Interview with “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” Screenwriter/Director Luc Besson and Stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne
Disclosure: Westside Mommy was not monetarily compensated for this post. I was invited to a special screening and press junket as a member of the media. All opinions are honest and 100% my own. Images for this post used with permission and provided by STX Entertainment. Events hosted by STX Entertainment.
A few weeks ago, I attended a special screening of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, “Valerian” for short. The movie is long-anticipated for fans of the French science-fiction comic series, which was first published in 1967 and ran until 2010. Luc Besson (director of The Professional and The Fifth Element) wrote the screenplay and directed Valerian. He is a huge fan of the franchise and wanted to make the movie his entire life.
History is on the march. Watch the trailer for Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – the groundbreaking cinematic event a lifetime in the making. See it in 3D and RealD 3D July 21.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets takes place in the 28th century — in a time where space travel, virtual reality, and living among non-human, intelligent life forms is commonplace. Valerian (DANE DEHAAN, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Chronicle) and Laureline (CARA DELEVINGNE, Suicide Squad, Paper Towns) are special OPs soldiers whose missions are literally, out of this world. Each scene is like dipping into a different level of an amazing video game with characters galore.
The only thing better than seeing it in 3-D would be the ability to jump into the movie myself. It’s a movie you’d probably want to see more than once to catch all the fantastic, well-thought out details.
Luc Besson’s Vision
French director Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element was heavily inspired by the comic “Valerian and Laureline,” he first became obsessed with in the 1970s, at the age of 10. He always knew he wanted to make this film, but it wasn’t until the technology caught up with his vision (proof with James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009), did it become more of a realistic goal.
Luc Besson on hiring designers that helped build the world for Valerian:
If you want to participate, send a space ship, a world, and an alien
“So, what I did is I sent a letter to all the schools around the world, schools, creative schools, like design schools and things. And I said, ‘We’re going to make a film– a sci-fi.’ They don’t know which one. ‘If you want to participate, send a space ship, a world, and an alien.’ So, we received 2,000 submissions. And I picked up 15. And I hired five for an entire year. They don’t have the script. They don’t know each other, and the only person they have contact with is me by Skype once a week because one was in China. The other one was in Brazil. And the only person they have seen for a year is just my face here like this. And we have this little private conversation every week where I try to protect them because I want the full creativity of these people.”
We go organic
“We go organic. Then, we go very technological, and then, we come back. And so, I work with these five guys for a year. Then, they get a little burned. So, I bring six more new for eight months. They get a little burned. And then, I take the 12, and I put them in the same room for six months.”
How Luc Besson stays true to the spirit of his writing:
I have five kids who bring me back to earth every day.
Luc Besson’s secret to shooting a movie in 20 weeks:
Honestly, the secret is the preparation. Preparation is everything.
“I prepped before the greenlight.”
Why Luc decided not to make Laureline a red-head:
Oh, she looks like Leeloo in The Fifth Element
“There’s two reasons. First, I tried, and it doesn’t fit on Cara, to be honest. And the second reason is, as soon as she’s in red, everybody kind of says, ‘Oh, she looks like Leeloo in The Fifth Element.’ Honestly as soon as I’ve seen it in red, that’s what I said. I said, ‘Oh my gosh. It’s Leeloo.’ And so, that’s the reason.”
Valerian and Laureline – Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne
Within minutes of meeting Dane DeHaan, Besson knew he had discovered the titular character of his boyhood inspiration “I’d seen a couple of Dane’s films and liked him as an actor,” Besson says. “The first time I met him at a restaurant, he smiled, said ‘Hi,’ and that was it. I knew. The tone of his voice, the sparkle in his eyes and his smile — I thought ‘My God. This guy is Valerian.’”
Laureline is no shrinking violet, no damsel in distress — she is wholly equal to Valerian: brave, strong, whip-smart, and sharing in a 50/50 partnership in their crime-fighting endeavors. It would take someone wildly unique to embody the character that Besson had fallen in love with as a boy. Ultimately, Besson chose model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne for the role of Laureline, after putting her through a rigorous audition process to determine her dedication to acting, which she passed with flying colors.
What it was like on the set of Valerian and working with Luc Besson:
Cara Delevingne: “I think that’s when I first fell in love with the film…just listening to him talk about it. I’ve never heard anyone talk about something with so much love apart from their own children, honestly.”
Dane DeHaan: “And you can tell every day on set…that he was making the movie he’s wanted to make his entire life. And it’s the only movie I’ve made for this long period of time where like, you know, four months into it people are still really happy to be there. He’s such a pleasure to work for, and he was so happy every day because his dreams were coming true.”
How Cara Delevingne identifies with her character, Laureline:
“Laureline is the kind of woman that I want to be just in terms of her strength, determination, hardworking, following her heart as well, the amount of compassion and time that she has for love and also for doing the right thing and also getting the job done. I mean, she really does kick ass.”
How Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan physically prepared for their roles:
Dane DeHaan: “I would get to the set two hours early every day and just to the gym. We had to be in incredible physical shape just to do some of the shots and not pass out.”
“But, the sword fighting–in the movie, I was actually pretty stoked because I went to theater school, and we did an insane amount of sword fighting. And I didn’t think it was anything I was going to actually ever get to use in the real world. So, when I found out there was a sword fight–yes–I remember them being like, ‘You know, you have like two months to learn it.’ And I was like, ‘Oh no, guys. I got this.’ And they totally didn’t believe me, and within like three sessions, I totally got the fight. And they were like, ‘Oh wow. You can fight with swords.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I told you I could fight with swords.'”
Cara Delevingne: “Just in terms of the physical stuff, Dane really set the bar really high with just how much. He was up every single morning at 6:00 AM. And I was just like, ‘Wow, Dane. I’ve really got to catch up with you.'”
Meet Bubble – Rihanna
Rihanna was Luc’s first choice to play Bubble, a shape-shifting “glampod” alien with amazing acting and performance skills. “Everybody said, ‘Forget it; that’s impossible,’ shares the writer/director. “I said, ‘It doesn’t cost anything to try.’” Besson arranged a meeting with the megastar and was delighted to discover she was interested in tackling her first film role in the fantasy genre.
Rihanna’s shape-shifting stage performance is definitely a memorable one, which will delight her fans who watch the movie and probably make a fan out of you if you aren’t one already.
Thank you STX Entertainment
Thank you, STX Entertainment, for the opportunity to screen Valerian and interview Luc Besson, Dane DeHaan, and Cara Delevingne.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
In Theaters July 21
The visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy, based on the ground-breaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers.
In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha—an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.