Luc Besson: 'James Cameron treated me like a moron on Avatar set'

The filmmaker is set to release his own Avatar after spending two decades trying to turn his favourite childhood graphic novel into a movie.

French film legend Luc Besson was left baffled by the technology James Cameron was using during an Avatar set visit a decade ago.

The Leon director was dreaming up a way to turn his favourite childhood graphic novel, Valerian and Laureline, into a movie and reached out to Cameron for help and advice.

The American invited his French peer to the set of his futuristic blockbuster and then treated Luc like a "moron".

"He invited me on the set of Avatar in L.A. because I said, 'I'm writing something sci-fi', and he said, 'Come and see how it's working'," Besson tells The Hollywood Reporter.

"Being there, in the middle of the factory with nothing, and seeing the world on the screen... he took me for a moron at the beginning, because it was kind of complicated for me to understand. He looked at me like, 'This moron doesn't understand anything'.

"I don't have a computer. I have this, an iPad, with music. Then we went for lunch, and I asked him a lot of questions, and he gave me some tips. He was such a gentleman, so secure. You know, the people who are secure are generous."

Besson left and destroyed his first draft for his Valerian and Laureline adaptation, because he didn't think it was good enough.

Now, almost 10 years later, Luc is set to release his labour of love, which has become the most expensive movie he has ever made with a budget of $180 million (GBP138 million).

He admits he started getting serious about the project, titled Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, while he was making his cult 1997 movie The Fifth Element.

"The designer, Jean-Claude Mezieres, was saying, 'Why are you not doing Valerian? Why are you doing this stupid Fifth Element thing?'" he recalls. "I said, 'Because it's impossible'. But then, little by little, the technique went up. I started to write, and I wrote for a couple of years just to see: Was it good enough? Was it worthwhile enough?"

Besson became so dedicated to the project he sank his entire salary into the film, but admits Cameron's help and his Avatar movie made him prepared to take the risk.

"Avatar was on such a (high) level that (I thought), 'You're not qualified. Go back to training', like with the Olympic Games. You can't (just) go and ask for $180 million."

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