Luc Besson is a French film writer, director and producer has achieved incredible success in his home land and internationally, having directed 13 films and producing 80 others. He is best known for his action films during the 1990’s that are incredibly stylish, and sometimes over the top.
Besson was born in Paris, but spent his early childhood on the Mediterranean coast, where his parents were diving instructors. Besson himself imagined following in his parents footsteps and becoming a marine biologist specializing in dolphins, but a diving accident at the age of 17 left him unable to dive anymore. He retuned to Paris to finish his studies, where he fell in love with films, and ambitiously started his own film company, Films du loup.
After a short stint in the military, Besson tried to apprentice under other filmmakers as an assistant, even spending time in Hollywood, but by the age of 20, he was determined to make a film, and did so with the short L’avant-dernier (1981), a short sci-fi film taking place in a post-apocalyptic world. The film won enough prizes that Besson turned it into a full-length film, Le dernier combat (1983). His next film, Subway (1985), a black comedy about social outcasts that takes place in the Paris Metro, won 13 Césars nominations, and now Besson had enough clout to make a deeply personal film.
Le Grand Bleu (1988), about a deep-sea diver with a special connection to dolphins, was clearly inspired by Besson’s own childhood. His first film to be shot in English, the film was a huge success in France, becoming the highest grossing film of the year, and winning four Césars. Although in English, the film did not do well in America, but that soon changed with the release of Nikita (1990), a dark film about a drug-addict-turned-government assassin. Stylish and sexy, the film was so popular, that Hollywood tried to remake it into both a movie and a television series.
Besson would soon discover and cast a young Natalie Portman in the equally dark Léon (1994), an action film that raised eyebrows with an almost romance between a hitman and a young girl. By this time, Besson had become a master at shooting elegant, exciting action sequences, and instead of taking him seriously, he next directed the tongue in cheek, cartoon-like The Fifth Element (1997), an over the top live action sci-fi movie.
In recent years, Besson has spent more time producing and writing action franchises, and is also entering the animated arena, with the release of the Arthur and the Minavoys (2006) series. Whether we will see another personal film like the great Le Grand Bleu remains to be seen, but there seems to be plenty of time.