Luc Paul Maurice Besson (French: [lyk bɛsɔ̃]; born 18 March 1959) is a French film director, screenwriter, and producer. He directed or produced the films Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988), and La Femme Nikita (1990). Besson is associated with the Cinéma du look film movement. He has been nominated for a César Award for Best Director and Best Picture for his films Léon: The Professional and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. He won Best Director and Best French Director for his sci-fi action film The Fifth Element (1997). He wrote and directed the 2014 sci-fi action film Lucy and the 2017 space opera film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Luc Besson
Luc Besson by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Besson at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2016
Luc Paul Maurice Besson

(1959-03-18) 18 March 1959 (age 62)
Paris, France
OccupationProducer, director, screenwriter
Years active1981–present
(m. 1986; div. 1991)

(m. 1992; div. 1997)

(m. 1997; div. 1999)

(m. 2004)
Children5, including Shanna Besson

In 1980, he founded his own production company, Les Films du Loup, and, later, Les Films du Dauphin, which were superseded in 2000 by his co-founding EuropaCorp film company with his longtime collaborator, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam [fr]. As writer, director, or producer, Besson has so far been involved in the creation of more than 50 films.

Early lifeEdit

Besson was born in Paris, to parents who both worked as Club Med scuba-diving instructors.[1] Influenced by this milieu, as a child Besson planned to become a marine biologist. He spent much of his youth travelling with his parents to tourist resorts in Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece.[2] The family returned to France when Besson was 10. His parents promptly divorced and each remarried.

"Here there is two families, and I am the only bad souvenir of something that doesn't work," he said in the International Herald Tribune. "And if I disappear, then everything is perfect. The rage to exist comes from here. I have to do something! Otherwise I am going to die."[3]

At the age of 17, Besson had a diving accident that left him unable to dive.[4]

"I was 17 and I wondered what I was going to do. ... So I took a piece of paper and on the left I put everything I could do, or had skills for, and all the things I couldn't do. The first line was shorter and I could see that I loved writing, I loved images, I was taking a lot of pictures. So I thought maybe movies would be good. But I thought that to really know I should go to a set. And a friend of mine knew a guy whose brother was a third assistant on a short film. It's true," he said in a 2000 interview with The Guardian.[5]
"So, I said: 'OK, let's go on the set.' So I went on the set...The day after I went back to see my mum and told her that I was going to make films and stop school and 'bye. And I did it! Very soon after I made a short film and it was very, very bad. I wanted to prove that I could do something, so I made a short film. That was in fact my main concern, to be able to show that I could do one."[5]


He reportedly worked on the first drafts of Le Grand Bleu while still in his teens. Out of boredom, Besson started writing stories, including the background to what he later developed as The Fifth Element (1997), one of his most popular movies.[6] The film is inspired by the French comic books which Besson read as a teenager. Besson directed and co-wrote the screenplay of this science fiction thriller with American screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen.[7]

At 18, Besson returned to his birthplace of Paris. There he took odd jobs in film to get a feel for the industry. He worked as an assistant to directors including Claude Faraldo and Patrick Grandperret. Besson directed three short films, a commissioned documentary, and several commercials.[8] After this, he moved to the United States for three years, but returned to Paris, where he formed his own production company. He first named it Les Films du Loup, but changed it to Les Films du Dauphin. In the early 1980s, Besson met Éric Serra and asked him to compose the score for his first short film, L'Avant dernier. He later used Serra as a composer for other films of his. Since the late 20th century, Besson has written and produced numerous action movies, including the Taxi (1998–2007) and The Transporter (2002–2008) series (another collaboration with Robert Mark Kamen), and the Jet Li films Kiss of the Dragon and Unleashed/Danny the Dog. His English-language films Taken, Taken 2 and Taken 3, all co-written with Kamen and starring Liam Neeson, have been major successes, with Taken 2 becoming the largest-grossing export French film. Besson produced the promotional movie for the Paris bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.[9]

Besson at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival

Besson won the Lumières Award for Best Director[10] and the César Award for Best Director, for his film The Fifth Element (1997).[11] He was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture César Awards for his films Léon: The Professional (1994)[12] and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999).[13] French actor Jean Reno has appeared in several films by Besson, including Le dernier combat (1983),[14] Subway (1985),[15][16] The Big Blue (1988),[17] La Femme Nikita (1990), and Léon: The Professional (1994).[16]

