Luc Besson is known for his ability to craft a strong female lead. Besson's filmography is a lineage of powerful on-screen women: Whether it be in 'Nikita,' 'The Professional,' 'The Fifth Element,' or, now, with Zoe Saldana playing an assassin in this weekend's new release (that Besson wrote and produced), 'Colombiana.' For this discussion, Besson took a look back at the women in his cinematic life (as you can see in the gallery below), explaining what makes each one unique. We also looked ahead to Besson's next project, 'The Lady' – about the real life story of oppressed Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi -- and he tells us why there will never, ever be a sequel to 'The Fifth Element.'
Moviefone: Hey, Luc, how are you?
Luc Besson: Very good, thank you. Where are you?
New York City.
New York! So how was the Earthquake?
It was my first one! I actually did feel it.
It's funny because I just arrived in L.A. and everybody here in L.A. are just like making fun of you guys. [laughs] They say, "Oh, 5.6, what's the big deal?"
Next time, ask them how they will feel when a blizzard hits them.
I was here for the big one in L.A. a couple of years ago.
So, a lot of your films have very strong female characters. In 'Colombiana,' when Agent Ross is adamant that the person they are looking for isn't a female, apparently he didn't realize that this was a Luc Besson film.
[Laughs] I don't know. I think we always say that the women are the weak sex, but I think it's very interesting to see how strong they can be. You know? And when it comes to memory – not to forget something – women are unbeatable. So, you know what I mean, I think.
What do you look for in an actress to play these roles? What did you see in Zoe Saldana?
Her work in 'Avatar' was pretty impressive, first, physically. Very impressive with emotions. She has the wrench; she can really do everything. I watched another film where she has a smaller part -- and I knew because that's my job, for years now. I knew that she had the capacity for sure. And I met her and the girl is great. As a human being, she's great: she wants to work, she wants to learn, she asks the right questions. And that's it; that's the girl you want.
From Nikita to Colombiana: In the Gallery Below, Luc Besson Reflects on His Strong Female Leads Through the Years
Gallery | The Women of Luc Besson's Films
You didn't direct this film. Do you ever regret not directing?
Why is that?
First, since I was very young – since I was 16-years-old – I've been writing stories every day. I have many, many stories in my head and I can write two, three, four five scripts in a year. And I can't direct all of them. So the one that I think that someone can do it better than me, or some film where I'm not going to learn anything... I can like a script, but I don't see, as a director, what it's going to bring me for the next six months. I mean, 'Colombiana,' I have done 'Nikita,' I have done 'Leon' – it's the same type of genre film and I'm not going to learn anything by doing it. So when we finished this script, we find the director -- and now that's his film. So I have no regrets. You know, he does the film he wants. I barely come on the set
Your next film is 'The Lady.' How did you approach making a film about a still living person, Aung San Suu Kyi, whom you couldn't meet?
You have to research months and months to find out everything you can and meet people met her. And go from some foundation that helped Burma – they have lots and lots of films about her. Like home video things. It's kind of scary because you want to honor the person and you know that you're not going to do it at 100 percent right. And I finally met her and she's really a sweetheart. And we actually went not too far from the truth.
Did she get to see any of the finished film?
No. And she doesn't want to. You know, she's living in one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, so I think that the fact that she doesn't want to see the film is a way of protecting herself. Because the film is not showing the government on a good day, so I think she wants to protect herself and say, "You know, I have nothing to do with the film. I've not seen the film. I was not asking for the film. So there's nothing that they can reproach her about the film.
Shortly after the success of 'The Fifth Element' there was talk of a sequel. How close was that to ever happening?
No. Never at all. It was rumors. But, no, not at all. You know, I love it, but it was two years of my life. And if I do another sci-fi one day, which I would love, I will do a complete new thing. You know, it's much more interesting to go on to new stuff than go back there.
There wasn't any studio pressure to produce another one?
As a director, no, it's not tempting. I love to go from 'The Big Blue' to 'The Fifth Element' to 'Leon' to 'Angel-A' to 'Joan of Arc' – I love to jump to another universe where I'm going to learn. The main decision for me is excitement. When I shot 'Joan of Arc,' I'm going to spend eight months in the 14th century. I've never been in the 14th century. I was happy to go there for eight months. And for 'The Fifth Element,' for six months you're in space, living with strange creatures all around you. It's great.
And you're happy with 'Colombiana'?
I'm proud of [director Olivier Megaton], he did a great job. It was exciting when I watched the film the first time. My favorite scene is the toothbrush fight in the bathtub at the end. Which is just silly because it's a little room and it's two people with a toothbrush, but, God, that's efficient.
I've also never seen anyone die by the use of a gun in that manner before.
Yeah! It's funny because the entire summer was about superheroes and special effects and it's so fun to finish the season by a bathtub and two toothbrushes. So, we finished this summer in the bathtub. [laughs]
And we started the summer with 'Thor,' which is a lot different.
[Laughs] It's good. At least we have a big rainbow.
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