Is there a more prolific filmmaker in the world today than Luc Besson?
If there is, he (or, less likely, she) must be a prodigious movie-making machine. The 50-year-old Frenchman has produced a staggering 91 films since 1981 as well as directed 15 features and written or co-written 37, according to industry database IMDB.com.
His Paris-based EuropaCorp. is Europe's second biggest independently-owned studio, behind Germany's Constantin Film — and Besson plans to double the company's size by 2011.
Despite the global financial crisis, the publicly-traded firm plans to invest $US150 million over the next year on production and building a soundstage in a Paris suburb, Business Week reported this month. A true internationalist, Besson told the mag, “We have a diplomatic passport; we\'re equally at ease in France, Japan, Germany, and the US."
US audiences know him primarily as an action-meister, the brains behind the Transporter franchise and high-octane pics like Taken and Hitman. But the filmmaker has a far more eclectic slate, indicating tastes and proclivities that go far beyond the orchestrated mayhem of his earlier hits such as The Fifth Element, The Professional and La Femme Nikita.
For example, Besson produced his pal Gary Oldman's Nil By Mouth and he exec produced 2009 Sundance hit I Love You Phillip Morris, which follows Jim Carrey as a Texas con-man and former cop who has long-running love affair with the eponymous Phillip (Ewan McGregor).
Currently he's directing the live action/ animated adventures Arthur and the Two Worlds War and Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard, sequels to Arthur and the Invisibles, with Freddie Highmore as the lad cast into a subterranean world.
As a producer, his upcoming slate includes Staten Island, writer-director James DeMonaco's thriller-romance starring Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio and Seymour Cassel; From Paris with Love, with John Travolta as a wisecracking, fast-shooting US agent who\'s sent to Paris to stop a terrorist attack, from Taken director Pierre Morel; The Immortal, Richard Berry's gangster tale set in Marseilles, featuring Jean Reno; and English-language remakes of French films Tell No One (about a doctor grieving for his dead wife, who discovers she may still be alive) and District B13 (the saga of an undercover policeman and former criminal trying to infiltrate a gang armed with a neutron bomb.).
He boasts that of the 65 movies produced by EuropaCorp., only three or four lost money. Besson didn't attend a film school or hang out at art cinemas, telling IMDB.com, "I was never polluted by the world of cinema. I didn\'t even have a TV until I was 16. My expression is a reflection of the world I have seen, and in that world everyone was barefoot in bathing suits, following the order of the sea, the natural order of sunrise and sunset. I never went to the cinémathèque. I didn\'t know much about the masters of world cinema."