Bes­son re­veals how Avatar­in­flu­enced his lat­est project

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By XU FAN

James Cameron’s hugely suc­cess­ful 2009 sci-fi film Avatar had a dra­matic im­pact on French di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son’s plans for his up­com­ing film.

This was re­vealed by Bes­son, one of the most com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful di­rec­tors in France, dur­ing a re­cent tour to Bei­jing to pro­mote his sci-fi epic Va­le­rian and The City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets.

Bes­son, who is known for works that range from Natalie Port­man’s de­but movie The Pro­fes­sional and the sci-fi hit The Fifth El­e­ment to Lucy, star­ring Scarlett Jo­hans­son, says that he dumped the script for Va­le­rian and The City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets into a trash can af­ter watch­ing Avatar. “It was not good enough,” he says.

He then spent nine months rewrit­ing the story, and re­cruited an­i­ma­tors from across the world to de­sign alien char­ac­ters, but there was a twist in his cre­ative process.

He did not tell the an­i­ma­tors about each other and did not give them clear in­struc­tions about what he wanted. This was be­cause Bes­son be­lieves it is the best way to max­i­mize cre­ativ­ity.

“The limit to­day is not tech­nol­ogy, but imag­i­na­tion,” he says.

Around 90 per­cent of the char­ac­ters in the film are aliens.

The movie fea­tures 3,236 alien species that speak more than 5,000 lan­guages and make up a to­tal galactic pop­u­la­tion of 2 mil­lion.

Bes­son says 70 per­cent of the aliens are new cre­ations, while the rest are based on the orig­i­nal work on which the film is based.

For Bes­son, the movie is a trib­ute to Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line, one of the most pop­u­lar sci-fi comic-book se­ries in France and Europe.

Cre­ated by writer Pierre Christin and artist JeanClaude Mezieres be­tween 1967 and 2010, the comics are about ad­ven­tures of two agents who travel through space and time.

The comics are re­garded as a phe­nom­e­non in the his­tory of Euro­pean pop cul­ture, and in­flu­enced such sci-fi block- Va­le­ri­anandTheCi­ty­ofaT­hou­sandPlan­ets busters as the Star Wars fran­chise and Bes­son’s 1997 film The Fifth El­e­ment.

“The way they told sto­ries is dif­fer­ent from to­day,” says Bes­son, who says he even fell in love with the fe­male char­ac­ter, the sexy-and-heroic Lau­re­line.

Bes­son says his cast — led by Amer­i­can actor Dane De­Haan and Bri­tish model-ac­tress Cara Delev­ingne — will tempt the moviego­ing pub­lic, who now mainly com­prise youth.

One of the other rea­sons Bes­son loves the comic books is be­cause the char­ac­ters are un­like typ­i­cal aliens. “Most aliens on the big screen are dark, scary crea­tures, but in the books the aliens are very funny and cute,” he says.

Bes­son says his sci-fi tale to some ex­tent par­al­lels the mi­grant cri­sis in Europe.

The aliens in his film co-ex­ist har­mo­niously with other species in a fic­tional city in a fu­tur­is­tic world.

The mega pro­duc­tion, which set to open in North Amer­ica next July and has no China release date yet, is now in the post-pro­duc­tion phase.

The Fifth El­e­ment had only 180 vis­ual-ef­fect shots, but Va­le­rian and The city of A Thou­sand Plan­ets has 2,740, Bes­son says.

“When I saw the tech­nolo­gies that came af­ter The Fifth El­e­ment, I was pissed off. I al­ways said then I would avenge this one day … This (film) is my avenger.”

But he also says dig­i­tal ef­fects in some senses hin­der cre­ativ­ity.

“I need to work with ac­tors, who give me a di­men­sion that you can­not re­pro­duce with a ma­chine,” he says.

The Bei­jing event was Bes­son’s first pub­lic ap­pear­ance in China since the Chi­nese com­pany Fun­da­men­tal an­nounced it had be­come the sec­ond-largest share­holder in Bes­son’s EuropaCorp in Septem­ber.

He was re­luc­tant to pro­vide de­tails when asked about Chi­nese actor Kris Wu, who is also cast in Va­le­rian.

He also says he would not like to di­rect films in China be­cause he feels only home­grown di­rec­tors can master the essence of their cul­tures and his­to­ries.

He says that just as he be­lieves Amer­i­can di­rec­tors can­not do jus­tice to a French film, the best Chi­nese films can be made only by Chi­nese di­rec­tors.

The limit to­day is not tech­nol­ogy, but imag­i­na­tion.”


Luc Bes­son, French di­rec­tor The sci-fi epic about space ad­ven­tures. is

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