How The Fifth Element changed the action star’s career

Milla Jovovich, Bruce Willis and Ian Holm V Fifth Element. (Photo: © Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Sometimes a career change also requires a personal change. Twenty-five years ago, Bruce Willis—who had recently “ditched” from acting after his family publicly disclosed his aphasia diagnosis—risked major professional risks by casting himself in the sci-fi thriller Gonzo Galic. Fifth ElementDirected by French action maestro Luc Besson. The first thing is die hard The star has set himself up for the role of future soldier-turned-cabbie, Corbin Dallas, debuting as a new head of hair.

Willis revealed: “For some reason, Luke dyed his hair blonde.” Entertainment Weekly In 2017.” And I said, ‘You know what? I have to dye my hair blonde, and put a small wig on my head. “It was a contribution from me, and he loved it.”

Released in theaters on May 9, 1997, Fifth Element Willis jumps to the distant year 2263, inadvertently saving a mysterious alien named Lilo (Mila Jovovich) – the living embodiment of the “fifth element” necessary to save the world from the approach of evil. This was the star’s second journey into science fiction after that of Terry Gilliam twelve monkeysAnd it came at a time when Willis was getting more picky about his action cars after apparently winding up die hard Franchise with 1995 Die hard with vengeance, And finding acclaim in smaller films like Pulp Fiction And no one is stupid.

“People in the media are trying to get to know me and saying, ‘He’s that kind of actor’ or ‘He’s that star’ or whatever label they put on me,” he said in one interview. “I’m still learning how to act. It would be too easy for me and also too boring for me to do action movies all the time. I’m tired of it, so I try to find other things to challenge myself.”

It should be noted that Willis was not Bison’s first choice to play Corbin. At the 2017 Reddit AMA, the director revealed that he originally submitted the project to Mel Gibson, who was directing from brave heart And ransom. “I asked Mel Gibson first because his office is right next door to my Warner Bros. office,” Besson said. “He would peek into my desk every morning to tell me he was thinking about it. Three months later, he passed away. Bruce was the only other option I had in mind.”

Without going out and saying exactly, it’s as if Willis isn’t completely sold out Fifth Element When Besson presented him with the text and some of his elaborate artistic conception of the 23rd century land. The actor described the film’s aesthetic as “very strange” in an interview prior to the release. Corbin’s character must navigate this strange landscape by quickly adapting to strange creatures and places he encounters – moments almost designed to push Willis out of his comfort zone. But this was a challenge he felt compelled to take on. “I like to make films that I’m not quite sure if I will succeed in, so there is always the risk of failure,” he noted.

Bruce Willis went blonde in Luc Besson's 1997 favorite science fiction film, The Fifth Element.  (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Group)

Willis became blond Fifth Element, he opposed himself similar to the film’s director, Luc Besson. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Group)

Willis showed his commitment to Fifth Element By appearing with his blond dye job, he earned a Bison thumbs up. But he had other ideas that the director was not keen on. In a 2017 interview with splash screenBesson said Willis’s assistant approached him early in the shoot and set the star’s preferred work schedule, one that reduced the amount of time he had to spend prepping between camera settings for the next shot. “[The assistant] “Well, I’ll tell you how it works,” he said, “recalls the director.” “We need a 30 minute advance call, then a 15 minute advance call, then a 5 minute advance call before he continues shooting.”

This approach collided with Besson’s quick-fire guidance process, which required the actors to stay put and ready to fire at faster intervals. “I said, ‘I’m making a bullet every four minutes. are you kidding? And he said, “What do you mean, you do a shot every four minutes?” I shoot and then I turn the camera and I shoot again, so I can’t warn you 30 minutes before the shot.”

After some negotiations directly with Willis, Besson reached a compromise that would keep Willis on standby, but give him very long weekends. “I said [to Bruce] How about working 5 days instead of working… four days a week? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but you’re sitting on the box next to me next to the camera and we’re shooting like crazy, and he said OK! Deal! So he was in the whole group about 10 feet from the camera on a box and was very happy. Because he preferred it shorter and more tense.

talk with EW, Willis discusses the effects of switching to a four-day work week. “We’ve had long days, and we just had to work and work and keep moving fast,” the actor said. “Luke does a lot of shots. But that’s part of making movies, and I’ve never had a problem with that.” But Fifth Element Co-writer, Robert Kamen, has a different memory of Willis’ position. “[Bruce] It was very difficult, and Luke worked around it.” Ibrox in 2021.” But Luke wasn’t used to that. After he did that, he came to me and said, ‘We have to create our own movie stars.’ “This is what we did Transporter. We created Jason [Statham]. “

French director Luc Besson (right) leans against American actor Bruce Willis (left) during a filming call for their movie

Luc Besson (right) and Willis at the Cannes Film Festival screening Fifth Element In 1997 (Photo: Reuters)

In the end, Willis may have been right to doubt that Fifth Element It was a bit strange for the American audience. The film was a mixed critical and commercial success in the United States, earning just over $60 million during its run. But it has tripled those numbers globally, to $200 million and puts it in the top 10 highest-grossing cars along with die hard supplement disaster And The Sixth Sense.

Willis would increasingly begin to rely on his international stardom as he entered the 2000s, and his leadership roles gradually declined to support appearances. Both of his last day die hard sequel – 2007 Live free or die hard and 2013 Good day to die hard They made far more profits abroad than in the United States, as did the wages of work like GI Joe: Revenge And redas he was one of the many internationally known faces on the label.

This paved the way for Willis’ most recent professional career before retiring as a regular in low-budget films that were funded and sold internationally on the strength of his popularity abroad. as in Fifth ElementThe actor had less work week for those roles, especially as the effects of his illness became more apparent. After his family’s statement in March about a diagnosis of aphasia, he Los Angeles Times She reported that Willis’s scheduled time was often limited to two days, and he received $2 million per film. The story also indicated that many of the directors and cast members who worked with Willis on those films were concerned about his health and whether or not the actor’s representatives cared about his interests.

Willis with a group of aliens in the Fifth Element (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Willis with a group of aliens in Fifth Element. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy: Everett Collection)

In the wake of Fifth ElementHis international success – and before Willis’ health deteriorated – Besson hoped to make a second adventure for Corbin and Lilo out of 180 extra pages of alien material he tackled in the original. “We were going to do it as a sequel, but it didn’t make any sense, and Fifth Element It wasn’t big enough here,” Kamin revealed Ibrox. “It was huge in the rest of the world, and it’s a classic, but it only made $75 million here or $80 million.” (In 2018, several women came forward to accuse Besson of sexual misconduct; the director hasn’t made a movie since 2019 that hasn’t been seen much. I.)

For his part, Willis indicated that he was fine with it Fifth Element He remained a solo experience, even as the film helped shape the second half of his career. “I haven’t talked about the movie since we finished,” he said. EW in 2017. “It was a great cast and a great movie. I don’t really dissect the work that we do on a daily basis.”

Fifth Element Currently streaming on Paramount+

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