Valerian's Opening Scene Is So Crazy, Luc Besson Recruited an Army of His Own Film Students to Explain It

Image: STX Films/Europacorp
Image: STX Films/Europacorp

The job of a director can be a tough one at times—especially when it comes to shooting complex action sequences, and making sure everyone involved behind the camera is on the same page. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets director Luc Besson had a problem explaining one such scene to his crew... so he recruited his own film students to help do it for him.


Besson’s upcoming scifi spectacle Valerian opens with an 18-minute action sequence featuring the titular space cop (Dane DeHaan) flitting between two different parallel dimensions—one an arid desert world, one an shopping mall megalopolis—being chased by some goons, and even somehow getting his arm stuck between the two worlds at one point. It sounds (and looks) completely insane, and, while explaining it to Entertainment Weekly, Besson said he couldn’t get the crew to wrap their heads around the multidimensional madness he wanted to convey at first:

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

So what was Besson to do? Well, he just so happened to have his own damn academy of film students in Paris on hand to help get the scene across. Besson got the 120 students at L’École de la Cité to shoot the whole thing as a demo, making costumes, being both cast and crew, the whole shebang. Three weeks later, Besson had an edited sequence he could show his actual film crew to get his point across:

They were the actors, they were the cameramen, the lighting people, the grips. Costumes, accessories. 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.

That’s one hell of a way to get extra credit on your film course!



James is a News Editor at io9, where you can find him delivering your morning spoilers, writing about superheroes, and having many feelings about Star Wars. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!


Data Chandler

I truly hope Valerian is as balls to the wall crazy awesome as The Fifth Element. God how I love that movie.