Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
This morning, the trailer for Luc Besson‘s Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets was released. The Fifth Element director’s return to sci-fi looks stunningly beautiful and wonderfully weird. If you haven’t watched the Valerian trailer yet, now’s your chance. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Wildfire Studios and talk to Besson about his upcoming film.
In my Luc Besson Valerian interview, the filmmaker tells us about how they secured the rights to an original Beatles song, the first time in 4 decades, how he brought this crazy vision to life, how he was able to bring 100 different fantastic looking alien creatures to life, the possibility of sequels, how much of this was adapted from the comic books, how he found the actors, his plans for the film’s score, explains some of the craziness going on in the teaser trailer, tells us about the very very elaborate backstory created for the movie’s story, world and aliens, the film’s runtime, if it will be good in 3D and the time-travel abilities of the spacecraft. All this and more, after the jump.
Luc Besson Valerian Interview
Luc Besson: So the music is a surprise, ’cause it’s The Beatles. So if you can please hold the secret until the at least the 9th. And if you say The Beatles, that’s okay, but what we don’t want is we don’t the people to know which song. We want to keep it, and it’s actually a first time since 40 years that they allowed a film to get the original song. Usually, it’s a cover. But they never have the rights for the original one.
Question: How’d you get them?
Luc Besson: I ask. I say please. I mean, you never know until you ask. So we just ask and, I mean, I didn’t talk to Paul, but it sounds like the project just felt like it was appropriate. I wish I would know. I would love to talk to him to say thanks. But at least we have it.
Question: It’s a really unique approach. I wouldn’t connect that song with those visuals, but it works so well.
Luc Besson: But you know what, it’s funny because we have the song first and then we did the trailer with it. We did the opposite. We tried to find a feeling first musically and say, okay, what is the color of the music of what we want to say? And the song was what we wanted. It’s perfect. It’s like ah, oh there’s everything in it that we like for the film. And then after it was easy. I have more than 100 aliens in the film. So it was easy just to see which one fitted in best.
Question: It seems like we’ve reached a point in C.G. that you’re finally able to fulfill your insane vision fully. Is that…?
Luc Besson: We reached a point where imagination is the limit. So the artist will be back in business now. Yeah. ‘Cause now, really creative people can do whatever they want. You can really do whatever you want. Flying pink elephant. No problem. So…
Question: Do you like to go back to practical occasionally and mix the two?
Luc Besson: No, I think this film is the perfect example of how you can mix everything in at the same time. And not having C.G. or practical or, you know, but it’s a mix. Later I will take you in the room to show you that sometimes on some aliens, Weta asked for half of the costume. So they have a piece of the costume. And they can build from that. Because it helps them on the movement. You know it’s better for them because otherwise, the animators come back to the pattern. You know, and the movement is always the kind of same. There is nothing better than a human movement. So for most of the aliens, I need a piece of something real, and then they build the rest. So it’s pretty amazing. I mean, I was like was watching like this. When I went to Weta, they have like 500 people working. They’re all nerds. They’re crazy. They barely want to speak to me. They’re working, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m working. Okay, okay, okay.’
Question: How detailed do 100 different aliens get as far as their…
Luc Besson: You will see. We worked for two years on drawings. So we have like a scale. ‘Cause the process pretty interesting because what I realized is with a big sci-fi film, the greenlight usually comes very late. And they already have an opening date. So they hire like 60 people to make the drawings because they have nine weeks to come with the drawings. So I did the entire opposite. I sent 2000 letters to 2000 schools around the world and said, I’m gonna do a sci-fi film. If you want to participate, send me a spaceship, a world and an alien. That’s all. We received 2000 demand, and we picked up 15. Then I worked with five artists for a year. And the five artists, they didn’t know each other. The only contact they had is me through Skype. That’s it for a year. They were not allowed to talk to anyone else. And for a year I said to the guy, he’s not even in office; he’s in his home. And I said, here’s the description with words of the alien I want. Come back with something. So the guys had no limit of time or budget or just creatively for the first six or seven months. They were just totally open. And then little by little I started to reduce the field. Okay, forget that, that’s too crazy. I’m gonna call the police.
Question: I wanna see a design you considered to be too crazy.
Luc Besson: Some of them, you want to call the artist;s parents and say, you should keep on your boy, he’s nuts. No, some guys were like [MAKES NOISE] You can’t even do it. I mean, it’s too much of a distraction from the film, because you almost want to do a story about the thing, you know. So you have to say, okay, that’s too much. No, that’s good.
[We were shown the trailer a second time]
Luc Besson: So yeah, all the shots you have seen are not final for the film. They are final for the teaser, but not for the film. We are gonna add more things. Like for example, when he falls at the end, there is two people, police from the police with 20 cameras on it and when he fall, they just like [MAKES NOISE] follow him, filming him on the way. Which is funny, but we have no time to put it in. So… next time.
Question: So are we gonna get toys when this comes out?
Luc Besson: I don’t know. I mean, I’m so like trying to finish. I don’t know. I don’t know if someone I guess so. I hope so.
Question: I hate to make this comparison, but when I see this trailer, the world building looks like on the level of Avatar or Guardians of the Galaxy in that like it seems like this is more than just one film. Like are you planning, are you building this world for multiple films?
Luc Besson: No, I built it for this one. But I can do much more if you want. No problem, I can sign for number two and three right now. ‘Cause the reality is I love the two characters. ‘Cause it’s a comic book that I read when I was 10. And I’m in love with them since. So I can finish my life with them. No problem. And the good thing is because they are agents, every film is almost like a how you say? A police…
Question: A new case?
Luc Besson: Yeah, a case. You can make as many as you want. They just cops, they resolve the problem. Then you can go to another case.
Question: How similar is this story to a specific comic?
Luc Besson: It’s the base of the story is the Ambassadors of the Shadows. But you read it in 20 minutes. And I have to do two hours. I have to add a lot of things. But the main storyline is Emperor of Shadows.
Question: Did you mix in any of the other stories?
Luc Besson: Not in terms of story, but characters. There is like three guys called the Doggone Daggies [PH]. They’re small; they look like pterodactyls. And they speak eight thousand languages. And they’re very funny. So they are in the film also. So that’s where we are. There’s 2700 shots with special effects. And I approved 200. So…
Question: You got work for you.
Luc Besson: Yeah.
Question: So you’ve obviously been a fan of Valerian for your whole life of these characters.
Luc Besson: Yeah.