Hol­ly­wood digs into French sci-fi comic for ideas

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

BEV­ERLY HILLS, Cal­i­for­nia — “I’m Va­le­rian and she’s Lau­re­line,” Luc Bes­son says with a smile, and ges­tur­ing to his pro­ducer and wife, Vir­ginie Bes­son-Silla. “She’s the clever one.”

Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line are the lead char­ac­ters of Bes­son’s sci-fi epic, Va­le­rian and the City of a Thousand Plan­ets that hits US the­aters on Fri­day. They’re names that most Amer­i­can au­di­ences don’t know, even though the French comic about two 28th cen­tury in­ter­ga­lac­tic cops that it’s based on, Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line, has been in ex­is­tence for 60 years and in­flu­enced Star Wars.

The film­mak­ers are seated in their shared of­fice in­side the Bev­erly Hills out­post of Bes­son’s com­pany EuropaCorp about a month be­fore the Va­le­rian’s state­side debut. He’s be­hind a mas­sive rec­tan­gu­lar wooden desk and she’s across the ta­ble from him. Bes­son-Silla has a desk, too. It’s off to the side, round, and much, much smaller.

“I pre­fer a round ta­ble! Ev­ery­one thinks it wasn’t my choice,” Bes­son-Silla says.

“She could have had a big­ger one,” he adds, seem­ingly still be­fud­dled by it.

It’s al­most an­other metaphor for their re­la­tion­ship — Bes­son as the larger-thanlife pub­lic-fac­ing per­son­al­ity who makes big state­ments and even big­ger movies, and Bes­son-Silla as the one who or­ches­trates things in her own way just slightly out of the spot­light.

They were col­leagues be­fore they were any­thing else. Now they have three chil­dren, ages 15, 14 and 11, and have found they ac­tu­ally en­joy be­ing part­ners at the of­fice and home.

Va­le­rian is by far the big­gest film they’ve ever done es­ti­mated to have a $180 mil­lion price tag. Both are com­ing off the suc­cess of Lucy and the decades of good­will Bes­son has built up in wildeyed, crowd pleas­ing genre fare like La Femme Nikita and The Fifth El­e­ment.

Though he was a life­time fan of the se­ries, it wasn’t un­til he was work­ing on The Fifth El­e­ment with Va­le­rian il­lus­tra­tor Jean-Claude Mzires that he even con­sid­ered tak­ing it on.

Bes­son wouldn’t ac­quire

The risk is more psy­cho­log­i­cal than the money. The risk is if we fail then you lose your rep­u­ta­tion.” Luc Bes­son, di­rec­tor, says of his lat­est film,

Va­le­ri­anandthe Ci­ty­ofaT­hou­sandPlan­ets the rights for an­other 10 years. It wasn’t un­til he vis­ited James Cameron on the set of Avatar that he re­al­ized a film adap­ta­tion of Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line was even pos­si­ble, tech­no­log­i­cally speak­ing.

And they’ve taken their time with it. Bes­son did a large num­ber of char­ac­ter and world sketches him­self. He cre­ated a bi­ble with de­scrip­tions of all the crea­tures.

He found his per­fect leads in two bur­geon­ing stars: Cara Delev­ingne for Lau­re­line and Dane DeHaan for Va­le­rian.

As far as the money goes, Bes­son isn’t con­cerned. With in­ter­na­tional sales, he says the film is 90 per­cent cov­ered.

“The risk is more psy­cho­log­i­cal than the money. The risk is if we fail then you lose your rep­u­ta­tion,” Bes­son says.

He’s also a re­al­ist about pos­si­bil­i­ties and the fick­le­ness of the mar­ket. Va­le­rian will launch against the World War II ac­tioner Dunkirk and the com­edy Girls Trip.

“If there’s a film a few weeks be­fore us that is huge and ev­ery­one loves it, you don’t ex­ist. If you come after a desert of two months, then you’re the sav­ior. The good thing that we smell a lit­tle bit is there is a las­si­tude... las­si­tude?” Bes­son says.

Bes­son-Silla jumps in: “Peo­ple are a lit­tle bored with se­quels.”

“There are so many se­quels,” con­tin­ues Bes­son. “Peo­ple are lit­tle tired of so many su­per­heroes. At least we’re fresh!”

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