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Biography #2 (for Taxi)

Luc Besson was born in Paris on March 18, 1959, and spent most of his childhood living in the idyllic settings of various Mediterranean hideaways where his parents worked as diving instructors.

With Besson's surroundings and family influences, it seemed assured that he would embark on a similar maritime career. From the age of 10, after an encounter with a friendly dolphin, Besson was determined to become a marine biologist, specializing in the study of the species.

Besson studied for this life plan throughout his teens until, at 17, a diving accident prevented him from ever diving again. His long-held dream cut short, Besson redirected his sights, deciding that he would become a filmmaker.

Besson dropped out of school to seek work in the French film industry, and started making his own experimental films in super-8. At the age of 19, he moved to Los Angeles.

In 1983, after three years of experience as an Assistant Director, Besson made his first feature, Le Dernier Combat. Selected for competition in the Avoriaz Science Fiction Film Festival, the film won two major awards from the festival jury, which included Alan J. Pakula and Jean-Jacques Annaud among its members. It was nominated for a Cesar Award and went on to win 12 awards around the world.

Besson's second film, Subway, starred Christopher Lambert in a Cesar-winning performance (one of 13 Cesar nominations garnered by the film), as a thief on the run who becomes involved with a fantastic subculture of Parisians living in the city's underground. The film gained Besson an international reputation, and today it is regarded worldwide as a cult classic.

Besson's 1988 film The Big Blue his first film made in English expressed the dreams of his Mediterranean youth by casting Jean Reno as an Italian diver with an unquenchable love for the sea. The version distributed in the U.S. suffered various unauthorized alterations, including a changes to the ending and to Eric Serra's score. The original version of Besson's film, nominated for seven Cesars, was a huge success throughout most of the world and is one of the top five films in French history. The original director's cut was released on DVD last year.

Besson's La Femme Nikita was the director's first global sensation, a film that inspired remakes in both the U.S. and Hong Kong. The story of a feral, drug-addicted girl forced to train as a government hit-woman made international stars of leads Anne Parrilaud and Jean Reno and spawned a new form of thriller: the neo-noir action film. This influence still reverberates throughout world cinema.

In 1991, Besson's Atlantis, hailed by U.S. critics as an undersea Fantasia and an aquatic dream, was filmed in 16 months all around the world. An exercise in pure film imagery, Atlantis dispensed with dialogue and narrative in order to wed Eric Serra's wall-to-wall score to undersea images a cinematic translation of the filmmaker's own love for the world hidden beneath the ocean.

In 1993, Besson began pre-production on The Fifth Element, working for over a year to refine the script from his own story and, with an international team of artists, to visualize its 23rd century setting and characters. When budget concerns put the project at a standstill, Besson turned his hand to another original screenplay, The Professional.

The Professional returned to the themes examined in La Femme Nikita. It starred Jean Reno and Natalie Portman in the story of a hit man who is civilized by his paternal love for a young girl orphaned by a renegade government agent, played by Gary Oldman. The picture was an immediate worldwide success and garnered Cesar nominations for Best Picture and for Besson as Best Director.

In 1997, Besson's sci-fi opus The Fifth Element, starring Bruce Willis, was released to critical acclaim and box office success. The same year, Besson won a British Academy Award for producing Nil By Mouth with Gary Oldman.

Besson's eighth directorial effort, the historical epic The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, starring Milla Jovovich in the title role, came in 1999. That year, he also produced Taxi 2, directed by Gérard Krawczyk, and The Dancer, helmed by Fred Garson.

Besson's more recent producing credits include Kiss of the Dragon (starring Jet Li and Bridget Fonda, and released by Twentieth Century Fox), The Transporter and the upcoming The Transporter 2 (both released by Fox), 15 Août, Yamakasi Les Samouraïs des temps modernes, and Wasabi, a film shot in France and Japan, starring Jean Reno and directed by Gérard Krawczyk. Also upcoming, for Fox, is Banditas, an action-adventure starring Salma Hayak and Penelope Cruz.

He is also the founder, with Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, of a European cinema studio named Europa, where he will produce four-eight films per year and maintain involvement in film distribution and foreign sales, video, and music publishing.

Bio courtesy Fox for "Taxi" (01-Dec-2004)


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