French director Luc Besson is back in the mainstream with his new title Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Following a long hiatus from directing. Sitting down to answer some questions on his work on Reddit, the filmmaker opened up about a couple of his classics from the 90s including Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element.
Besson has continued to work as a screenwriter and producer behind the scenes on a variety of projects, but has been selective when it comes to the director's chair. In 1996 when he was in production for The Fifth Element, he explained that the lead part was intended for someone else other than Bruce Willis.
From Mel To Bruce As Willis Is Plan B
Being in such close proximity to each other, Besson remarked that Mel Gibson was his candidate for the role of Korben Dallas. Despite the Mad Max star teasing his inclusion, he would eventually pass.
"I had asked Mel Gibson first because he had his office next to mine at Warner Brothers," he replied. "He peeked into my office every morning to tell me that he was thinking about it. After 3 months, he passed. But we became friends. Bruce was the only other choice I had in my mind."
If this wasn't enough of a scoop, he said that the role of Ruby Rhod was inspired by and reserved for none other than Prince.
"It was written for Prince. I met him, he said yes. But then he went on a world tour for 10 years!! We couldn’t find time in his schedule. Then I started casting and the two finalists were Chris Tucker and Jamie Foxx. Jamie was amazing, but he was as strong as Bruce, and Chris looked like a shrimp so I knew it would be funnier. But what a luxury to have to choose between these three talented people."
Leon Not So Professional As Locals Are Literally Robbed To Watch Movie
Working as a screenwriter, producer and director for the 1994 classic Leon: The Professional, this title is still widely regarded as Besson's best feature to date. Quizzed about that Gary Oldman scream on the set, the Frenchman recalled that the moment caught everyone off guard as well as local law enforcement.
"Yes, especially because the hallway amplified his scream," he said. "The entire building was aware. We shot the scene in spanish Harlem, so we had some fake police cars in the street and a bunch of people watching us film. Suddenly on the other side of the street a car stops and four guys actually robbed a bank while we were shooting. The people watched the robbery for a minute and then just turned back to set where it looked more interesting. One guy said to me 'we don’t see a movie set every day around here.'”