The director of 'Valerian' used his film school students to pull off an insane 18-minute action scene

Valerian STX EntertainmentSTX Entertainment‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.’

If there’s one thing Luc Besson is known for, it’s creating incredible images on screen that we’ve rarely, if ever, seen before. 

“The Fifth Element” director has done that once more with his new movie, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” which hits theatres July 21. But Besson’s vision at the idea phase can be confusing to those around him, including his crew. And that’s exactly what happened when he attempted to explain to them the incredible 18-minute action sequence he wanted to do in the beginning of the movie, in which a vast dessert is actually a giant intergalactic market.

“After I wrote the sequence, I explained it to the crew for an hour,” Besson told Entertainment Weekly. “They were smiling, but I could see on their faces that they didn’t understand a thing.”

Basically, the movie’s hero Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are brought to a desert planet that, when you wear special glasses, reveals a massive city filled with zigzagging streets and many, many stores.

With his special glasses, Valerian enters the city to complete his mission while Laureline, who is not wearing glasses, only sees him walking around the dessert looking like he’s doing some kind of mime performance. At one point, Valerian is chased through the city and finds himself stuck between the desert and city dimensions, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

Now you might understand the crew’s confusion. 

So to make it simpler for them, Besson enlisted the help of the students at his film school in Paris, L’École de la Cité. The director, who launched the free school in 2012, made part of the year’s school curriculum for the 120 student body to create a demo of the scene. Besson then brought them to the soundstage where the movie was being made and had them shoot it.

“They were the actors, they were the cameramen, the lighting people, the grips. Costumes, accessories,” Besson said. “We put the 600 shots on the wall and one by one we shot them. They did everything in three weeks, and then we edited and put in some temp music.”

“And then the crew understood the scene,” Besson said with a laugh: 

Having seen the movie, we can tell you, this action sequence is one of the highlights.


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