The Fifth Element: About The Filmmakers

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LUC BESSON (Director) 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.

Besson's surroundings and family influences made it seem a sure path that would lead him to a similar maritime career. From the age of 10, after an encounter with a friendly dolphin, Besson determined to become a maritime biologist, specializing in the study of the species.

Besson studied for this life-plan throughout his teens until, at I 7, a diving accident prevented him from ever diving again. His long-held dream cut short, Besson redirected his sights, determining that he would become a filmmaker.

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

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, 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 is today regarded world-wide as a cult classic.

Besson's 1988 film The Big Blue, expressing the dreams of Besson's Mediterranean youth, cast Jean Reno as a French diver with an unquenchable love for the sea. Besson's first film to be made in English, boasting an international cast, was distributed in the US in a version that suffered various unauthorized alterations to its scenes and to Eric Serra's score, including a changed ending. The intact 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.

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 Parri laud and Jean Reno, and spawned a new form of thriller, the neo-noir action film, an influence that 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 preproduction on The Fifth Element, working for over a year refining the script from his own story, and with an international team of artists, visualizing 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, starring Jean Reno and Natalie Portman in the story of a hitman 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 in France gamered Cesar nominations for best picture and for Besson as best director.

Producer PATRICE LEDOUX, who holds a Doctorate of Literature from Paris University, worked in French television for ten years before joining Gaumont Films in 1981, where his first assignment was the production of Francesco Rosi's Carmen, with Placido Domingo and Julia Mi genes-Johnson. He became Gaumont's Chief Operating Officer and President in 1985, a position that allowed him to take a strong hand in the production of many of the films he's green-lighted, including Jean-Jacques Beineix's Betty Blue, Jean-Marie Poire's Les Visiteurs, Michel Blanc's Grosse Fatigue and Bertrand Blier's Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil. Ledoux 'swith Luc Besson began with the undersea adventure The Big Blue. He has since acted as producer on La Femme Nikita, Atlantis and The Professional.

Screenwriter ROBERT MARK KAMEN, after receiving his Ph.D. in Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, was encouraged by a friend to adapt his student novel to screenplay form. The script led to a long collaboration with director John G. Avildsen, resulting in the durable Karate Kid series of films, and the anti-apartheid drama The Power of One. During the same period, Kamen incurred such credits as Taps, Ted Kotcheffs Split Image, Gladiator and Lethal Weapon III. Kamen subsequently worked with Alfonso Arau, adapting A Walk in the Clouds from Alessandro Blasetti's 1942 film, Four Steps in the Clouds. Kamen most recently cowrote the screen adaptation of Andrew Neiderman's novel Devil's Advocate, to topline Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, for director Taylor Hackford.

Co-Producer IAIN SMITH graduated from London Film School in 1971, and returned to his native Scotland to work on the first in Bill Douglas's autobiographical trilogy, My Childhood. In 1975, he began his own production company, producing television commercials and lowbudget features, until 1978's Deathwatch, directed by Bernard Tavernier. After this he began his long association with David Puttnam as line producer on such globe-spanning location projects as Bill Forsyth's Local Hero, and Roland Joffe's films, The Killing Fields and The Mission. Smith's subsequent credits include Brian Gilbert's The Frog Prince, Richard Marquand's Hearts ofFire, Joffe's City ofjoy, Ridley Scott's 1492-- Conquest ofparadise and Stephen Frears's Mary Reilly. He is currently producing Jean-Jacques Annaud's Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt and David Thewlis.

Cinematographer THIERRY ARBOGAST previously worked with Luc Besson on La Femme Nikita and The Professional, for which he garnered Cesar Award nominations. In the past few years, Arbogast has risen to the top rank of French cinematographers, having shot the films Le Hussard Sur Le Toit (The Horseman on the Rooj) and Andre Techine's Ma Saison Preferee (My Favorite Season), among others. His recent credits include Patrice Leconte's Ridicule and Emir Kusturica's upcoming film, Black Cat, White Cat. Production Designer DAN WElL began his design career working for the French theater in 1976. During the 1980s, he worked on a series of French television commercials which brought him to the attention of Luc Besson, who chose Weil as the production designer for The Big Blue and La Femme Nikita, as well as The Professional. Weil's other early film credits include Didier Grousset's Kamikaze, Maroun Badadi's Hors La Vie (Out of Life) and Bernard Nauer's Les Truffes.

