When Luc Besson set out to direct “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec,” which bows in France April 14, he imagined “a cross between ‘Amelie’ and ‘Indiana Jones.’?”
For the “Amelie” touch, he turned to Paris.
“Adele” has three stars: Louise Bourgoin as a kick-ass archeologist unleashing ancient Egyptian forces of evil; Besson, France’s uber-auteur, who hadn’t directed an actioner since 1997’s “The Fifth Element”; and 1912 Paris.
“This was Luc Besson directing a genre movie again, set in one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” says “Adele” producer Virginie Besson-Silla. “We shot the Eiffel Tower and had a pterodactyl flying past it. The mixture of the two, we hope, will be amazing.”
The bounteous location eye candy, shot over 24 days of exteriors, was inspired by Jacques Tardi’s original comic books, Besson-Silla says. “Adele” shot in or outside the Louvre, Elysee Palace, Palais Royal, Rue de Rivoli, Gare du Nord and other iconic locatons. Authorized by the Paris prefecture, Besson even stopped traffic at 6 p.m. one August to snatch a few shots at the Place de la Concorde.
Locations aren’t the only reason to shoot in Paris and its Ile de France region. France, says Guillaume Blanchot, at the Centre National du Cinema, has “a great cinematographic tradition, technicians and creators whose talent is universally recognized.”
France’s elevated movie output — the highest in Europe at 230 films in 2009 — translates into high production standards, says Olivier-Rene Veillon, exec director, Ile de France Film Commission.
“French crew rates are comparable to U.S. crew rates,” says Donna Sloan, Lionsgate veep of production.
Paris-Ile de France is Gaul’s film industry hub. Around 95% of film and TV companies and over 70% of crews are based there, and the region accounts for 50%-52% of France’s shooting days.
Lensing in Paris “was an extremely pleasant experience with very easy access to locations and great support from the local authorities to make the shoot as smooth as possible,” says Bahman Naraghi, COO at GK Films, which shot “The Tourist” there late February.
But companies come to Paris and its environs mostly for locations.
Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine shot BBC series “Merlin” at Pierrefonds Chateau, a 19th-century folly one hour’s drive from Paris, “because the location was unique: We simply couldn’t find that level of intact fantasy castle anywhere,” says producer Julian Murphy. Castles in Cornwall and Wales, for instance, are all in ruins.
“Every corner of Paris has some historical building from the Middle Ages up to now,” says Besson-Silla.
“Paris is arguably Europe’s flagship city,” adds Xavier Wakefield, location manager at Jake Prods. “It didn’t get flattened in WWII: All its beautiful buildings remain intact, and its iconic buildings are instantly recognizable.”
According to Paris’ municipal Mission Cinema-Paris Film Office, which issues shooting permits, in the period from 2002 to 2009, four American movies shot on average every year in Paris for eight days.
In 2009, 830 shoots — movies, shorts, commercials, TV fiction and docus — lensed in Paris for a total of 3,318 days at 4,000 outside locations, says Sophie Boudon Vanhille, general manager at the Paris Film Office.
France’s Center of National Monuments offers 30 sites in Ile de France, of which the Palais-Royal, used in “The Da Vinci Code,” is the most popular.
Costs vary. Fancy a chateau? The restored Hotel de Lauzun, a private mansion built in 1657, costs ?4,000 a day. Something more spacious? Ten thousand euros a day gets you the Louvre, and ?15,000 gets you the Chateau de Versailles’ interiors. The Eiffel Tower is free during the day, but costly at night, because of image rights.
“Major productions usually use line-producers. Indie or small-budget movies normally contact the Film France national film commission or us directly,” says Mission Cinema general delegate Michel Gomez.
Ile de France Commission is another port of call. The search promises rich rewards. “France has some of the most extraordinary locations on earth,” says Murphy.