Luc Besson has revealed the interesting compromise he made with Bruce Willis while making The Fifth Element. Besson has had a unique career, and first made his name as the energetic young filmmaker behind French hits like Subway and Nikita. In the U.S. he’s best known for cult action film Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element and Scarlett Johansson sci-fi oddity Lucy.
In 2017, Besson realized a long-held ambition to adapt the cult sci-fi comic book Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets into a colorful, glossy blockbuster starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. Unfortunately, the film didn’t connect with audiences and became one of the year’s biggest financial disappointments. Despite this, the director remains hopeful for a followup and feels there’s enough of a fanbase worldwide to warrant one.
Besson sat down for an exclusive chat with Screen Rant about the home release of Valerian, where the director also discussed his collaboration with Bruce Willis on The Fifth Element. While chatting about the family atmosphere he likes to foster amongst his crew, Besson opened up about the deal he reached with Willis to ensure a happy set:
I remember a long time ago on Fifth Element the assistant to Bruce Willis came and said, “Okay, I’m going to tell you how it works. We need a pre-call at 30 mins, then a pre-call at 15 mins, then a pre-call at 5 mins before he goes on set.” And I said, “I make a shot every 4 minutes. Are you kidding?” And he said, “What do you mean, you do a shot every 4 minutes?” Yeah! [Laughs] I do the shot and then I turn the camera around and I do another shot, so I can’t warn you 30 minutes before the shot.
Realizing his star wasn’t used to filming at such a quick pace, Besson made a deal:
So then I made a deal with Bruce and I said what about rather than working 5 days, you know, from like Monday through Friday, you work for 4 days per week? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but you sit on the box next to me by the camera and we shoot like crazy, and he said okay! Deal! So he was like on the entire set like 10 feet from the camera on a box and he was so happy. Because he preferred it shorter and tenser.
While Willis has a reputation for sometimes being difficult to work with - which includes an infamous run-in with director Kevin Smith on Cop Out - it appears he had a good time making The Fifth Element. In recent years the star has tended to stick to straight to DVD action movies where he gets well paid for a couple of days work, but he appears to be on a big screen comeback trail, starting with forthcoming remake Death Wish. Another Die Hard sequel is in active development too.
Besson doesn’t currently have a directing project lined up, and recently strongly denied that a sequel to Lucy is being developed; given how that movie ended, it would be hard to envision where that story could even go.
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