Compiled by Evette Henderson (Source: Reddit.com)
I found a wonderful discussion on www.reddit.com with one of my favourite film directors of all time, Luc Besson. Luc is the director of Scarlett Johansson’s latest flick, Lucy, as well as The Fifth Element and The Big Blue (all fave films of mine). Luc is also a writer and producer and is famous for being the frontman behind the Taken and Transporter chains. However, I’m a super fan of Lucy. It explores many advanced concepts that contain an element of truth (debatable according to neuroscientists of course!). It’s science fiction meets kick-ass action with a gorgeous femme fatale as the lead. This is by far my absolute favourite film at the moment.
Luc took time out to answer some fabulous questions on 28th August 2014 by his fans and I have condensed the best ones here. Please note I have NOT edited or altered comments. I have only deleted the on-going conversation thereafter (and sometimes arguing!). The line of questions explore his many films as well as his Hollywood career. If you wish to read the full discussion then click here (why bother?!). Otherwise get straight to the best Q & A with Luc Besson by scrolling down below.
Thank you to all the fans who asked such great questions!
Eric Serra’s scores in both Leon and Fifth Element are definitely very organic with the visuals. What is the collaboration process between the two of you? Because you have created what I think are two of the greatest scores in cinema. (posted by operation_hennessey)
Luc: Thank you! We’ve known each other since we were 17. The first few films, he was always waiting to have the editing to start working, he always works on the rush. Pressure is his motivation. He fought a lot about this. More recently, i forced him to write a theme way sooner. On Lucy for example he wrote the main theme before even reading the script. I told him the story, the ambience, the meaning, the color, then he started to work without being restricted by the script or the editing. We know each other so well, sometimes it’s an advantage, sometimes not, because we have less desire to surprise each other.
You seem to be someone in the movie business who really has struck a balance between the USA and European markets. What would you say are the biggest differences between making films in or for the two regions? (posted by YakumoYoukai)
Luc: It’s not so much about the two regions, it’s more about two families. One is the business, the another one is the artist. US and Europe have the same problem, these two families have to work together, understand each other, but most of the time one is trying to take the power over the other one. That’s the most challenging balance to find
Please! I have to know! What the hell is the brown stuff that runs down peoples foreheads when talking to the ultimate evil in The Fifth Element? (posted by where_is_the_cheese)
Luc: Our entire body is full of impurities. The evil is able to concentrate them and to exit them through your skin. Exactly like when you’re sick and your impurities go out through your pimples.
Do you have any little known stories from filming Fifth Element that you’d be willing to share? (posted by iOSGuy)
Luc: When Milla did the casting at first, she was not so good. Too nervous, too much make-up. A few weeks later i met her not on purpose in a hotel where we were both staying, she was wearing a large t-shirt and no make-up. We had a very nice talk, and i offered to do another test right now. I took a small camera and tortured her for an hour, she was brilliant.
How do you feel about people getting upset over the “10% of their brain” logic you use in Lucy? (name deleted)
Luc: In the movie a student asked to Morgan Freeman “Is it proved scientifically?” Freeman answered “No, it’s an old theory and we’re playing with it.” So i never hid the truth. Now I think some people believed in the film, and were disappointed to learn after that the theory was inexact. But hey guys Superman doesn’t fly, Spiderman was never bitten by a spider, and in general every bullet shot in a movie is fake. Now are we using our brain to our maximum capacity? No. We still have progress to do. The real theory is that we use 15% of our neurons at the same time, and we never use 100%. That was too complicated to explain, i just made it more simple to understand for the movie.
Quick question, what is your favorite James Bond film? (posted by CelebornX)
If there was any film you wish you thought of first, what would it be and what would have you done differently? (posted by limboeden)
Luc: Amadeus. But i never could have done better.
M. Besson, The Fifth Element is one of the most entertaining films of all time. Thank you for your dedication and devotion to making it. Leon’s pretty damn amazing as well, particularly the shot where the camera gets killed at the end. Was that a particularly hard shot to accomplish? It looks pretty simple, and it’s genius because nobody ever thought of it before.
OK, now that I’ve finished kissing your butt, please tell us: What is the #1 incomplete and/or wrong stuff about you that you would like to correct? (posted by bkoron)
Luc: So the death of Leon is 72 frames per second, im holding the camera and i let myself fall on the floor. I broke my finger and the camera. When you have success, people think straight away that you are all about business and money. My main goal since i was 17 years old has always been to create, to try, to open doors, and today it’s even stronger than before. I wake up at 4 am, i take a piece of paper and a pen. That’s when i feel most confortable. I hate when people see me as only a business man. When i started to produce films, it was because no one else wanted to produce mine. It was for me a way to protect my creativity, without having people telling me what to do. I became a producer to protect me as a director.
In Leon, for Agent Norman Stansfield did you draw inspiration from any fictional or non-fictional characters and was it written with Gary Oldman in mind? (posted by operation_hennessey)
Luc: I just invented the character without any references. I didn’t know Gary when i wrote it, i met him later but we had a lot of fun together building the character. He brought a lot of things to Stansfield, he’s a genius!
You sleep in on the morning of an important meeting to pitch a movie you feel could change cinema forever. It would take any sane person 40 minutes to reach the meeting, but you only have 15 minutes to get there. Do you phone Daniel Morales (Taxi) or Frank Martin (Transporter) to get you there in time? (posted by oO_Wallace_Oo)
Luc: If the script is really gonna change the face of cinema, everyone can wait for one more hour. I will probably walk there in peace. But if it’s a girl waiting, i will take Daniel to drive me!
