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Luc Besson

Director, writer, and producer Luc Besson fell in love with the movies at age 17.

He initially snuck onto film sets to watch the filmmakers, crews, and actors at work; then, he joined them, working his way up through the ranks. His early jobs were on such films as Patrick Grandperret's Court-Circuit, Maurice Pialat's Loulou, and even a James Bond movie (Moonraker, directed by Lewis Gilbert). Along the way, he met a young actor named Jean Reno, and finally became a second unit director (on Alexandre Arcady's Le Grand Carnaval).

During those years, he was also writing screenplays. A meeting with Pierre Jolivet led to a collaboration on several projects. One of them, a short film, marked Mr. Besson's first effort as director.

Another short followed: L'avant Dernier, starring Messrs. Jolivet and Reno. Mr. Besson resolved to expand the work to feature-length, self-producing the resulting movie, Le dernier Combat, through his own company, Les Films du Loup. Shot over 10 weeks, in widescreen black-and-white, the 1983 silent science-fiction movie attracted attention around the world and earned Mr. Besson a César Award nomination for Best First Film.

Mr. Besson's next movie was the hit Subway, starring Isabelle Adjani and Christophe Lambert. The 1985 film was nominated for 13 Césars, winning 3 (including Best Actor). The filmmaker next wrote and produced Kamikaze, directed by Didier Grousset, before embarking on his most ambitious project yet, Le Grand Bleu.

Following a 9-month shoot, Le Grand Bleu [The Big Blue] opened the Cannes International Film Festival in 1988, became one of the biggest hits of all time in France, and established a worldwide following. Nominated for 8 Césars, it won 2.

Mr. Besson's next film, 1990's Nikita (a.k.a. La Femme Nikita), was an even stronger success (it played for an entire year in Japan) and subsequently spawned both a U.S. remake and television series. The film's leading lady, Anne Parillaud, won the César for Best Actress, and the film received 8 other nominations.

With Atlantis, released in 1991, the filmmaker extensively revisited the underwater world he had showcased in Le Grand Bleu, but this time with a cast of dolphins, whales, and sharks.

Mr. Besson then traveled to New York City with Jean Reno to make 1994's Leon (a.k.a. The Professional). Nominated for 7 Césars, he film was a smash worldwide, and introduced Natalie Portman, the film's female lead, to movie audiences.

At the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival, Mr. Besson was represented by two movies. One was his latest film, The Fifth Element, which opened the Festival, and subsequently was nominated for 8 Césars and won 3, including Best Director. The other was Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth, produced by Mr. Besson, which won the Best Actress award (for Kathy Burke) at Cannes.

Mr. Besson further diversified his filmmaking activities by writing and producing Taxi, directed by Gérard Pirès. The 1998 action comedy was a huge hit in France, spawning two sequels as well as a U.S. remake.

His next film as director was The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, which was nominated for 8 Césars and won 2. His next works as writer/producer included Wasabi, directed by Gérard Krawczyk and starring Jean Reno; and Kiss of the Dragon, directed by Chris Nahon and starring Jet Li.

In 2000, Mr. Besson founded a new European cinema studio, EuropaCorp, with longtime associate Pierre-Ange le Pogam. EuropaCorp is one of Europe's leading production companies, having cultivated activities in movies, television, videos, music, and world sales. The company finances 8 to 10 films annually, and also acquires movies.

Among EuropaCorp's over 30 feature productions to date, in addition to those mentioned above, have been Louis Leterrier's hit The Transporter, starring Jason Statham; and Banlieue 13, one of France's top-grossers in 2004, directed by Pierre Morel. Currently in production or post-production are The Transporter 2, again directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Jason Statham; the new film from Guy Ritchie; Bandidas, directed by Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, starring Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz; Brian W. Cook's Colour Me Kubrick, starring John Malkovich; and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones.

Also in production is Mr. Besson's next film as director, which is EuropaCorp's most ambitious project yet; Arthur, a CGI animation feature starring Madonna. He has adapted the screenplay from the best-selling series of children's books.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Luc Besson Facts

OccupationDirector, Producer
BirthdayMarch 18, 1959 (62)
BirthplaceParis, France

Selected Filmography

The Fifth Element
The Family
Léon the Professional
The Professional
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