×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Luc Besson Feted as Man of the Year at Unifrance RDV in Paris

PARIS– Luc Besson, whose latest film “Lucy” was the highest-grossing French export of 2014 and, indeed, of all time, was feted as man of the year at the Unifrance Rendez-Vous’ annual presser.

For the occasion, “Lucy” star Scarlett Johansson recorded a video introduced by Unifrance’s managing director Isabelle Giordano during a packed press conference,  attended by not only Besson but also Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu” producer Sylvie Pialat, France’s minister of culture Fleur Pellerin, CNC president Frederique Bredin, and helmers Michel Gondry, Joachim Lafosse and Nadav Lapid, among many others.

“The qualities that really drew me to work with Luc Besson — and is a huge part of the success of ‘Lucy’ — is his passion to achieve greatness. Luc is a perfectionist, and he has a certain idea of what he wants and won’t stop at anything to get it, and that’s what inspires everyone to strive for their greatest,” Johansson enthused.

Besson was then asked by Giordano to explain what made “Lucy” a French film.

Popular on Variety

“What does it mean, a French film?” said Besson. “The official languages of Europe are French and English. A French film isn’t necessarly a film shot in French. I’m French, all the technicians are French, and it happens that we have a Swedish actress, Scarlett Johansson,” quipped Besson, sparking laugher from the audience.

Giordano, a former film journalist with substantial TV and radio experience, pointed out that Besson deserved the Unifrance honor for the thundering B.O. success of “Lucy” (In the U.S.: $126.6 million; worldwide: $458.8 million) and the early performance of “Taken 3,” which opened Jan. 16 Stateside and scored standout weekend results for Fox.

Pellerin delivered a considered speech addressing the recent terrorist attacks. “We must claim loud and clear that nothing and no one can deprive us of our freedom of expression. Culture is our best weapon to fight intolerance,” said the minister, who also noted the cap of the tax rebate for international productions (TRIP) had been raised to 30% and up to 30 million Euros ($36 million) for an individual film.

During the presser, Giordano, Unifrance prexy Jean-Paul Salome and co-managing director Gilles Renouard discussed the figures on French film exports compiled by the org and the national film board CNC.

Besson’s actioners are not the only French movies that manage to lure foreign auds.

“Intenational audiences truly appreciate our brand of biting social comedies, as we’ve seen with the success of ‘Intouchables,’ ‘Paulette’ and ‘Serial (Bad) Weddings’ (‘Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu’) for instance,” said Giordano.

Renouard said “Lucy” did get beat in some territories, including Italy, where, remarkably, French kids adventure tale “Belle and Sebastien” (released by Notorious) outperformed it. Other surprise territory hits included “Attila Marcel,” which sold 150,000 admissions in Korea.” Renouard added that “Samba,” Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s follow-up to “Intouchables,” sold more tickets abroad than in France.

China was the second biggest foreign market for French movies in 2014, pointed out Renouard, citing “Lucy,” released on 6,000 Chinese screens. “‘Lucy’ was China’s biggest theatrical release ever,” added Renouard.

Renouard also noted that “auteur cinema is suffering a great deal, mainly because of difficult access to multiplexes and the shrinking number of arthouse theaters.”

While digital distribution seems promising, video and TV sales remain crucial for arthouse films and they keep going down, explained the Unifrance exec.

Unifrance also launched an export prize for the best short film producer, which went to Autour de Minuit, Nicolas Schmerkin’s company.

More Film

  • 'Free Guy' Trailer: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie

    'Free Guy': Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer Star in First Trailer

    The first trailer for Ryan Reynolds’ “Free Guy” premiered Saturday at the CCXP convention in Brazil. Reynolds stars as Guy, a bank teller and NPC (non-playable character) who discovers he’s living in a video game. In the trailer, hostage situations, buildings being blown up and people shooting guns off in the street is depicted as [...]

  • KARMELE

    Asier Altuna Preps Basque Historical Drama ‘Karmele the Hour of Waking Together’

    Basque cinema is booming, and director Asier Altuna is part of the vanguard leading it forward. The Spanish filmmaker, behind 2005 Youth Award winner “Aupa Etxebeste!” and 2015 Best Basque Film “Amama” at the San Sebastián Intl. Film Festival, attended this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta sidebar with his next project, “Karmele, the Hour of Waking [...]

  • The Day is Long and Dark

    Francisco Barreiro Cast in Upcoming Julio Hernández Cordón Project (EXCLUSIVE)

    Julio Hernández Cordón, one of Mexico’s most-awarded independent filmmakers over the last decade, has found the leading man for his next feature “The Day is Long and Dark (My Friends are Vampires),” in Fantastic Fest best actor winner Francisco Barreiro, star of Adrián García Bogliano’s “Here Comes the Devil.”. Barreiro’s casting was shared with Variety from Buenos [...]

  • Macabre

    Rio Fest’s Compact Edition Opens Amidst Sectorial Crisis

    RIO DE JANEIRO  — The 21st Rio Intl. Film Fest opens Monday Dec. 9t with the screening of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” in the Odeon landmark theater. The smaller than usual edition, which was almost cancelled due to the lack of municipal backing, reflects the crisis of Brazil’s film sector, involved in a battle with the administration [...]

  • Papa-YouTuber

    Peru’s ‘Papa YouTuber’ Goes Global (EXCLUSIVE)

    Argentine sales agency FilmSharks Int’l label The Remake Company has sold remake rights at Ventana Sur to Peruvian family comedy hit “Papa YouTuber” (“YouTuber Dad”) to Mexico’s Cinepolis and Italy’s Colorado Films, with several other territories pending. Advanced discussions are underway in Germany, with Spain, France and the U.S. also pending. “The U.S. deal will [...]

  • Elia Suleiman attends the screening of

    'Pleasure Is Extremely Political,' Palestinian Filmmaker Elia Suleiman Says

    In a freewheeling masterclass held at the Marrakech Film Festival on Thursday, director Elia Suleiman offered as concise a mission statement as can be, defining his guiding beliefs in four short words. “Pleasure is extremely political,” said the Palestinian director, whose films have approached the fraught nature of life in the occupied territories with a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content