A Supreme Being
Of all the Sci-Fi movies we have enjoyed over the years, there are few that are as loud and outrageous as The Fifth Element. This classic from director Luc Besson first hit the screen in 1997 and became an instant favourite to any cinema-goer with a pulse, it was also the most expensive non US movie of its time. Featuring a solid cast including Bruce Willis, before he started looking like a thumb, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm alongside up and comers Milla Jovovich and Chris Tucker. There are even swanky cameos from Britain’s favourite sweatbox, Lee Evans and the bug stompin, cigar-chomping legend himself, Al Matthew’s (Apone from Aliens).
The thing that makes The Fifth Element so much fun is that despite its use of clichés such as good versus evil, unlikely romances and comedy sidekicks, it never fails to be self-aware of its own lunacy and is all the better for it. Tongue in cheek humour mixed with balls-out action and ridiculous costume design could have made this a complete mess but it comes together perfectly to form a loud and proud adventure that continues to be a blast to this day.
In the twenty-third century, the universe is threatened by evil. The only hope for mankind is the Fifth Element, who comes to Earth every five thousand years to protect humans by uniting with the four elemental stones: fire, water, earth and air.
A Mondoshawan spacecraft is bringing The Fifth Element back to Earth but it is destroyed by the evil Mangalores. However, a team of scientists use the DNA of the remains of the Fifth Element to rebuild the perfect being called Leeloo (Jovovich). She escapes from the laboratory and stumbles upon the taxi driver and former elite commando Major Korben Dallas (Willis) that helps her to escape from the police.
Leeloo tells him that she must meet Father Vito Cornelius (Holm) to accomplish her mission. Meanwhile, the Evil uses the greedy and cruel Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Oldman) and a team of mercenary Mangalores to retrieve the stones and avoid the protection of Leeloo. But the skilled Korben Dallas has fallen in love with Leeloo and decides to help her to retrieve the stones.
Now that this super green movie has reached its twenty-fourth anniversary, the bearded folk at TBG have used our Multipass to trudge through the archives and come up with ten fun facts for your reading pleasure.
1 – Mad Max in Space?
Though his career has seen better days, back in the nineties, Bruce Willis was a hot property. Having starred in box office sensations and action favourites like Die Hard, Pulp Fiction and Twelve Monkeys, he was always the number one choice for Besson. But as the movie was hitting so many production delays it started to look like that may not be an option so Besson cast his eye to his second choice, Mel Gibson. Now, we are fan’s of Gibson but can’t help but feel he would have been a bit too intense for this type of outing, let’s be thankful Willis was able to sign on.
2 – The artist formally known as…
Chris Tucker almost steals the show as the loud, eccentric radio host Ruby Rhod who is so hyperactive that he gives Jim Carrey’s Riddler a run for his money. If you thought there was a touch of Prince or Michael Jackson about his performance then that is no small coincidence as believe it or not, the part was originally meant to be played by the purple one himself! That’s right, the master of the bat dance was asked to strut his stuff in The Fifth Element but apparently, when Prince was shown the costume design he was not very enthusiastic as he deemed the costumes to be too feminine! Now that’s pretty rich coming from the potentate of Purple Rain!
3 – What year is it?
Most Sci-Fi fans tend to gain a huge attachment to their favourite universes, be it Star Trek, Star Wars or even Alien, timelines and settings are important to us. However, that is not so much the case here as no one seems to know when The Fifth Element actually takes place. The first scene is explicitly set in 1914. Everything after that is said to be “300 years later,” which is likely just an approximation. Korben Dallas’s alarm clock says the year is 2263. But the notes on the 1997 DVD edition say 2257, and Besson says 2259 in his book The Story of The Fifth Element. so at this point it’s anyone’s guess.
4 – The Directors Diva
One of the standout sequences in the movie is the Blue Diva’s operatic performance. After the original actress dropped out, Luc Besson’s wife (at the time) stepped in to perform the part. What makes this especially interesting is none of the cast had seen what she looked like in costume so the looks on their faces during the performance are all ones of genuine wonder and admiration for her performance which Besson captured and kept in the movie.
5 – A Double Romance
Speaking of Luc Besson’s wife of six years, Maïwenn Le Besco, there is an old adage that states you should never mix work with relationships. Well, this appears to be true for Besson as during his time directing The Fifth Element he developed a soft spot for everyone’s favourite Multipass user, Milla Jovovich, resulting in a separation from his wife mid-production and marriage to Jovovich later that year which lasted a measly two years. We bet that made a few things awkward on set.
6 – The Language of Love?
For the most part of the movie, the chicken-eating, tango haired entity known as Leeloo speaks a strange yet almost familiar language. This was actually a language that actress Milla Jovovich and Director Luc Besson made up together and features a total of four hundred words. In order to keep the language fresh in their minds the two would write letters to each other, we can’t help but wonder if these were love letters?
7 – The Goldeneye Element
Nothing lifts a movie more than a great music score and for The Fifth Element, French composer Eric Serra was on duty. Serra is known for a wide range of movies such as Nikita, Joan of Arc and 007 Goldeneye. In fact, several parts of Goldeneyes music score can be clearly heard throughout this movie, this is especially prominent in the action sequences, now that’s just lazy composition!
8 – Returning the Favour
Legendary actor Gary Oldman delivers a great performance as the movies arms dealing, tycoon villain Zorg, but as it turns out, he only took the part as a favour to Luc Besson. Besson and Oldman had previously worked together on the movie Leon and became firm friends leading to Besson helping to finance Oldman’s directional debut, Nil by Mouth. Out of respect Oldman stepped in to play Zorg but in recent times has been noted as saying he doesn’t like the movie very much.
9 – No Showdown
It’s a common trend in just about every action movie that the main hero and villain will eventually come face to face for a clash. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader, Sarah Connor vs The Terminator, Laurie Strode vs Michael Myers, it’s movie-making 101 right? Well that’s not the case here, in fact, both Willis and Oldman’s characters never have a showdown in The Fifth Element, they don’t even spend any time on screen with each other making the whole hero and villain dynamic play out very unconventionally.
10 – A Boyhood Dream
Luc Besson began writing The Fifth Element when he was just sixteen years old though the story didn’t make it to cinemas until he was thirty-eight. Besson grew up in rural France and as such, lived a pretty isolated childhood. He was drawn to tales of adventure and excitement, not unlike a certain moisture farmer we could name. The original idea for The Fifth Element as a movie property was for it to be a trilogy but Besson decided to streamline his story and create a singular adventure.
So there it is, ten fun facts about The Fifth Element. We hope you have enjoyed reading and just remember, next time you see Ruby Rhod on screen, don’t forget that at one time he could have been driving a little red corvette and wearing a raspberry beret!