While heading the prolonged effort to visualize the future in The Fifth Element, Weil also recreated the past for Agnieszka Holland's 1995 release, Total Eclipse, which centered on the doomed affair between Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud in the late 18th Century. Wei l's work will next be seen in Alian Corneau's Le Cousin.

Costume designer JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER, born in 1952, began his fashion career as Pierre Cardin's assistant at the age of 18. He subsequently worked with designers Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou before presenting his debut collection in 1976. Soon thereafter, L'enfant terrible de mode Francais acquired a world reputation as a sweet-natured rebel, out to shake up Parisian fashion with such innovations as 1978's can bracelets, and 1981's corset outerwear.

Gaultier's first contribution to film came with the series of sumptuous gowns worn by Helen Mirren in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, made in 1989. The following year, Gaultier's costume designs for Madonna's Blond Ambition world tour were prominently featured in the documentary Truth or Dare. In 1993, Gaultier was approached by Pedro Almodovar to create an aggressively outrageous gown for his film Kika, which was worn by Victoria Abril in her role as an unscrupulous television news correspondent.

In 1994, Gaultier undertook, for the first time, the full role of costume designer for a film, Caro & Jeunot's The City ofLost Children, and in 1995, the designer's work for films were featured in the Gaultier Spotlight event at the Stockholm International Film Festival.

Gaultier remains the bad boy of French fashion, with recent collections drawing on eskimo, hassidic, punk, and modern primitve themes; but he has also shown increased interest in wearable fashions, including a line of Gaultier Classique, introduced in 1992, as well as the highly successful line Jean-Paul Gaultier scents for men and women. Editor SYLVIE LAN DRA began as an editor of documentary and industrial films in 1987, and soon graduated to work on pop videos and French television commercials for such high-profile clients as Givenchy and Renault. Her first collaboration with Luc Besson was on a 1992 commercial for Credit Lyonnais; ever since, Landra has worked frequently on the various projects of Besson's production company, Les Films du Dauphin, including the feature The Professional, a Cesar nominee for best editing, and a subsequent director's cut of the same film, for French release. Her other credits include the Chamrousse Film Festival winner, Des Nouvelles du Bon Dieu.

Born in Paris in 1959, composer ERIC SERRA began playing guitar at the age of five, and formed his first jazz-rock band when he was 15. By 1976 he had become a much-in-demand studio guitarist, appearing on over 50 recordings, including top international artists Jacques Higelin, Pierre Meige and Youssou N'Dour.

In 1977, at the age of eighteen, Serra met and befriended Luc Besson, and in 1981, Serra wrote his first score, for Besson's experimental short, L'Avant Dernier, a precursor to Le Dernier Combat, Besson's first feature and Serra's first feature-length score.

Serra not only wrote the Cesar-nominated score for Besson s second feature, Subway, but also made a brief appearance as the bass player in an underground band living in the Paris Metro. Subway, and Serra's subsequent scores for Besson's films, have consistently become bestselling albums in France. Most notably, Besson's 1988 film The Big Blue won the Cesar Award for best score; the soundtrack album, released in several countries, sold over 3 million copies worldwide, taking the number one position in French album sales for over three months.

After The Big Blue, Serra's services as a film composer found new demand, and his scores for other filmmakers included Pierre Grimblatt's thriller La Nuit du Flingueur and Didier Grousset's Kamikaze. His most recent project, the score for the James Bond film GoldenEye, bringing the series into the nineties with a mixture of time-honored Bond themes and Serra's modern world-beat and techno influences, was honored with a BMI film music award.

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