Luc Besson (French: [lyk bɛsɔ̃]; born 18 March 1959) is a French film director, screenwriter, and producer. He directed or produced the films Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988), and Nikita (1990). Besson is known for his distinctive filmmaking style and is associated with what the movement critics call Cinéma du look. He has been nominated for a César Award for Best Director and Best Picture 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 sci-fi action film The Fifth Element (1997). He wrote and directed the 2014 sci-fi thriller film Lucy and the 2017 space opera film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
In 1980, he founded his own production company, Les Films du Loup, and, later, Les Films du Dauphin, which were superseded in 2000 by his co-founding EuropaCorp film company with his longtime collaborator, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. As writer, director, or producer, Besson has so far been involved in the creation of more than 50 films.
Besson at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2016
Luc Paul Maurice Besson
18 March 1959
|Occupation||Producer, director, screenwriter|
Anne Parillaud (m. 1986–1991)
Maïwenn Le Besco (m. 1992–1997)
Milla Jovovich (m. 1997–1999)
Virginie Silla (m. 2004)
|Children||5, including Shanna Besson|
Besson was born in Paris, to parents who both worked as Club Med scuba-diving instructors. Influenced by this milieu, as a child Besson planned to become a marine biologist. He spent much of his youth traveling with his parents to tourist resorts in Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece. The family returned to France when Besson was 10. His parents promptly divorced and each remarried.
"Here there is two families, and I am the only bad souvenir of something that doesn't work," he said in the International Herald Tribune. "And if I disappear, then everything is perfect. The rage to exist comes from here. I have to do something! Otherwise I am going to die."
At the age of 17, Besson had a diving accident that left him unable to dive.
"I was 17 and I wondered what I was going to do. ... So I took a piece of paper and on the left I put everything I could do, or had skills for, and all the things I couldn't do. The first line was shorter and I could see that I loved writing, I loved images, I was taking a lot of pictures. So I thought maybe movies would be good. But I thought that to really know I should go to a set. And a friend of mine knew a guy whose brother was a third assistant on a short film. It's true," he said in a 2000 interview with The Guardian.
"So, I said: 'OK, let's go on the set.' So I went on the set...The day after I went back to see my mum and told her that I was going to make films and stop school and 'bye. And I did it! Very soon after I made a short film and it was very, very bad. I wanted to prove that I could do something, so I made a short film. That was in fact my main concern, to be able to show that I could do one."
He reportedly worked on the first drafts of Le Grand Bleu while still in his teens. Out of boredom, Besson started writing stories, including the background to what he later developed as The Fifth Element (1997), one of his most popular movies. The film is inspired by the French comic books which Besson read as a teenager. Besson directed and co-wrote the screenplay of this science fiction thriller with the screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen.
At 18, Besson returned to his birthplace of Paris. There he took odd jobs in film to get a feel for the industry. He worked as an assistant to directors including Claude Faraldo and Patrick Grandperret. Besson directed three short films, a commissioned documentary, and several commercials. After this, he moved to the United States for three years, but returned to Paris, where he formed his own production company. He first named it Les Films du Loup, but changed it to Les Films du Dauphin. In the early 1980s, Besson met Éric Serra and asked him to compose the score for his first short film, L'Avant dernier. He later used Serra as a composer for other films of his. Since the late 20th century, Besson has written and produced numerous action movies, including the Taxi (1998–2007) and The Transporter (2002–2008) series, and the Jet Li films Kiss of the Dragon and Unleashed/Danny the Dog. His English-language films Taken, Taken 2 and Taken 3, all starring Liam Neeson, have been major successes, with Taken 2 becoming the largest-grossing export French film. Besson produced the promotional movie for the Paris bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Besson won Best Director and Best French Director for his film The Fifth Element (1997). He was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture César Awards for his films Léon: The Professional (1994) and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999). French actor Jean Reno has appeared in several films by Besson, including Le dernier combat (1985), Subway, The Big Blue (1988), Nikita (1990), and Léon: The Professional (1994).
