money on the screen and not just to pay his fee. He said, “lfl love it, we’ll find a way.” He read it and said “Yes” in two hours.’

And for a fraction of the fee he’ll be paid for Die Hard.

The Fifth Element began life as a story Besson wrote at sixteen years old while living in a dull Paris suburb. The sci-f1 fantasy helped him escape into an imaginary future world.

‘1 take my paper,’ explains Besson, ‘and l begin to write about the 23rd century. 1 invent- ed everything, the whole system. i described a guy in an apartment then I spent months trying to know how he rented it; or why he rented it, why he didn’t buy it. I organised the whole society. But I had nothing to say at that time, i was new at life.

‘Then the story came six years ago, when i turned 30. I had things to say about civilisation and love, about why we should save life when we see what we do with it.’

Besson’s first draft screenplay ran to 400 pages, with a potential running time of seven hours. Fortunately, American co-writer Robert Mark Kamen’s experience on mainstream movies like Lethal Weapon [I] helped pare down this extravagant fantasy to a workable l20 pages.

The Fifth Element’s look is heavily influenced by fashion bad boy Jean-Paul Gaultier’s fetishistic costumes, and by the highly architectural cityscapes of French

'She's as strong as a male but as beautiful and graceful as a female. She also has something animal about her.’ Luc Besson on Milla Jovovich

graphic artists Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézieres, illustrators of the cult 70$ comic-books Metal Hurlant and Valerian, Spatio-Temporal A gent.

Besson and his collaborators provided special effects outfit Digital Domain with over 8000 drawings, then left them to come up with the technical solutions. Even so, he and special visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson spent weeks discussing not only the blending of minia- tures and computer- generated effects. but

also the importance of

cinematographer Thierry Arbogast’s photo- realistic style of filming. ‘I was able to help him [Stetson] to be real.

just by the way I shot the film,’ says Besson.

Luc Besson: bought Bruce Willis for a song

‘When I drew the storyboards, everything was shown as if it was normal the streets, the cars. the buildings. everything. Just because something was a special effect that didn’t mean I had to make a special camera movement.

‘l tried to stay totally anonymous with my camera. as ifl was on the street and [just made a shot. And l think that gives the scenes a lot of reality. that the camera doesn‘t suddenly change its speed or its way of filming. There is a shot of the New York skyline with 400 flying cars. that‘s impressive enough. I think.’

The Fifth Element goes on general release from Fri 13 June.

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dressed for the occasion

Milla lovovich wishes she had ,


Model MILLA .IOVOVICH had to convince director Luc Besson she was more than just a pretty face for her role in The Fifth Element.

Words: Nigel Floyd

IRONICALLY, LUC BESSON almost didn't cast Milla Jovovich as The Fifth Element’s striking alien waif. When they first met in New York, he was struck by her sinewy, androgynous beauty and fierce blue eyes, but couldn’t see beyond her jeans and casual 'What's up?‘ attitude.

Mo months later a chance meeting in Los Angeles led to an impromptu but intensive set of acting tests, for which Jovovich had no time to prepare. Even then, Besson insisted a formal audition before deciding she had the talent and stamina or the role.

'She was strong, physically and mentally,’ explains Besson, 'and she had a kind of ambiguity about her - she could be from the past or from the future, she's as strong as a male but as beautiful and graceful as a female. She also has something animal about her, in her body and in her face.’

Seizing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Jovovich sidelined her career as a model, put her pop singing aspirations on hold, and worked tirelessly with her dance and voice coaches to perfect the animal-like movements and sing-

song alien language invented by Besson for her character.

‘I came to pre-production about four months before shooting started, so I had a lot of time to rehearse the language, get used to speaking it, and find the emotion in it,’ says Jovovich. ‘Luc handed me a dictionary and said, “Learn it”. Then we sat down together and went over the dialogue, to see what I felt comfortable with; because what looks good on the page might not sound natural when you say it.’

Born in the Ukrainian city of Kiev, Jovovich (pronounced Yo-vuh-vich) moved to California with her parents at the age of five. Landing the role of Leeloo was a quantum leap for the now 21-year-old actress, who started model-ling at the age of eleven, inherited Brooke Shields’s castaway role in the 1991 sequel Return To The Blue Lagoon, and was an object of paedoophile desire in Sir Richard Attenborough's bio-pic Chaplin.

After a singing cameo in Richard Linklater’s Dazed And Confused, lovovich released her debut album The Divine Comedy in 1994, at the age of only eighteen. But neither her music nor her acting has yet allowed her give up a lucrative modelling career.

'Modelling is just what pays my rent,‘ she says. 'That's how I can exploit myself, my face. l don't really care where my face goes, as long as it gives me the opportunity to be 100 per cent honest with the work I'm doing. So I'm definitely not going to do a movie or an album that I don't believe in.’

14 THE US? 13—26 June 1997