Can you tell us about the supposed sequel to Fifth Element, “Mr Shadow?” (posted by JVVSE)
Luc: There is no sequel for the Fifth Element yet, the Mr Shadow rumor is false.
Has there ever been any consideration to a continuation of Lèon with Natalie Portman? I always played out the idea of Mathilda never getting over what happened to Lèon and following in his foot steps. And Mathilda still sees hallucinations/ghosts of him guiding her as she does things in combat. (posted by MasterJaron)
Luc: Thank you Master. I wrote a couple of versions for the sequel of Leon for the last 10 years. Nothing was good enough to be made. For the Sci-Fi, i am working on it. It’s very ambitious so I’m not sure i will be able to make it but i’m trying my best. It’s so expensive!
Any plans to work with Jean Reno again in the future? Maybe as someone Liam Neeson can face off against…? (posted by sstelmaschuk)
Luc: I have filmed Jean for 30 years on every angle, it’s difficult for me to reinvent something with him. But he is my friend forever.
As a director yourself, does it ever feel difficult handing projects you’ve written, such as the Transporter and Taken films, over to another director to make their own, or are you ever disappointed with the direction they choose to take with it, regardless of the quality of the film? (posted by SquidgyGoat)
Luc: A film always belongs to the director, so when i give the script to someone i give a piece of the puzzle, he’s responsible to make it. When the film is good i am proud of him, when it’s bad i’m sorry for him. I am never disappointed, because for the scripts i really care for i make the film myself.
What inspired you for the look of New York in the Fifth Element? It’s always been one of my favourite future cities, it looks so lived in and detailed. (posted by OhNoSpookyGhost)
Luc: The main idea was to mix past and future. When you watch big cities in Europe, most of them got bombarded during the war so now you have this strange mix of old fashioned and new buildings. For the 5th element they probably went through a couple of wars and when they couldn’t go higher with buildings, they started to dig and build down because the sea level went down 200 meters because of pollution.
I’ve been a huge fan since the first movie I ever saw in theater (Taxi <3 )
Do you see yourself writing more books like “Les minimoys”? They were very cool !! (posted by Fabinout)
Luc: Thank you. Writing is what i love doing the most. So i think when i will be too old to direct movies, i will continue writing until the day i die.
Thanks for doing this! Have you ever thought of sharing the earliest drafts of The Fifth Element? As I understand it, you started working on it when you were very young. It would be fascinating to see the revisions it went through.
And which of your characters would you most enjoy meeting in real life? (posted by VikingCoder)
Luc: At 16, i wrote 200 pages and threw them in the garbage because it was bad. I then wrote 200 more which also finished in the garbage. Then I wrote 400 pages that i kept, waited for 15 years, and wrote a first draft. I have done 16 drafts for the fifth element, and finished the script with 300 pages in two parts. The producers refused to part the film in two parts because it was too expensive and forced me to rewrite everything in one film. I guess at the time filming in two parts wasn’t popular yet.
I would love to meet Leeloo Minaï Lekatariba Laminatchaï Ekbat Dé Sebat.
Luc, my husband and I are both MASSIVE fans, of your writing and directing. We discovered The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec this last year, which I adored.
My question: Do you always write first in French? Or, if you know the movie will be in English, do you write it in English? How do you decide if the movie will be French/English? (posted by mstwizted)
Luc: It’s the type of story that guides you. Adèle is a very well known french comic, very french so there was no point of making it in english. (Except if “money” is your first motivation.) When a film is in english i always start a first draft of the script in what i call Fren-glish!
Is that really Jean Reno playing drums at the end of Subway? (posted by trevorvalentine)
Luc: Yes! Eric Serra was his professor for the scene.
Love your work. My question is: what was your inspiration when writing Yamakasi? I think it is a fantastic and underrated film. (posted by Medicine7)
Luc: I saw a picture in a magazine of these boys flying, i contacted them, we met. They were desperate to work on movies, so i thought of a story where the seven of them could be included. They took acting classes for a year, then we made it.
I once read that writing Leon was sort of a “quick” thing you did while waiting for various bits and pieces to come together on your “life’s work” of The Fifth Element (being that you apparently starting writing it around 14 years old, if I recall correctly). Is that true? If so, as much as I love The Fifth Element, I find that Leon is, by most measures, a superior film. It is interesting that it was relatively quick for you to write Leon. (posted by itwasquiteawhileago)
Luc: Thank you, i am happy that these two films are little bricks in the wall of your life. For me, it was flew over the kukoo’s nest, the Riders of the lost arc, and Star Wars. Regarding Leon, i had to wait 2 weeks to get an answer from a studio to know if they were going to make the fifth element or not. The wait was horrible. So i wrote Leon in 15 days and nights to stop me from thinking about the wait.
Three things a good movie can’t be without? (posted by seismicor)
Luc: A good Director, a good script, and a good Director.
What’s the best life advice you would give? (posted by CuriouslyInteresting)
Luc: Be honest.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen on your own film set? (posted by NailgunYeah)
Luc: When i was behind the camera, i said “cut!”, turned to my crew and saw that a couple of them had tears in their eyes.
Luc: It’s not really a specific movie, more like the first time I set foot on a set. I really fell in love with movie sets at that point.