Critics cite Besson as a pivotal figure in the Cinéma du look movement, a specific, highly visual style produced from the 1980s into the early 1990s. Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988) and Nikita (1990) are all considered to be of this stylistic school. The term was coined by critic Raphaël Bassan in a 1989 essay in La Revue du Cinema n° 449. A partisan of the experimental cinema and friend of the New Wave ("nouvelle vague") directors, Bassan grouped Besson with Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax as three directors who shared the style of "le look." These directors were later described critically as favoring style over substance, and spectacle over narrative.
Besson, along with most of the filmmakers so categorized, was uncomfortable with the label, particularly in light of the achievements of their forebears: France's New Wave. "Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut were rebelling against existing cultural values and used cinema as a means of expression simply because it was the most avant-garde medium at the time," said Besson in a 1985 interview in The New York Times. "Today, the revolution is occurring entirely within the industry and is led by people who want to change the look of movies by making them better, more convincing and pleasurable to watch.
"Because it's becoming increasingly difficult to break into this field, we have developed a psychological armor and are ready to do anything in order to work", he added in this same interview. "I think our ardor alone is going to shake the pillars of the moviemaking establishment."
Many of Besson's films have achieved popular, if not critical, success. One such release was Le Grand Bleu.
"When the film had its premiere on opening night at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, it was mercilessly drubbed, but no matter; it was a smash," observed the International Herald Tribune in a 2007 profile of Besson. "Embraced by young people who kept returning to see it again, the movie sold 10 million tickets and quickly became what the French call a 'film générationnel,' a defining moment in the culture."
Besson created the Arthur series, which comprises Arthur and the Minimoys, Arthur and the Forbidden City, Arthur and the Vengeance of Maltazard and Arthur and the War of the Two Worlds. He directed Arthur and the Invisibles, an adaptation of the first two books of the collection. A film with live action and animation, it was released in the UK and the US.
Besson has been described as "the most Hollywood of French filmmakers." Scott Tobias wrote that his "slick, commercial" action movies were "so interchangeable—drugs, sleaze, chuckling supervillainy, and Hong Kong-style effects—that each new project probably starts with white-out on the title page."
American film critic Armond White has praised Besson, whom he ranks as one of the best film producers, for refining and revolutionizing action film. He wrote that Besson dramatizes the struggle of his characters "as a conscientious resistance to human degradation".
Besson has been married four times; first, in 1986, to actress Anne Parillaud who starred in Besson's Nikita (1990). Besson and Parillaud had a daughter, Juliette, born in 1987. The couple divorced in 1991.
Besson's second wife was actress and director Maïwenn Le Besco, who he started dating when he was 31 and she was 15. They were married in late 1992 when Le Besco was pregnant with their daughter Shanna, who was born on 3 January 1993. Le Besco later claimed that their relationship inspired Besson's film Léon (1994), where the plot involved the emotional relationship between an adult man and a 12-year-old girl. Their marriage ended in 1997, when Besson became involved with actress Milla Jovovich during the filming of The Fifth Element (1997). He married the 22-year-old on 14 December 1997, at the age of 38, but they divorced in 1999.
In 2018, he was accused of rape by actress Sand Van Roy and other actresses who wished to remain anonymous. The director's lawyer Thierry Marembert stated that Besson "categorically denies these fantasist accusations" and that the accuser was "someone he knows, towards whom he has never behaved inappropriately". Five women have declared similar statements against Besson, including a former assistant, two students of Cité du Cinéma studio, and a former employee of Besson’s EuropaCorp.
Among Besson's awards are the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film Critics Prize, Fantasporto Audience Jury Award-Special Mention, Best Director, and Best Film, for Le Dernier Combat in 1983; the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Director-Foreign Film, for La Femme Nikita, 1990; the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film, Nil by Mouth, 1997; and the Best Director Cesar Award, for The Fifth Element, 1997.
