Luc Besson is far and away one of my favorite directors in movies. Ever since I saw The Professional I fell in love with not only his directing style but also his haunting use of music. Besson doesn’t just think of stories and characters. He also thinks of emotionally bringing a movie from scene to scene with sound just as much as he does visuals. And it’s not like he doesn’t focus on the visuals. Besson is the total package. Which is why I was pretty psyched to see him answer a ton of fan questions of Reddit yesterday.
Here are some highlights I thought you might be interested in.
Who else did you have in mind for The Fifth Element if Bruce Willis had passed?
I had asked Mel Gibson first because he had his office next to mine at Warner Brothers. He peeked into my office every morning to tell me that he was thinking about it. After 3 months, he passed. But we became friends. Bruce was the only other choice I had in my mind.
What was working with Gary Oldman like?
Like driving a Ferrari for the first time.
I see a lot of visual similarities in style between you and Terry Gilliam. Has his films been an inspiration in your own work?
I love Terry Gilliam but he’s way crazier than me. One day I showed him my film Atlantis and we had dinner and he re-enacted all the fish in the film one by one. I was laughing so much that I peed my pants. He’s a really good actor.
Mr. Besson, when writing and casting 5th Element, did you have anyone specifically in mind for Ruby Rod? Did Chris Tucker’s interpretation completely change the character or was that more or less as written?
It was written for Prince. I met him, he said yes. But then he went on a world tour for 10 years!! We couldn’t find time in his schedule. Then I started casting and the two finalists were Chris Tucker and Jamie Foxx. Jamie was amazing, but he was as strong as Bruce, and Chris looked like a shrimp so I knew it would be funnier. But what a luxury to have to choose between these three talented people.
Fifth Element is my all time favorite movie, thank you for all your hard work. After directing some of the most beautifully unique movies- what about the story of “Valerian” drew you in, what sets it apart from other sci fi?
I was very frustrated at the time of The Fifth Element because the VFX was “old fashioned” and today the technology allows you to do anything you want – the limits are your imagination. Valerian was not possible to make 10 years ago.
Who would you rather fight: Lucy or Leeloo?
Can I marry them instead?
How was Choi Min Sik from Lucy like to work with?
Working with Choi was amazing. He doesn’t speak a word of English and I don’t speak a word of Korean. It was all about faces and gestures and noises. We were often laughing until we cried. I still wonder how this lovely and sweet man can play the worst villain ever.
Was it your decision to use the Beatles song in the trailer? Does it feature in the movie or is it all Desplat score as opposed to soundtrack? Can’t wait to hear what Desplat has cooked up.
The creative team came with the idea and I loved it right away. We were very pessimistic about getting the rights to use it, because they historically never grant rights to use their songs. So we took the risk to edit the entire teaser with the music and show them. We got lucky because they loved it. I heard later that Paul McCartney is a huge sci-fi fan, so that probably helped.
Can you talk a little bit about your writing process?
I always start with one idea or one concept, then I take notes. Sometimes that lasts 15 years. Then I put four pieces of paper in front of me, my four acts. And if it doesn’t work on four pages I don’t write the script. When my structure is ready, I start writing and usually it goes very fast. Almost like I press the “print” button. To give you an example, I wrote Leon in 14 days.
As a huge fan of Leon, did Gary Oldman’s “EVERYONE!” scream scare everyone on the set since no one expected he was going to deliver his line that way?
Yes, especially because the hallway amplified his scream. The entire building was aware. We shot the scene in spanish Harlem, so we had some fake police cars in the street and a bunch of people watching us film. Suddenly on the other side of the street a car stops and four guys actually robbed a bank while we were shooting. The people watched the robbery for a minute and then just turned back to set where it looked more interesting. One guy said to me “we don’t see a movie set every day around here.”