If anyone was going to take a ride in BRUCE WILLIS’s sky-cab, it was director LUC BESSON. The result is a rollercoaster ride of a film, The Fifth Element. Words: Nigel Floyd
THE SONY BUILDING at 1550 Madison Avenue. New York was a peculiarly appropriate place to have seen Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element for the first time.
Before the screening. I looked down from the high windows on to the New York streets that seemed so familiar. The setting for myriad American movies. the mythical metropolis is dominated by its skyscraping vertical lines. criss- crossed at street level by a grid of traffic- choked streets. After seeing the French director‘s film. none of this would ever look the same again.
The 23rd century New York of The Fifth Element is a city totally re-imagined. What was once the street level is obscured by a dense layer of smog. while the canyons
’I didn't go straight to Bruce Willis because he's so expensive. I told him that I wanted all the money on the screen and not just to pay his fee.’ Luc Besson
between the vertical buildings are filled with a variety of airborne traffic: battered sky-cabs that hover and dart. police cars that plunge down through the vertical canyons. a Thai
Mr Cab driver: Bruce Willis knows a faredodger when he sees one
THE FIFTH ELEMENT
junk that sails across the crowded sky with a faintly wave-like rocking motion.
Jaded sky—cab driver Korben Dallas, ayed by Bruce Willis. has a lot on his mind. His taxi license is about to expire and a drug- crazed thief has just rung his doorbell and stuck a gun in his face. Then a beautiful, orange-haired woman dressed in designer bandages crashes through the roof of his airborne cab. starts gabbling away in a sing- song language he can‘t understand. and begs him to save her from the pursuing cops.
The ensuing sky-chase leaves his already battered cab riddled with bullet—holes. but this is just the start of his problems. llis non—fare- paying passenger is not just some homeless waif. but an extraordinary being whose survival or death will determine the future of the universe.
Although Besson had considered Willis for the lead role of bemused 23rd century New York sky-cab driver Korben Dallas, he wanted to put the film‘s $90 million budget on the screen and feared the Die Hard star‘s fee would financially unbalance the project.
‘I wrote the character without thinking too much about a specific actor.‘ says Besson. ‘I try to write 50 per cent of the role, and then to find someone who can supply the rest. But I didn‘t go straight to Bruce because he‘s so expensive. Then I saw him at lunch and he said. “Why didn’t you call me?" I told him that I wanted all the
13—26 Jun 1997 THE llST15