Luc Besson had a sequel planned for Léon: The Professional, but it never happened – at least not as originally planned. Luc Besson is best known for being the writer and director of the sci-fi cult classic The Fifth Element, but a few years before that he made the action thriller Léon: The Professional, starring Jean Reno and Natalie Portman in her cinematic debut.
Léon: The Professional follows french hitman or “cleaner” León (Reno), who lives a solitary life in New York City working for a mob boss named Tony. Mathilda (Portman) is a 12-year-old who lives in the same building as León. After her family is murdered by corrupt DEA agent Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman), León takes Mathilda in, and she becomes his protégée and forms a very close (and unusual) relationship with him. The film’s ending didn’t leave any loose ends, but Besson had a sequel planned that, after a few obstacles, found new life as a different project.
Besson’s original idea for a Léon: The Professional sequel was a story focused on an “older” and “more mature” Mathilda, and the script was simply titled Mathilda. Because the story required that Portman was older, production was delayed, but in the meantime Besson got involved in other projects. He left Gaumont Film Company (distributor of Léon) to start his own studio, EuropaCorp, home of films like The Transporter, Be Kind Rewind, Lucy, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As a result, Gaumont Film Company held the rights to Léon, and so Mathilda didn’t happen.
However, the script wasn’t left on a shelf, as it was used as the basis for Olivier Megaton’s Colombiana, produced by Besson and EuropaCorp. Very much like Mathilda in Leon, Colombiana’s protagonist Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is a “cleaner” whose family was killed by a drug lord when she was younger. Years later, she goes to war with a drug cartel as revenge. Sadly, Colombiana wasn’t well received by critics, who pointed out Besson’s influence in the story.
Whether it was better to have a different film like Colombiana or no sequel at all is up to every viewer. Although it would have been interesting to see how Mathilda copes with the loss of both her family and Léon, the ending of Léon: The Professional gave good closure to the character and left viewers the chance to imagine their own future for Mathilda - so a sequel doesn’t feel necessary.