In 2000, Besson superseded his production company by co-founding EuropaCorp with Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, with whom he had frequently worked since 1985. Le Pogam had then been Distribution Director with Gaumont. EuropaCorp has had strong growth based on several English-language films, with international distribution. It has production facilities in Paris, Normandy, and Hollywood, and is establishing distribution partnerships in Japan and China.
|Awards and achievements|
| César Award for Best Director
for The Fifth Element
for Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train
Angel-A, directed by Luc Besson, is a 2005 French fantasy and romantic drama film featuring Jamel Debbouze and Rie Rasmussen.Anna (upcoming film)
Anna is an upcoming English-language French crime thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson. The film stars Sasha Luss, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, and Cillian Murphy.Arthur and the Invisibles
Arthur and the Invisibles (French: Arthur et les Minimoys) is a 2006 English-language French adventure comedy fantasy animated/live-action film adaptation of the 2002 children's book Arthur and the Minimoys, and the 2003 sequel Arthur and the Forbidden City, written by filmmaker Luc Besson, who also directed the film.
It premiered in limited release in France on November 29, 2006, and received wide releases in a number of countries in the following weeks. In the United States, it was released by The Weinstein Company and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on December 29, 2006, for one week in Los Angeles, California, with a wider release on January 12, 2007 and it was released in the United Kingdom on February 2, 2007. With a budget of €60 million, Arthur and the Invisibles was briefly the most expensive French film production until surpassed by Astérix at the Olympic Games.
The film received negative reviews from critics, and under-performed in the United States. It was nevertheless successful enough in France and in the rest of the world to generate two sequels, Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard and Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds. The film received the Imagina Award in the category Prix du Long-Métrage. The movie's soundtrack album was released on January 9, 2007.Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard
Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard (French: Arthur et la vengeance de Maltazard, also known in North America as Arthur and the Invisibles 2 or simply Arthur 2) is a 2009 English-language French animated/live-action feature film co-written, co-produced and directed by Luc Besson, based on his novel of the same title and starring Freddie Highmore and Mia Farrow. EuropaCorp produced the film, which is the second in Besson's Arthur series, following Arthur and the Invisibles. The film received generally negative reviews by critics. It was a success in France but, due to its predecessor's failure at the American box office, was released direct-to-video in the United States. It performed disappointingly in the rest of the world. As a result, the film and its sequel, Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds, generated huge money losses for EuropaCorp.Atlantis (1991 film)
Atlantis is a 1991 French documentary film about oceans, filmed over a two-year period by Luc Besson.Cinéma du look
Cinéma du look (French: [sinema dy luk]) was a French film movement of the 1980s, analysed, for the first time, by French critic Raphaël Bassan in La Revue du Cinéma issue n° 448, May 1989, in which he classified Luc Besson, Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax as directors of "le look". These directors were said to favor style over substance, spectacle over narrative. It referred to films that had a slick, gorgeous visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters who were said to represent the marginalized youth of François Mitterrand's France. Themes that run through many of their films include doomed love affairs, young people more affiliated to peer groups than families, a cynical view of the police, and the use of scenes in the Paris Métro to symbolise an alternative, underground society. The mixture of 'high' culture, such as the opera music of Diva and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, and pop culture, for example the references to Batman in Subway, was another key feature.Collision (2013 film)
Collision (a.k.a. Intersections) is an English-language French romantic thriller film written and directed by American filmmaker David Marconi, produced by Luc Besson and starring Frank Grillo, Jaimie Alexander, Roschdy Zem, Marie-Josée Croze and Charlie Bewley. The film was released in France on January 30, 2013.District 13
District 13 (French title Banlieue 13 or B13), is a 2004 French action film directed by Pierre Morel and written and produced by Luc Besson. The film is notable for its depiction of parkour in a number of stunt sequences that were completed without the use of wires or computer generated effects. Because of this, some film critics have drawn comparisons to the popular Thai film Ong-Bak. David Belle, regarded as the founder of parkour, plays Leïto, one of the story's protagonists.EuropaCorp
EuropaCorp is a French motion picture company headquartered in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, and one of a few full service independent studios that both produces and distributes feature films, as well as the one of the major companies in Europe. It specializes in production, distribution, home entertainment, VOD, sales, partnerships and licenses, recording, publishing and exhibition. EuropaCorp's integrated financial model generates revenues from a wide range of sources, with films from many genres and a strong presence in the international markets.
