Yesterday, Luc Besson (Léon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) wrapped up a difficult 11-day shoot in Taipei for his upcoming film Lucy. The production had been dogged by reports that paparazzi harassment had led the director to contemplate ending his shoot prematurely or cutting the city out of the final film. As promised, today Besson held a press conference to discuss his actual on-the-ground shooting experience.
“It was never in my mind to [leave Taipei],” Besson said. “First, it’s impossible because we have many people, and we have a schedule. I don’t know where the news came from, but it’s wrong.” That said, “shooting at nighttime was a nightmare” because of paparazzi intrusions. Besson was particularly bothered by their attempts to get photos of star Scarlett Johansson in costume, thereby revealing details he wanted to keep under wraps. “We don’t want pictures with new dresses of Scarlett,” the director said. “Sometime I lost a bit of my concentration because I’m bothered by that.” The objectionable paparazzi in question weren’t even Taiwanese but from two Hong Kong agencies, Besson noted. “It’s only two or three people, and that’s it,” he said. “So all this big story about the paparazzi was just about three motherfuckers.”
Besson had good things to say about the professionalism of his Taiwanese crew and the nation’s people in general “Taipei is very photogenic,” he enthused. “Taiwanese people are so kind, so warm. They’re always smiling,” joking that a 6.3 magnitude earthquake the night before was “smooth and nice.” Still, if he were to return, he’d need less press interference. Asked if he had any advice for Martin Scorsese, who’s scheduled to shoot in Taipei next June, Besson urged the press corps to “Please let him work, let him create, please.”
The director took advantage of the opportunity to clarify what his film was about, stating that the importance of Johansson’s character being a drug mule had been overstated. “The film is about pure intelligence,” Besson said. “We’re basically using 10 percent of our brain. What happens when we use more?” Saying Lucy is about drugs, he added, is like saying “Gravity is about a woman who lost a child.” He declined to be more specific, but thematically he said to expect an improbable mix of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Inception, and his own Léon.