Cinéma du lookEdit

Critics[who?] cite Besson as a pivotal figure in the Cinéma du look movement, a specific, highly visual style produced from the 1980s into the early 1990s. Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988) and La Femme Nikita (1990) are all considered to be of this stylistic school. The term was coined by critic Raphaël Bassan in a 1989 essay in La Revue du Cinema n° 449.[18] A partisan of the experimental cinema and friend of the New Wave ("nouvelle vague") directors, Bassan grouped Besson with Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax as three directors who shared the style of "le look." These directors were later described critically as favouring style over substance, and spectacle over narrative.[19]

Besson, along with most of the filmmakers so categorised, was uncomfortable with the label, particularly in light of the achievements of their forebears: France's New Wave. "Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut were rebelling against existing cultural values and used cinema as a means of expression simply because it was the most avant-garde medium at the time," said Besson in a 1985 interview in The New York Times. "Today, the revolution is occurring entirely within the industry and is led by people who want to change the look of movies by making them better, more convincing and pleasurable to watch.

"Because it's becoming increasingly difficult to break into this field, we have developed a psychological armor and are ready to do anything in order to work", he added in this same interview. "I think our ardor alone is going to shake the pillars of the moviemaking establishment."[20]

Besson directed a biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi called The Lady (original title Dans la Lumiere), which was released in the fall of 2011. He also worked on Lockout, which was released in April 2012.[21]


Many of Besson's films have achieved popular, if not critical, success. One such release was Le Grand Bleu.

"When the film had its premiere on opening night at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, it was mercilessly drubbed, but no matter; it was a smash," observed the International Herald Tribune in a 2007 profile of Besson. "Embraced by young people who kept returning to see it again, the movie sold 10 million tickets and quickly became what the French call a 'film générationnel,' a defining moment in the culture."[22]

Besson created the Arthur series, which comprises Arthur and the Minimoys, Arthur and the Forbidden City, Arthur and the Vengeance of Maltazard and Arthur and the War of the Two Worlds. He directed Arthur and the Invisibles, an adaptation of the first two books of the collection. A film with live action and animation, it was released in the UK and the US.[citation needed]

Critical evaluationEdit

Besson has been described as "the most Hollywood of French filmmakers."[23] Scott Tobias wrote that his "slick, commercial" action movies were "so interchangeable—drugs, sleaze, chuckling supervillainy, and Hong Kong-style effects—that each new project probably starts with white-out on the title page."[24]

American film critic Armond White has praised Besson, whom he ranks as one of the best film producers, for refining and revolutionizing action film. He wrote that Besson dramatizes the struggle of his characters "as a conscientious resistance to human degradation".[25]

Personal lifeEdit

Besson has been married four times; first, in 1986, to actress Anne Parillaud who starred in Besson's La Femme Nikita (1990). Besson and Parillaud had a daughter, Juliette, born in 1987. The couple divorced in 1991.

Besson's second wife was actress and director Maïwenn Le Besco, whom he started dating when he was 31 and she was 15.[26] They were married in late 1992 when Le Besco, 16, was pregnant with their daughter Shanna, who was born on 3 January 1993.[27] Le Besco later claimed that their relationship inspired Besson's film Léon (1994), where the plot involved the emotional relationship between an adult man and a 12-year-old girl.[26] Their marriage ended in 1997, when Besson became involved with actress Milla Jovovich during the filming of The Fifth Element (1997). He married the 21-year-old on 14 December 1997, at the age of 38, but they divorced in 1999.[28]

On 28 August 2004, at the age of 45, Besson married film producer Virginie Silla. The couple have three children: Thalia, Sateen, and Mao Besson.[29]

Rape allegationsEdit

In 2018, he was accused of rape by actress Sand Van Roy[30] and other actresses who wished to remain anonymous.[31] The director's lawyer Thierry Marembert stated that Besson "categorically denies these fantasist accusations" and that the accuser was "someone he knows, towards whom he has never behaved inappropriately".[32][33] Five women have made similar statements against Besson, including a former assistant, two students of Cité du Cinéma studio, and a former employee of Besson's EuropaCorp.[34] In February 2019 French prosecutors dropped the case against Luc Besson, citing lack of evidence.[35] In January 2021 Besson was again cleared after a second investigation had been ordered.[36]

Selected filmographyEdit

Legacy and honoursEdit

Among Besson's awards are the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film Critics Prize, Fantasporto Audience Jury Award-Special Mention, Best Director, and Best Film, for Le Dernier Combat in 1983; the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon-Best Director-Foreign Film, for La Femme Nikita, 1990; the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film, Nil by Mouth, 1997; and the Best Director Cesar Award, for The Fifth Element, 1997.[7]

Besson was awarded the Inkpot Award in 2016.[37]

Film companyEdit

In 2000, Besson superseded his production company by co-founding EuropaCorp with Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, with whom he had frequently worked since 1985. Le Pogam had then been Distribution Director with Gaumont. EuropaCorp has had strong growth based on several English-language films, with international distribution. It has production facilities in Paris, Normandy, and Hollywood, and is establishing distribution partnerships in Japan and China.

