Date of Birth: March 18, 1959
Luc Besson was born in Paris to parents who were scuba diving instructors. From the time he was five, they traveled around the world, and Besson planned to follow in their footsteps by becoming a diver and working with dolphins. Unfortunately, at 17, he had a diving accident which cut his dream short.
At 18, he moved back to Paris where he experienced his first taste of television and film. An avid scribbler, he'd written several stories as an adolescent and loved taking pictures, so he decided he would combine the two and try his hand at filmmaking. He accompanied a friend who was a third assistant working on a film and fell in love with the process that he witnessed on the set. Soon after, Besson made his first short film, but was unhappy with the finished product so he began working on movie sets as an assistant himself, to learn the process.
After spending some time in America, he returned to France where he formed his own production company, named Les Films de Loups (Wolf Films), but later changed it to Les Films de Dauphins (Dolphin Films).
Besson wrote and directed his first feature sci-fi adventure called Le dernier combat (1983). He won Best Director at Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival, Fantasporto and the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, as well receiving as a César nomination for Best First Work.
Two years later, his next film, Subway (1985), starring Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert was released. It received 13 César Award nominations. His first English-language effort was The Big Blue (1988), starring Rosanna Arquette and Jean Reno. But his first film to become a huge international success was Nikita (1990), starring his then-wife, Anne Parillaud. The film received nine César nominations and won one (Parillaud for Best Actress). It also received a Golden Globe nomination and spawned an American TV series.
His next big hit was Léon (1994), about a hit man who teams up with a 12-year-old girl (Natalie Portman in her feature film debut).
Though the cast was loaded with star power, Besson's next film, the sci-fi adventure The Fifth Element (1997) starring Gary Oldman and Bruce Willis, didn't do as well at the box office. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) also missed the mark, perhaps due to the high-rated television mini-series Joan of Arc that aired earlier the same year.
Busy writing and producing other people's films, it was six years before Besson's next movie, Angel-A (2005) was released. It received mixed reviews and because it was in French, was not a hit at the North American box office.
Meanwhile, Besson had begun to write fantasy books for youngsters, based on a boy named Arthur and his voyage into the world of the Minimoys. His first book, called Arthur et les Minimoys, was translated into English and released in 2005 as Arthur and the Minimoys. Besson worked it into a screenplay and filmed it as part live action, part animation as Arthur and the Invisibles (2007), starring Freddie Highmore in the title role. The film spawned two sequels.
He then plunged into the world of biopics with The Lady (2011) starring Michelle Yeoh, about the famous female Burma politician Aung San Suu Kyi. The crime comedy The Family (2013) starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer followed, as well as the science fiction flick Lucy (2014) starring Scarlett Johansson, which was made on a production budget of $40 million and made more than $450 million at the box office.
On the other hand, things were different with Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets (2017), starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. Made on a budget of over $200 million, the sci-fi epic earned less than its cost in theaters.
Luc Besson has five children, including three daughters with his fourth wife, Virginie Besson-Silla, as well as a daughter from his first marriage and a daughter from his second marriage. In the late 1990s, he was married to actress Milla Jovovich, who starred in several of his movies.
He has recovered from his long-ago accident and can now dive again.
The Lady (2012)
Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds (2010)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)
Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard (2009)
Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
The Fifth Element (1997)
Le grand bleu (1988)
Le dernier combat (1983)