Over 14 years, EuropaCorp has produced and co-produced over 80 films and is now distributing over 500 titles after the integration of the RoissyFilms Catalogue. The studio is mainly known for its expertise in the production of English-language films with strong earning potential in the international marketplace. The company is renowned for developing and producing two blockbuster franchises, the Taken trilogy and the Transporter series.The company began producing TV series in 2010 through EuropaCorp Television which has already adapted one of EuropaCorp's most famous and popular film franchises: Taxi.From Paris with Love (film)
From Paris with Love is a 2010 English-language French action film starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and directed by Pierre Morel. The screenplay was co-written by Luc Besson. The film was released in the United States on February 5, 2010.Le Dernier Combat
Le Dernier Combat (French pronunciation: [lə dɛʁnje kɔ̃ba], English: The Last Battle) is a 1983 post-apocalyptic French film. It was the first feature-film to be directed by Luc Besson, and also features Jean Reno's first prominent role. Music for the film was composed by Éric Serra. The film was the first of many collaborations between Besson, Reno and Serra. A dark vision of post-apocalyptic survival, the film was shot in black and white and contains only two words of dialogue. It depicts a world where people have been rendered mute by some unknown incident.Luc Besson filmography
Luc Besson is a French film director, writer and producer. He has contributed to many projects as either writer, director, producer, or a combination of the three.Lucy (2014 film)
Lucy is a 2014 English-language French science fiction action film written and directed by Luc Besson and produced by his wife Virginie Besson-Silla for his company EuropaCorp. The film was shot in Taipei, Paris, and New York City. It stars Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, and Amr Waked. Johansson portrays the titular character, a woman who gains psychokinetic abilities when a nootropic drug is absorbed into her bloodstream.
The film was released on July 25, 2014, and became a box office success, grossing more than $463 million, 11 times the budget of $40 million. It received positive, but also polarizing, critical reviews. Although praise was given for its themes, visuals, and Johansson's performance, a number of critics found the plot nonsensical, especially its focus on the ten percent of the brain myth and resulting abilities.Nikita (film)
Nikita, also called La Femme Nikita (French pronunciation: [la fam nikita], "The Woman Nikita"), is a 1990 French action thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson.The film stars Anne Parillaud as the title character, a teen who robs a pharmacy and murders a policeman. She is sentenced to life in prison, where her captors fake her death,
and she is given the choice of becoming an assassin, or being killed. After intense training, she becomes a talented killer. Her career as an assassin goes well until a mission in an embassy goes awry.Subway (film)
Subway is a 1985 French comedy drama film directed by Luc Besson and starring Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert. The film is classified as part of the cinema du look movement.Taxi 2
Taxi 2 (also called Taxi Taxi) is a French comedy film directed by Gérard Krawczyk and released in March 2000. Starring Samy Naceri, Frédéric Diefenthal and Marion Cotillard. It is a sequel to Taxi, written by Luc Besson and directed by Gérard Pirès in 1998. It was followed by Taxi 3 in January 2003.The Lady (2011 film)
The Lady is a 2011 French-British biographical film directed by Luc Besson, starring Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi and David Thewlis as her late husband Michael Aris. Yeoh called the film "a labour of love" but also confessed it had felt intimidating for her to play the Nobel laureate.Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (French: Valérian et la Cité des mille planètes) is a 2017 English-language French 3D space opera film written and directed by Luc Besson, and co-produced by Besson and his wife, Virginie Besson-Silla. The film is based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. It stars Dane DeHaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline, with Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer in supporting roles. Besson independently crowd-sourced and personally funded Valerian. With a production budget of around $180 million, it is both the most expensive European and independent film ever made.Valerian was released by STXfilms on 21 July 2017 in the United States, and in France on 26 July, by EuropaCorp. It received mixed reviews from critics, who criticized the plot and some of the casting, but praised the visuals. It grossed $225 million worldwide, but due to its high production and advertising costs, it was considered a commercial failure following its release in the United States.