‘Star Wars’ Ain’t No ‘Crocodile Dundee’

Do you feel a disturbance in The Force today? No doubt you’ve sensed it, because principal photography for “Star Wars: Episode II” officially starts today in the land Down Under. You’d have to be a total curmudgeon not to be excited about it; either that, or you’d have to be Australian.

See, Web sites, newspapers and magazines around the world have been abuzz for months about the new “Star Wars” flick. There were headlines when little-known Hayden Christiansen was picked over bigger names to play the young Darth Vader; heck, there were even headlines when George Lucas arrived in Australia last week to get ready for the shoot.

But when we asked Garth Franklin, producer of the renown Dark Horizons movie site www.darkhorizons.com and a resident of Oz, about how Aussies’ themselves are gearing up for the shoot, he reported that the locals aren’t all that revved up.

“There is almost zero buzz at the moment in regards to the filming,” Franklin tells us. “Partly because of security, but a lot just aren’t aware of the actual filming dates and/or don’t really care. The announcement of the project back in mid-last year was the only thing that snagged the local media headlines. Since then it’s been quiet as a whisper.”

Hayden Christensen (© Fox Family Channel) “At most there’s been the occasional report in a few tabloids about [Natalie] Portman and Christensen going around the city hot spots, seen drinking and dancing at nightclubs with local celebs. There’ll probably be more once filming actually gets under way.”

“Episode II” will shoot in Australia for two months, before relocating to Italy, Tunisia and Spain for another month’s work. But even though the bulk of filming takes place in Australia, Franklin says the citizenry is anticipating this film less than others shot there in the past: “The Matrix” and “M:I-2.”

Why? Well, those films were shot outdoors, showing off Sydney’s magnificent cityscapes, while “Episode II” will mostly be filmed on indoor sound stages in Sydney.

Then again, if Australians aren’t gaga over “Star Wars,” maybe it’s simply that they haven’t been able to crack Lucas‘ secret code.

Says Franklin: “This isn’t like Tunisia where you can sneak around a distant dune with a camera. All the facilities here are kept under intense hi-tech surveillance, with steep punishments for offenders.

“There’s also rumor that Lucas is very closely scrutinizing local film crew personnel before hiring them, the bigger the fan of ‘Star Wars’ they are the less likely they’ll get employed due to fear of leakage to the local press.”