Oscar-winner to film new fantasy epic in Scotland

Director Roger Christian at work. He created the famous Star Wars lightsabre. Picture: Contributed
Director Roger Christian at work. He created the famous Star Wars lightsabre. Picture: Contributed
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An OSCAR-WINNING filmmaker is to shoot a major new fantasy film in Scotland – based on a short movie he made in the Highlands more than 35 years ago.

Roger Christian, who won his first Academy Award for his work on the original Star Wars film, was asked by series creator George Lucas to make the 25-minute sword and sorcery short, which was released with The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.

Now Christian, who travelled the Highlands in a Volkswagen campervan to make the original film about a knight attempting to rescue a princess from the clutches of a dark and mysterious character, is planning an expanded “epic adventure” with a £15 million budget.

Blade Runner star Rutger Hauer and John Rhys-Davies, who appeared in two Indiana Jones films and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, have both been confirmed in the cast for the feature-length version of Black Angel, which will be filmed in Scotland, Hungary, Belgium and Morocco in the autumn.

The film – expected to be shot at Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh and Glencoe – will see a knight who is guided by a sorcerer and aided by a princess in a quest to defeat the forces of a demon king. The feature length version of Black Angel will be a major boost for the Scottish film industry at a time when filming is under way on a second series of the American time travel fantasy, Outlander.

Black Angel has a cult following among Star Wars fans as it was made to be shown before The Empire Strikes Back in cinemas in Europe, Japan and Australia when the blockbuster sequel was released in 1980.

Christian, the creator of the iconic “lightsabre” weapon in Star Wars, who won an Oscar for his production design work on the original Star Wars film, was also Oscar-nominated for his work on Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Alien.

He has announced plans for a feature-length version in the wake of a surge of interest in his original short after the chance discovery of a print more than two decades after it was believed all negatives had been destroyed.

Christian made a guest appearance at Glasgow Film Festival last year to unveil a restored version and discuss filming in locations like Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh, Glenelg, Glen Nevis and Dunoon. He has promised “flying demons and sorcerers, armies of the undead and an evil god of the underworld” will all feature in his new version.

He said: “I wrote Black Angel as an epic adventure inspired by the great Samurai films. For the feature film, I want the audience to experience the intensity of the battles where life or death is the only prize.

“Like the first Star Wars and Alien we are going for absolute reality, engaging the audience in the drama so they feel like they are really there in this ancient world, shot in staggeringly beautiful landscapes, ancient cities and castles.”

Jenni Steele, film manager at VisitScotland, said: “Originally made to accompany The Empire Strikes Back, Black Angel is a classic short film in which Scotland looks absolutely amazing. The prospect of Roger Christian returning here to create a feature-length sequel, showcasing our vistas to an even wider audience, is hugely exciting.

“If the cinematography of this planned sequel lives up to that of the original then it would be terrific news for Scottish tourism.”