Luc Besson is a French film director, writer, and producer. He is known for directing and producing thrillers and action films that are visually rich. Besson had been nominated for Best Director and Best Picture César Awards for his films Léon: The Professional and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. He won Best Director and Best French Director for his film The Fifth Element. His Taken 2 is France's biggest export success. In 1980 he founded his own production company, called Les Films du Loup, and later Les Films du Dauphin. This was superseded in 2000 by his co-founding EuropaCorp film company with his longtime collaborator, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. Besson has been involved with filmmaking for more than 50 films, spanning 26 years, as writer, director, and/or producer. He has also been called 'the John Hughes of action movies,' due to his writing screenplays for action movies.
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I am generally secretive about my personal life and my work and i don't express myself that often in the media, so i have seen a lot of stuff written about me that was incomplete or even wrong. Here is the opportunity for me to answer precisely to any questions you may have.
I directed 17 films, wrote 62, and produced 120.
My most recent film is Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.
I am here from 9am to 11am (L.A time)
FINAL UPDATE: Guys, I'm sorry but i have to go back to work. I was really amazed by the quality of your questions, and it makes me feel so good to see the passion that you have for Cinema and a couple of my films. I am very grateful for that. Even if i can disappoint you with a film sometimes, i am always honest and try my best.
I want to thank my daughter Shanna who introduced me to Reddit and helped me to answer your questions because believe it or not i don't have a computer!!!
Sending you all my love, Luc.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Please let her know that reddit is very very serious.
(This is she, sorry!)
Why a "fake mermaid" AMA?
That was my daughter being silly.
Mr. Besson, thank you for doing this and thank you for providing us with the type of action films you do. They're a nice escape from the stereo-typical type macho man action flick the world's used to seeing.
I have two questions, please.
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.
Will Mr. Shadow ever see the light of day? I remember reading a while back when Avatar came out you were inspired to do another sci-fi epic. Could you have possibly had that in mind?
Thank you for your time. Lèon and the Fifth Element are the two best action films if all time. Especially, Lèon there's so much more complexity between those two characters for that type of film. And I think the Fifth Elements visual effects still hold up to today.
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!
Can you tell us about the supposed sequel to Fifth Element, "Mr Shadow?"
There is no sequel for the Fifth Element yet, the Mr Shadow rumor is false.
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?
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.
Any plans to work with Jean Reno again in the future? Maybe as someone Liam Neeson can face off against...?
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.
Do you have any little known stories from filming Fifth Element that you'd be willing to share?
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.
Quick question, what is your favorite James Bond film?
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?
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.
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?
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!
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?
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!
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.
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 swim away from confrontation'
such a Besson line.
My daughter also happens to be a Besson.
Who brought you on Reddit ?
My daughter, Shanna. Actually she's helping me type right now. (Hi!)
Hi Luc. If there was any film you wish you thought of first, what would it be and what would have you done differently?
Amadeus. But i never could have done better.
Hi Luc. Best actor you have ever worked with? Why?
I am still friends with all of them please don't put me in shit... But most recently i can say that i was amazed by Choi Men Sik.
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 !!
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.
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?
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!
In Fifth Element when Leeloo arrives at Phloston Paradise, is that him saying "wow" or was that dubbed by another person?
You mean her? Yes it is her voice saying Wow.
Hi Luc! I'm a huge fan of your work and I particularly am fascinated by Subway; the whole underground Parisian location is amazing, but the sort of topic that you don't see too often outside of cheesy horror movies and old French history documentaries about the catacombs. What inspired you to use the modern (as per 1980s) setting?
It's just a gorgeous setting for me. Lots of lines and architectures, different colors, neon lights... The french subway is very pleasant to film. When i was 16, i was on the platform waiting for the train and one door was slightly opened. The inscription was "forbidden to the public", so of course i pushed the door and went in. And i realized that 2/3 of the subway is forbidden, it's gigantic. I spent all my nights discovering it, the roller, the florist, and the drummer are real characters who i have met.
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?
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.
Back in my high school days, I was obsessed with The Fifth Element. I believe I ended up watching it seven times total in the theatre, once watching it three times in a row (it was a second chance, cheaper theatre, but I spent a good part of the day there with some friends). I own the widescreen VHS, collector's DVD, and the Blu-Ray release. I still can't help but watch it on TV every time I stumble on it.
I always tell people to this day that the mix of action, humor, amazing soundtrack, and fantastic writing/acting and characters were just an unmatched blend of awesome film making that I would be hard pressed to match on overall level of just plain fun.
Crazy that one of my other Top 5 movies also happens to be Leon: The Professional. I loved the US version, and only a few years back learned of the differences in the ex-US version, with all the deleted scenes that were too uncomfortable for the US version. It somehow made an already near perfect movie that much better. I didn't think that possible. My father agrees that it is one of the best movies he has ever seen, and we frequently bring it up as just being a complete masterpiece all around.
I'm not really sure I have any questions for you, but just wanted to heap some praise on your skills and tell you just how how much these two movies mean to me. I've been trying to track down the right size a Leon poster (the French "B" version) to put up on my wall in my theater room, even, but haven't had much luck. I will continue to persist on that!
Thanks for being awesome.
Apparently I need to have a question in here for my post to not be deleted. Here goes: 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.
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.
I forgot to ask this earlier, but it's such a good fan-theory that I just had to:
Is Ruby Rhod an alien? In fact, according to the one theory I read... is he a mangalore?
No Ruby Rhod is not an alien but he is lost and i think he doesn't even know who he is.
First off, let me say, The Fifth Element is by far my favorite movie of all time. My question is, what all services come with the multipass?
Oh god... i dont remember! But it's bigger and better than a Platinum credit card!
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?
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.
Is that really Jean Reno playing drums at the end of Subway?
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.
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.
Three things a good movie can't be without?
A good Director, a good script, and a good Director.