Fans likely know director Luc Besson best from his 1997 film “The Fifth Element” — but did you know he also sold a story to “Metal Hurlant,” the French incarnation of “Heavy Metal” at age 16? While promoting his upcoming film “Lucy,” starring Scarlett Johansson, Besson stopped by the CBR Tiki Room at WonderCon 2014, discussing his early experiences with writing and comics with CBR executive producer Jonah Weiland. Plus, Besson also touches on the advantages of modern filmmaking technology, how the role of women in film has evolved since the ’70s, the superhero connections of “Lucy” and more.
On selling a story to “Metal Hurlant” (the French incarnation of “Heavy Metal”: I have a couple of friends that were designers, and I sold my first story when I was 16. “Heavy Metal” was like — [Bows Down] — the first sample [I red] when I was 14, and then one day I sold my story and I was so proud. The funny thing is five years ago someone called me and said, “I have the original drawing of [the story],” and so I bought it, which is insane, because I didn’t get paid so much at the origin and now I have to [buy my own work back].
On the dearth of female-led action films: Once in a while, the director has to try something. If it works, then everyone can go there; if it doesn’t, we back up. In politics, it takes a long time to accept that a woman can be president, also. Some of these women are good [presidents], so things are getting more and more open. Female characters are great. In the ’70s, you basically have the Mr. Muscle in the front who says, “Stay there, we’ll be back!” and then the girl is crying on the back, saying, “Come back! I love you!” That’s not fair for women. They’re much more complex and intelligent than that, and you can work on that. I’ve always been fascinated on that. … People are scared of things that have not been done, and our goal is just to try.
On “Lucy” and its connection to superheroes: The funny thing is, she has no cape and no mask and she’s a normal average girl studying in Taipei. She’s a little bit stupid, she’s partying too much, she’s wondering what to do with her life. She’s an average girl, and suddenly, these powers fall in her lap that she’s going to have access to 15% of her brain capacity, then 20, then 30 — and she cannot stop it. It’s like dominoes: when you start, you go to 100%. She has all these powers that she never asked for, and the funny thing is we are using 10% of our brain capacity. The dolphin is using 15, and basically Batman is using 17 and Superman, 18. She’s going to go to 100, so believe me, she can kick the asses of all these guys.
On bringing original properties to the screen and his approach to bringing new material to film: If you don’t want to take risks, stay in bed! [Laughs] It’s movies, we’re here for fun. I’m a moviegoer, I want to pay my ticket to a film and say, “Fuck, where’s this thing coming from?” I want to do that and I want to do the film I want to watch as a moviegoer. If you don’t take risks, then it’s just boring. Even if you fail, it doesn’t matter. Just try — and sometimes it’s great! So, just do it.