Luc Besson: How to make an action movie

French film director shares his killer instinct on making action films for the big screen Discuss this article

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French film director Luc Besson shares his killer instinct when it comes to making action movies like Nikita, Léon and latest box office hit Lucy, out now in cinemas across Dubai.

Luc Besson, the director of Nikita and Léon, is a man who knows his way around an action film. The French director transformed European cinema with the futuristic sci-fi The Fifth Element, and his EuropaCorp studio is behind action hits Taken and The Transporter. Besson’s new film Lucy stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman who accidentally consumes a substance that opens up her mind’s telekinetic potential. We asked him for his rules for making the perfect action movie.

1 Action is about more than things going bang
‘If the action doesn’t have a soul or a purpose, I’m not interested. If it’s pure action for its own sake, I enjoy it like a cheeseburger. You eat it, then you’re hungry. Indiana Jones is perfect: you have all the action with the giant boulder, then he’s betrayed, loses the idol to the villain, goes home and he’s a teacher. I’m not a pure action moviegoer.’

2 Know your character
‘Scarlett Johansson’s character in Lucy is about vulnerability. Something extraordinary is going to happen to her, so I take the worst case scenario. She’s an American in Taiwan, 15,000 kilometres away from home; she doesn’t speak the language; she’s just an average woman. If you make a movie about a guy who wins a billion dollars on the lotto, and the guy is rich to start with, who cares?’

3 Cast an actor you get along with
‘If you’re going to spend eight months with someone, you need to be sure about them. Do I like you? Do you like me? Are you interested in the movie? When Scarlett came in she asked a thousand questions.’

4 Plan the action
‘I usually start with a couple of key shots, then I build the rest. When I wrote the car chase in Lucy, I knew where it would happen: rue du Louvre in Paris, backwards, at noon! I went along there, took a look at the angles we could shoot, where the cars could go, and put it together that way.’
Lucy is out now in cinemas across Dubai.

By Tom Huddleston
Time Out Doha,

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