1997 was a banner for movies of all kinds.
“You had ‘LA Confidential’, ‘Donnie Brasco’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Titanic,’ and ‘As Good as It Gets’,” producer John Amicarella told The Post.
He said, “And you had the ‘fifth element.’”
Amicarella was a co-producer of French author Luc Besson’s futuristic science fiction journey. Set in the year 2263, the film sees ex-military taxi driver Corbin Dallas (Bruce Willis) team up with a mysterious orange-haired woman named Lilo (Mila Jovovich) to save the planet from a sinister alien force, which is aided by the ruthless businessman Zorg. (Gary Oldman).
The sprawling action movie was full of colour, music, and quirky humor; It starred Chris Tucker, who played illustrious TV personality Ruby Road, and hired comic book artists to render futuristic New York City and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier to create cutting-edge costumes.
“Luc Besson did everything I thought a great artist should do,” sound designer Mark Mangini, who worked on the film (and just won an Oscar for Dune), told The Post. “He hired the most creative people in every department, and just told them to do what they do, without any micromanagement. That, to me, was an epiphany.”
Twenty-five years later, Amicarella, who most recently worked on Roland Emmerich’s “Moonfall,” is still a fan of Besson’s work. “It’s funny, it’s fantasy, it has romance and action, it’s kind of dazzling. You have these unforgettable weird characters, and that’s a bit baffling at times,” he said. “The bottom line, it’s really unique and in today’s world, it holds up. ”
Below, a look at some of the movie’s highlights (and accidents).
“I was brought in to read the text in front of Bison’s secretary,” Amicarella recalls. “I read it and said, ‘Well, I don’t really get it. ‘But this is the man who made La Femme Nikita and The Professional, two of the most important films. I said, ‘To work with Luke?’ Absolutely.’ “
“You have this low shot of a spaceship traveling across the screen, reminiscent of the opening scene of ‘Star Wars,’” Mangini said. “I needed to create the sound of a slow-moving spaceship, and I didn’t want it to sound like a missile or plane. I had an old recording of Tibetan monks chanting; I slowed down that recording, so it can’t be recognized.”
Willis, who was recently diagnosed with aphasia, has a reputation for being difficult to play. But, Amicarella said, “What I saw was a great deal of respect between Bruce and Luke. I would say, and I mean this as a compliment, Bruce sure knew who Bruce was. He was very confident about it. Bruce had us in his prime – he was very charismatic.” “.
Jovovich, who appeared in “Return to the Blue Lagoon” when she was 15, starred in the role of Leeloo. She wore a bright orange wig and an iconic outfit consisting entirely of tiny white bandages, and spoke a strange language that Besson invented for the movie. She was also engaged to the director, marrying him later that year but separated two years later.
Despite his overall performance, Oldman said in a controversial 2014 interview with Playboy that he was not a fan of the movie. “Oh no, I can’t stand it,” he told the magazine, explaining that he landed the role for Besson after the director financed an Oldman film.
“Those huge Mondoshawan brass, good people, had to speak with this strange kind of boba-like voice,” said Mangini. “We used this emerging technology, called vocal coding, where we brought in actors to read Mondochuan sounds, and we used those sounds to evoke other sounds like brass instruments, to make the sounds.”
For Bad Man Mangalores, “We used a similar technique, but crafted it [it] With a hoarse voice like bears, camels and gorillas to give them a more savage sound.”
Bison claimed in a Tweet 2016 That Prince was originally supposed to play Ruby Roode. But Tucker, a comedian who had had small parts in films before that, delivered a massive performance swing. “When we were cutting the movie together, Sony Columbia was worried about the character being maybe a little ‘out there’ for the general public,” Amicarella said. “Luke was like, ‘No, that’s what I want,’ and he arranged a preview for the core audience at the time, which was teens. I scored really high on that character, which puts this discussion at ease.”
On one of the film’s large sets, the character of Diva Plavalaguna sings a song from the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor” (named after the opera singer Inva Mula). The 20-year-old French actress who played singer Maïwenn was Besson’s wife at the time. She had given birth to her child when she was sixteen years old. The two separated while filming when he got engaged to Jovovich.
“We were in London, and we had to ship the negatives to Los Angeles,” Amicarella said. “I got a call from the lab, and they told me, ‘We suggest you come down to the airport.'” They put me in the waiting room, and three old men came in with these huge bags full of negatives. While unloading negatives from the plane at LAX Airport, they fell and were run over by a forklift. And the scene that was distorted was the big scene, the shootout in the opera house where all the stars revolve around. I had to make the call to Luke.” They were able to repair the damage, but the experience, said Amicarella, “wasn’t good. But it was one of those things where, as far as you’re prepared, the unexpected happens.”
Earth sound is saved
“At the end of the movie, they arrange the crystals, they have to get this cosmic fusion, Lilo faints and that pillar of light goes to the sky — there’s a very angelic choir,” Mangini said. “We wanted it to sound like something useful. So we made this sound by screaming at the piano. If you’re screaming at an open piano, the strings vibrate sympathetically — and the chorus of angels sound.”