for the duration of their stay. The large, modern house was chosen for its access to the shoot, and no doubt its spectacular scenery.
‘They left the house in great condition,’ said Danny’s wife Norma, who joked that the only evidence of the visitors was some make-up towels left in the microwave. There were no special requests made for the home, except it be left ready for guests, she said.
The headland – the former site of copper mines – is also home to a ruined signal tower and a ‘deserted village’ which once housed a post office. In its long and colourful history, Brow Head was home to many West Cork families, but most were later forced abroad to find work and forge better lives. It appropriately looks out towards the ‘teardrop of Ireland’ – the Fastnet Rock – which was the last sight of Ireland many emigrants caught as they sailed away from their homeland for the very last time and headed for America.
Today, Danny O’Keeffe’s house is the last home on the top of the hill – a good ten minute walk from the deserted village sited on the edge of the Atlantic.
Now there is much better access to that village, and its incredible views, thanks to the arrival of the major production company – ironically, from America.