Music videosEdit


  1. ^ Luc Besson on 'Arthur And The Invisibles' Archived 12 July 2012 at – CANOE
  2. ^ "Luc Besson", Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008.
  3. ^ "Luc Besson: The most Hollywood of French filmmakers", International Herald Tribune, 20 May 2007
  4. ^ Hayward, Susan (1998). Luc Besson. Manchester: Manchester university press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7190-5076-3. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Luc Besson interviewed by Richard Jobson The Guardian; accessed 20 July 2018.
  6. ^ Interviews with European Film Directors – Luc Besson Archived 24 May 2012 at EuroScreenwriters
  7. ^ a b "Luc Besson," International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, 4th ed. St. James Press, 2000.
  8. ^ Elley, Derek. "Pop pic auteur", Variety, 23 June 1997, v. 367 n. 8, pp. 44–45.
  9. ^ Zinser, Lynn (6 July 2005). "Costly Race for Olympic Bid Reaches Its Frenzied Finish (Published 2005)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Le Cinquième élément" [The Fifth Element]. AlloCiné. Archived from the original on 12 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  11. ^ Williams, Michael (1 March 1998). "Resnais seizes 7 Cesars". Variety. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Prix et nominations : César 1995" [Awards and Nominations: César 1995]. AlloCiné. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Prix et nominations : César 2000" [Awards and Nominations: César 2000]. AlloCiné. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (22 June 1984). "'Dernier Combat,' French Science Fiction". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (18 November 1994). "Film Review; He May Be a Killer, But He's Such a Sweetie". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  16. ^ a b Roston, Tom (18 July 2014). "Scarlett Johansson Gets Superpowers in Luc Besson's 'Lucy'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Movie Review: The Big Blue". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  18. ^ Translated into English: "The French neo-baroques directors: Beineix, Besson, Carax from Diva to le Grand Bleu" (pp. 11–23), in The Films of Luc Besson: Master of Spectacle (Under the direction of Susan Hayward and Phil Powrie), Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-7190-7028-7
  19. ^ Austin, Guy (1999) Contemporary French Cinema: An Introduction, Manchester University Press, pp. 119–120, 126–128. ISBN 0-7190-4611-4
  20. ^ Tremblay, Anne (21 July 1985) "France Breeds a New Crop of Auteurs", The New York Times,.
  21. ^ Sobel, Ian (9 June 2011) "‘Looper’, ‘Anonymous’, And ‘Lockout’ Do The Release Date Shuffle'",
  22. ^ "Luc Besson: The most Hollywood of French filmmakers", International Herald Tribune, 20 May 2007
  23. ^ Tobias, Scott (20 May 2007). "Le Cinéma du Blockbuster", The New York Times, Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  24. ^ Tobias, Scott (5 May 2006). "District B13", The Onion. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  25. ^ White, Armond (28 January 2009). "We Need New Heroes: Taken", New York Press. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  26. ^ a b Leon: The Professional.
  27. ^ Shanna Besson. (15 August 2012). Retrieved on 20 September 2013.
  28. ^ Kee, Chang; Stevens, Victoria (5 May 2012). Maïwenn's "Polisse". Anthem Magazine, 5 May 2012. "Text: Kee Chang Images: Victoria Stevens". Retrieved on 20 September 2013 from
  29. ^ karenr (29 September 2005). "Besson Becomes A Father For The Fifth Time". Blog, SFGate, 29 September 2005. Retrieved from
  30. ^ Guilcher, Lénaïg Bredoux, Marine Turchi et Geoffrey Le. "Violences sexuelles: plusieurs femmes accusent Luc Besson". Mediapart (in French). Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  31. ^ "Luc Besson: French film director accused of rape". BBC News. 19 May 2018.
  32. ^ Baynes, Chris. "Filmmaker Luc Besson under investigation over rape allegation". The Independent. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  33. ^ Park, Andrea (10 July 2018). "Second accuser says Luc Besson sexually assaulted her". CBS News.
  34. ^ "Five more women make sex-offence allegations against Luc Besson". The Guardian. 28 November 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  35. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (25 February 2019). "French Prosecutors Drop Rape Case Against Luc Besson, Cite Lack Of Evidence – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  36. ^ Roxborough, Scott (25 January 2012). "French Judge Clears Luc Besson of New Charges in Rape Case". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  37. ^ Inkpot Award

External linksEdit

Awards and achievements
Preceded by César Award for Best Director
for The Fifth Element

Succeeded by