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Hollywood digs into French sci-fi comic for ideas

Updated: 2017-07-20 07:55

Hollywood digs into French sci-fi comic for ideas

Luc Besson (second from right) and cast members Rihanna (left), Cara Delevingne and Kris Wu at the premiere for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in Los Angeles. [Photo/Agencies]

"I'm Valerian and she's Laureline," Luc Besson says with a smile, and gesturing to his producer and wife, Virginie Besson-Silla. "She's the clever one."

Valerian and Laureline are the lead characters of Besson's sci-fi epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets that hits US theaters on Friday. They're names that most American audiences don't know, even though the French comic about two 28th century intergalactic cops that it's based on, Valerian and Laureline, has been in existence for 60 years and influenced Star Wars.

The filmmakers are seated in their shared office inside the Beverly Hills outpost of Besson's company EuropaCorp about a month before the Valerian's stateside debut. He's behind a massive rectangular wooden desk and she's across the table from him. Besson-Silla has a desk, too. It's off to the side, round, and much, much smaller.

"I prefer a round table! Everyone thinks it wasn't my choice," Besson-Silla says.

"She could have had a bigger one," he adds, seemingly still befuddled by it.

It's almost another metaphor for their relationship-Besson as the larger-than-life public-facing personality who makes big statements and even bigger movies, and Besson-Silla as the one who orchestrates things in her own way just slightly out of the spotlight.

They were colleagues before they were anything else. Now they have three children, ages 15, 14 and 11, and have found they actually enjoy being partners at the office and home.

Valerian is by far the biggest film they've ever done estimated to have a $180 million price tag. Both are coming off the success of Lucy and the decades of goodwill Besson has built up in wild-eyed, crowd pleasing genre fare like La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element.

Though he was a lifetime fan of the series, it wasn't until he was working on The Fifth Element with Valerian illustrator Jean-Claude Mzires that he even considered taking it on.

Besson wouldn't acquire the rights for another 10 years. It wasn't until he visited James Cameron on the set of Avatar that he realized a film adaptation of Valerian and Laureline was even possible, technologically speaking.

And they've taken their time with it. Besson did a large number of character and world sketches himself. He created a bible with descriptions of all the creatures.

He found his perfect leads in two burgeoning stars: Cara Delevingne for Laureline and Dane DeHaan for Valerian.

As far as the money goes, Besson isn't concerned. With international sales, he says the film is 90 percent covered.

"The risk is more psychological than the money. The risk is if we fail then you lose your reputation," Besson says.

He's also a realist about possibilities and the fickleness of the market. Valerian will launch against the World War II actioner Dunkirk and the comedy Girls Trip.

"If there's a film a few weeks before us that is huge and everyone loves it, you don't exist. If you come after a desert of two months, then you're the savior. The good thing that we smell a little bit is there is a lassitude... lassitude?" Besson says.

Besson-Silla jumps in: "People are a little bored with sequels."

"There are so many sequels," continues Besson. "People are little tired of so many superheroes. At least we're fresh!"


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