French filmmaker Luc Besson is best known for his visually stunning action thrillers “The Fifth Element” and “Léon: The Professional” — his most recent film, “Lucy,” follows a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who, after being exposed to a new and powerful drug, is able to access 100 percent of her mind’s capabilities. The film’s shaky science, as well as the story behind one of Besson’s most famous shots, are both addressed in his recent Reddit AMA; with some help from his daughter — Besson himself doesn’t own a computer — the normally private director took the opportunity to directly answer his fans and dismiss any rumors. (Sorry “Fifth Element” fans, looks like you won’t be seeing a sequel anytime soon.) Here are the highlights.
Composer Eric Serra wrote the theme for “Lucy” before reading the script.
While Serra often waited until the editing process to score Besson’s earlier films, “Lucy” was a different story: “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.”
He wants balance between the US and European markets.
Popular on IndieWire
As a French filmmaker who’s garnered success on both sides of the pond, Besson had a lot to say about these two very different markets. “It’s not so much about the two regions, it’s more about two families. One is the business, the other 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.”
Here’s the truth about the brown stuff that runs down peoples’ foreheads when they talk to the Ultimate Evil in “The Fifth Element.”
One Redditor was dying to know and Besson was happy to explain. “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.”
A lucky second chance landed Milla Jovovich her role as Leelo.
It’s hard to imagine “The Fifth Element” without Milla Jovovich, but a bad first impression almost cost her the part. “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.”
He realizes the theories in “Lucy” aren’t scientifically accurate.
“In the movie a student asked 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, Spider-man 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.”
He broke his finger filming one of the most memorable shots from “Leon: The Professional.”
Great art often requires great sacrifice. This especially applied to Besson when he was shooting the end of “Leon: The Professional.” “So the death of Leon is 72 frames per second, I’m holding the camera and I let myself fall on the floor. I broke my finger and the camera.”
Creative freedom is a top priority.
“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 4am, I take a piece of paper and a pen. That’s when I feel most comfortable. 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.”
And if you were ever curious about his favorite Bond film…