Evolution to Revolution
As her abilities keep evolving, Lucy reaches out
to Professor Samuel Norman, an expert on the human
brain, to try to understand what is happening to her.
Soon after she is supercharged, she finds herself able
to do anything from learning Chinese in an hour to
beginning to control space and time.
The production was fortunate enough
to have Academy Award winner
Morgan Freeman join the team
as the world-renowned neurologist
whose lifelong focus is how we access
the information stored in our brain.
As Freeman is quite a science
buff, and particularly enthusiastic
about the mind's capacity, the actor
was a natural choice. Besson notes:
"Morgan Freeman is the ultimate
professor, for two reasons. First of
all, he's fascinated by the theory we
develop in the movie because he's
very familiar with it, which I didn't know before
we met for the film. It was a pleasure for him just to
talk about it. And secondly, he's such a good actor
that you believe everything he says."
Besson-Silla was also thrilled to see Freeman
come aboard. "Morgan is one of the only people
who could play God," she enthuses. "So, to play the
character of wisdom in the film, it was pretty
obvious that he was the perfect actor."
Freeman was equally excited to join the cast,
admitting that he holds his character in high
esteem. "Professor Norman has written about the
brain for years," he says. "He gives lectures all over
the world and has been at the Sorbonne, in Paris,
for a number of years. Because he's preeminent in
the field, he is tracked down by Lucy, who's trying
to figure out what's going on with her brain."
The veteran actor offers that Professor Norman
is flattered to be contacted by Lucy: "When she calls
him up and says, 'I've read everything you wrote,' he
replies, 'You can't have.' And when she starts quoting
what he wrote, he says, 'We've got to meet.'"
When Lucy's physical and mental abilities are
suddenly heightened, she becomes most valuable
prey for the mob who started her down this journey,
particularly for local crime boss Mr. Jang, played by
South Korean actor Choi Min-Sik. "Mr. Jang is the
best villain I've come up with since Gary Oldman's
character in The Professional," the writer/director
reflects. "Whereas Lucy is the ultimate intelligence,
Mr. Jang is the ultimate devil."
Indeed, Besson wanted to push the envelope
when it came to creating Lucy's nemesis. "In the film
business, we're always a little shy about villains," he
states. "When you see the reality on the news, people
are much crueler than we can possibly imagine. So
we have a lot of leeway when we work on a villain.
Mr. Jang is just a purely villainous businessman. He
knows that there's a 50 percent chance he'll be dead
tonight, so he doesn't care much."
The producer agrees that Mr. Jang is the
epitome of evil. "He has no limits," Besson-Silla
reflects. "He is the worst of humankind. He has
no values, no love and no compassion. He's just in
it for business. I don't think he has any emotion.
Everything around him is just an object."
Even though the South Korean actor, best
known for his role in the critically acclaimed
Oldboy, did not speak a word of English or French,
Besson believed that he would f it
the role perfectly. Says the director:
"It's funny because our body
language was our communication
system. I'd play the scene, and he'd
show me what he made of it. We
communicated almost like monkeys
at first!" Still, Besson can't speak
highly enough of the actor: "I'm
fascinated by Choi. He's one of the
greatest actors I've ever met, and
he's just adorable and sweet."
Besson-Silla remembers that it
took some time to convince the actor
to join the cast. Actually, Lucy is
the first international film of which
Min-Sik has accepted to be a part. "In the beginning,
it wasn't a sure thing that he was going to do the
film," she recalls. "We had to go and meet him in
Korea, talk with him and discuss the story. And it
was only at the very end that he said, 'Okay, I'm
interested, I want to be in.'"
As a matter of fact, Min-Sik was baffled at first to
hear that Besson wanted to meet him. Needless to say,
this was an offer he couldn't refuse. "As a younger actor,
I watched Luc's movies," he recalls. "They were always
a great inspiration to me. So I thought 'After being
an actor for so many years, I'll finally meet this great
director.' I think it all came out of my great curiosity. I
wondered how he worked on set, what the spirit of the
people would be, and what the locations would be like."
Even though her character was tortured by Mr.
Jang and his men, Johansson speaks highly of her
on-screen nemesis: "It was wonderful working
with Choi," she says. "We didn't speak the same
language, but we could communicate very well
with our expressions. So even though we were
doing scenes that were violent and cold and brutal,
his presence was so enigmatic that we could
communicate in a kind of spiritual way. But he was
lovely and warm, and was always happy to be on
set. He was also wonderful to watch because he's
so incredibly expressive. Although Mr. Jang could
easily just be seen as evil or bad, Choi fills out this
character and makes him very multifaceted."
While Lucy is on the run from the mob, she
contacts Pierre Del Rio, a French police officer
to whom she gives a lead on smugglers trying to
evade airport security. Del Rio, played by Egyptian
performer Amr Waked, is bewildered when the
young lady calls him up, and he doesn't initially
give much credence to her story. "He thinks it's a
prank call, or someone who's just taking the piss out
of him," offers Waked, who is best known for his role
in Stephen Gaghan's critically acclaimed Syriana.
"Eventually, he joins her on her journey and finds
out that she's got some extra powers, although he
doesn't know where they come from. He's basically
stunned by her capabilities, and gradually, their
relationship grows closer."
Besson explains that Del Rio embodies naivete
and that for a guy like him, who leads a pretty
normal life, Lucy seems like an extraterrestrial.
"He's Voltaire's Candide," says the director. "He
realizes that Lucy's powers are so huge that there's
nothing he can do. Del Rio
represents the audience; he's
basically you and me."
The producer observes that
the policeman is the antithesis
of Mr. Jang. "As Lucy puts
it, Del Rio is a reminder of
her humanity because he
represents kindness," she
shares. "And he's the one who
will be next to her until the
end and, in a way, protect her.
She's lost all her emotions by
being exposed to the drug,
but when she's with Del Rio,
there's a tiny spark of emotion that's still there."
When his agent called to let him know that Besson
wanted to meet and was considering offering him a
role for his upcoming project, Waked was thrilled.
"Luc Besson is looking for me? I'm looking for
him," Waked jokes. "Seriously, it was enough
that Luc wrote the script and was going to direct
it for me to want to do the film. When you read
the screenplay, you find out why Luc is such an
important director, writer and producer."
Besson-Silla enjoyed the fact that the Western
audience wasn't too familiar with the Egyptian
performer: "What I loved about him was that he's
a great actor, and we haven't seen him in many
films," she states. "I think it's important to have
new faces on screen."
With the cast set, the producer reflects upon
Besson's interest in making the film one about the
way we interact with our environment, and socially
as well: "Luc wanted to show the diversity on this
planet and a mixture of all those different cultures.
So we have Scarlett Johansson, who is Caucasian,
Morgan Freeman, who is African-American,
Min-Sik Choi, who is from Korea, and Amr Waked,
who hails from Egypt."
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