THE Isle of Skye has won a starring role in a Holywood blockbuster – as the land of the rising sun.
The movie, 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, will feature samurai warriors riding across the island on horseback.
The Hebridean island got to stand in for Japan after the producers of the £140m film realised they did not have enough footage of the real thing.
And because the production team is based in London it was cheaper to get Skye as a stand-in that head back to the orient.
The crew spent a week filming on the west coast of Skye last October to complete the film.
The film’s plot revolves around a group of samurai warriors who are on a mission to seek revenge after the murder of the master. The group are led by an outcast warrior, played by Reeves.
Six different locations were used on the island – Neist Point, the Hill of the Red Fox, the Quiraing, Harlosh Point, the Old Man of Storr and Glenbrittle beach.
The majority of the film was shot in Japan, London and Budapest.
The film which was first announced five years ago is said to combine the fantasy elements of Lord of the Rings along with the epic battle scenes of Gladiator.
Marcus McAdam, a Skye photographer who worked on the shoot said: “From what I was told, they got to the editing stage and realised they didn’t really have anything suitable to show this really epic journey that the main characters take.
“A lot of this filming earlier in the shoot had been carried out in Japan, but as production was based in London they realised it would be a lot easier for Skye to stand in for it. I was told the re-shoots actually delayed the release of the film.”
Ali James, location manager on the film, said that the crew and cast had really taken to the island.
He said: “The weather was kind to us and everybody had a great time.”
Shaz Morton, a location scout based on the island said: “The great thing about Skye is that it is so adaptable. It is like Scotland in microcosm, with the range of different landscapes and dramatic areas like Trotternish, the Cuillin mountain range and the Quiraing.
“The fact the Skye Bridge is there has made a difference – it is much easier to get to. It’s not just about films, it is regularly used for things like car commercials and fashions shoots.”
Jon Melville, editor of the Reel Scotland website, said: “The Lord of the Rings effect, whereby locations such as New Zealand see a huge tourism boost off the back of a big budget movie, is on the mind of all tourist boards. Even a few seconds of a stunning Scottish landscape in a trailer can interest film fans around the globe.
“The bigger effect will be when the film arrives in cinemas and location scouts see the possibilities offered by our countryside.
“Who would have thought Skye would double as 18th-century Japan? That must put ideas in the heads of film producers everywhere.”
This could be the first of a number of high profile film roles for the island as there have been suggestions that Skye could stand in for a mountainous planet in the next Star Wars, which is to be filmed in the UK and is due to be released in 2015.
For Scotland to star as Japan is all the more ironic given the number of times Scotland has failed to star as Scotland. Most famously, Braveheart was filmed in Ireland because of that nation’s generous tax incentives to movie makers.