SDCC 2016: Luc Besson’s Valerian Invades Hall H

Credit: Vikram Gounassegarin
Credit: Vikram Gounassegarin

It may be a year from its release, but Luc Besson’s Valerian has already invaded San Diego Comic Con. The most expensive European movie ever made, Valerian stars Suicide Squad’s own Cara Delevingne and up-and-comer Dane DeHaan as its 28th century intergalactic heroes.

Valerian is based on an expansive French comic strip called Valerian and Laureline. The strip began in the sixties and ran all the way through 2010. As a matter of fact, the comic has actually been influencing science fiction film and television for the past four decades. Even iconic films like Star Wars and Avatar owe a creative debt to Valerian.

Image courtesy of Vikram Gounassegarin
Credit: Vikram Gounassegarin

The story follows a 28th century space-time police officer named Valerian and his partner Laureline as they try to save the universe after a rogue time-traveler erases their home planet from existence. 

For Luc Besson, being able to bring the world of Valerian to life was a dream come true. As a child, he followed the comics with a distinct impression of what the world and its characters would look like. Besson was able to cast Valerian and Laureline the way he had formed them in his own imagination 40 years ago, and with today’s CGI technology he has been able to build this universe the way he pictured as a child. 

Image courtesy of Eric Gandois
Credit: Eric Gandois

As for Cara Delevingne, filming Valerian was “one of the most incredible and daunting experiences” that she’s ever had in her life. The film obviously contains an incredibly vast amount of blue screen (about 2,400 shots, in fact), requiring Delevingne to put an immense amount of trust in Besson and his vision. 

Regardless of the challenge, for Delevingne it is a privilege to be able to fall in line with Luc Besson’s career-worth of strong female characters. From The Fifth Element‘s Leel0o to Colombiana‘s Cataleya, a large part of Besson’s filmic legacy is his determination to bring complex and strong female characters to the screen. 

Image courtesy of Luc Besson
Credit: Luc Besson

As for Dane DeHaan, when asked about the process of becoming Valerian, he said it took about a week for him to grasp the character the way Besson imagined him. Besson’s approach to getting what he needed from DeHaan was a process of “guiding, not telling”.

Besson would let DeHaan know when he got it right, allowing a “natural” growth into the character of Valerian. The real challenge for DeHaan was, in his words, that he had to make himself “look like someone who can save the universe.” For him, this meant intense workout sessions every morning during filming. 

What made Delevingne and DeHaan Besson’s choices for the two leads was ultimately their chemistry. According to DeHaan, he and Delevingne have perfectly complimentary personalities; he tends to take himself too seriously, while Cara is “so much fun, full of life” with a “quirky personality”.

Together they achieved a balance both on- and off-screen that made filming Valerian the experience of a lifetime. 

When asked what would make Valerian stand out from other science fiction films, Besson said that his approach was to “come with [himself] to make it new and different.” In other words, he trusts that his experience, style, and vision will take the film into a league of its own.

We’ll be able to see whether Besson succeeds with Valerian on July 21, 2017.