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Interview: Director Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different than 'Limitless'

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

The latest from director Luc Besson is the thriller "Lucy." Credit: Getty Image The latest from director Luc Besson is the thriller "Lucy."
Credit: Getty Image

Luc Besson swears that…some of “Lucy” is based on fact. In the literally psychological action thriller, Scarlett Johansson plays a woman accidentally dosed with a drug that gives her increasing command over her brain and soon the universe. That we don’t use all of our brain is an old wives’ tale, but Besson came up with the idea — long before the film “Limitless,” he maintains — after talking with scientists and reading books about the brain.

Why “Lucy” is different than “Limitless”: “’Limitless’ is just about getting more money. It’s about power. ‘Lucy’ is different because she understands she has the ultimate power. But when you realize that, what do you do with it? What’s your purpose? She decides to do something different with it than in ‘Limitless. And that film only goes from 10 percent to 15. This goes to 100.’”

Besides, it just took him long to get the project going: “I’m not very intelligent so it took me nine years to write this script. [Laughs]”


On the difficulties of Johansson’s role: “As soon as she reaches 20 percent she’s no longer herself. She can’t play fear, she can’t play anything normally human. She has to invent a way of acting, moving, talking.”

How he chooses which projects he farms out to other directors and which he directs himself: “Sometimes it’s because I feel they’re going to get it wrong. [Laughs] ‘Lucy’ was very, very special to me. I was too excited to give it to anyone else. I love to write ‘Taken’ and I love to watch ‘Taken,’ but Olivier [Megaton, of ‘Taken 2’] did a great job and I couldn’t have made it better than he did.”

Luc Besson (far left) directs Scarlett Johansson (far right) on the set of "Lucy." Credit: Jessica Forde Luc Besson (far left) directs Scarlett Johansson (far right) on the set of "Lucy."
Credit: Jessica Forde

Bad education: “I dropped out of school two months before the end. My mom was furious. But someone offered me a job on a film and no way I was going to do the exam and lose the film. I was living 60 kilometers from Paris in a city that made cheese. Believe me, when you’re 16-year-sold you want to escape that smell. I started writing ‘The Fifth Element’ then. The only thing I was dreaming of was to hail a flying cab and get out.”

On his love for women kicking ass: “I try to write good parts for men, good parts for women. Especially in the ’90s and ’80s, it was always about the men with big muscles. The girl was there to cry and that’s it. I love when the women are strong and when the men are weak.”

Not just doing big films:“Sometimes I want to do a black-and-white little French movie. I know that America wouldn’t like that. It’s nice to have a crew that’s small and try something else.”

His first chat with Amr Waked, the Egyptian actor who plays Johansson’s sidekick: “The first time I talked to Amr, I called him on his cellular phone. The guy was in the middle of the Egyptian revolution. I could hear gunshots in the background. I said, ‘You think you can come to Paris to shot?’ He says, “Yes [mimics explosion], I think I can [explosion]. In one week [explosion] I can come.” [Laughs]”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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