An Interview with Luc Besson, director of “Arthur and the Invisibles”
BY KEVIN CARR
Kevin Carr interviews Luc Besson, director of “Arthur and the Invisibles,” the new film which mixes live action with cutting-edge computer animation. While Besson is best known as the director of gritty action flicks like “La Femme Nikita” and “The Professional,” he takes a diversion from his usual fare to put together a children’s movie.
Excepts from the interview follow. Hear the entire interview here…
7M: WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO ADAPT A BOOK THAT YOU WROTE?
Only a few people know that I started with the script and wrote the book a year later. That was a funny process to me. I started with the script which I do usually. About a year later, lots of people are asking me, “What are you doing?” And I figure it’s maybe a good idea to write the book so people could be more familiar with the world. When you see “Narnia” or “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter,” the book doesn’t disturb the film. I think it’s the opposite. I think it helps the film because people can get involved. When the film arrives, people can confront their own imagination with mine.
7M: HAS IT COME FULL CIRCLE, THEN?
The process was so long that I can’t even remember exactly how we start. When we started, I had two kids, and now I have five.
7M: DID YOU MAKE IT FOR YOUR KIDS?
Not exactly. Between zero and twelve years old, you spend a lot of time with kids. And then you forget a little about this world until you’re forty years old and you have kids, and then you’re back to this world. I realized that I missed this period. It was a charming period and very lovely period. I was happy to finally write something for children and make them dream.
7M: WAS IT EASIER OR HARDER TO WORK WITH 300 PEOPLE INSTEAD OF JUST THREE?
300 would be cool. It was 700. There was one part that I really know, when it comes to shooting, being with actors, storyboards. This was familiar. Then the last two years and a half, the rhythm changed totally. You’re in the room every morning for three hours with a bunch of nerds with the mouse in their hands. They barely talk to you. It was difficult in the beginning because we don’t have the same age and I don’t have the same pop culture. It takes us a while, but honestly they’re my best friends right now.
7M: SO YOU ENJOYED THE ANIMATION EXPERIENCE?
It’s just another rhythm. I wasn’t used to it. I was waiting for something to happen, and nothing happened. You just give some information, and you come back the day after. I’m used to screaming, tears, laughing, running after the sun. Like, “Oh my god, oh my god. We have ten minutes! Move! Move! Move! Let’s go! Action!” This doesn’t exist in their world.
7M: WHAT ABOUT YOUR ADULT ACTION AUDIENCE?
There’s two audiences. There’s one audience, very young, and I’m sure they don’t know me at all. So it’s not so much about me. It’s about the film. I’ve seen kids in the screening, and I can tell you that they’re glued on the screen, and they dive into it. The second audience is more the parents, the adults. They know me for “The Fifth Element” or “La Femme Nikita” or “The Professional.” And they’re like me. They’re getting older, and they’ve got kids. Obviously, it’s not “The Professional” for sure, but I love the film the same way.
7M: HOW DID FILM THE LIVE ACTION REFERNCES?
What’s very difficult for a director is talking to actors where they have wires everywhere. Pierre Buffin from the BUF company found this new technique, and I have actors without anything. I have some circles on the ground and like nine or ten cameras all around and a very big computer. And they can move the way the want, they can do exactly what they want. For me, as a comfort as a director, it was wonderful.
7M: SO YOU WERE ABLE TO PULL A MORE REAL PERFORMANCE?
When you watch the faces of the Princess and Arthur, and you see the expression and the emotion, we were able to capture that on film, and they were able to put that back on 3D. And honestly, I was amazed to see the result. Some of the shots, you really think they’re alive.
7M: DID YOU PUT THE VOICES ON AFTER THIS?
We tried something new. I recorded Madonna and Snoop Dogg and David Bowie three years ago. We do the exact opposite. We record the voice first. Then I had the actors play with the playback of the voice. They had a cassette at home and had to learn the dialogue and the nuance by heart. They were playing the voice.
7M: WILL YOU DO MORE ANIMATED FILMS?
I have to be patient to wait a little more, and if the people are nice enough to make a success of the film, then I will do the sequels with great, great pleasure for sure.
7M: SO YOU’RE NOT RETIRING?
It’s more complex than that. It’s a long article I made a month ago where I said to the person that after 30 years and 10 films, you don’t have the same strength, the same passion, the same need to express yourself. I have respect for myself and respect for the audience. I will never do just one more film to just take advantage of my name and make some money. I can’t do that. I have too much respect. I’d rather stop a little too soon than a little too late.
7M: DO YOU MAKE YOUR FILMS FOR AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE, A FRENCH AUDIENCE OR AN AMERICAN AUDIENCE?
I don’t try to do anything. I try to tell a story the best I can. I realize now that you never know exactly who you’re going to touch. It could be a little girl, five years old in Kansas. Or it can be a 70-year-old man in Korea. I try not to think too much about it. I try to be honest, to give the best I can, and talk with my heart.
7M: HOW DOES THIS FALL IN THE SPECTRUM OF CGI FILMS IN 2006?
Technically, we’re at the top. There are some shots in the film that are amazingly made. I’m very confident with the level of the way it’s made. For me, it’s on the top three of the year. But after saying that, I think after twenty minutes, no one will care. What they care about is the story, what you’re saying. I think that the story really works on the kids.