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LUCY

Time Is Unity
When Besson wrote the first version of the script for Lucy 10 years ago, he intended for the action to be set in Taipei, Taiwan. He had gone to the city in 1997 on a promotional tour for The Fifth Element and loved the people and the feel of the city. When the time came to scout locations for this action-thriller, the filmmakers considered a few different Asian cities to lens the picture-for budget and logistical purposes. Says Besson: "The funny thing is that, in the end, we shot in Taipei and picked the very hotel I'd stayed in 20 years ago. I couldn't have come up with anything better than what I had on my mind all those years."

Besson-Silla affirms that there was no way Taipei could be re-created elsewhere. "From the very beginning, he had always pictured the movie in Taipei, because Luc wanted it to be set in an Asian city where things are moving so fast. Taipei fit the bill perfectly. Besides, there aren't that many European or American films that have been shot there."

The director enjoyed the shooting conditions in Taiwan, and he actively encourages other filmmakers to film their movies there. "The people who live in Taipei are the gentlest people I've ever met," Besson enthuses. "The authorities are trustworthy and helpful with film crews. As well, you have all kinds of real locations-city buildings, seascapes, beaches, forests, mountains-all within 100 miles." He pauses, "On top of that, this place has the best dumplings in the whole world."

Lucy marks Johansson's first time filming in Taipei. "I just loved being able to explore that city," she says. "It was so welcoming. In some ways, just the fact that we were all so tired and jet-lagged and out of our element added to the disorientation of my character and the place she's coming out of when she starts being affected by this drug."

In Taiwan, it is customary to say prayers and give offerings to the spirits at the very beginning of any film production. Producer Besson-Silla recalls that experience: "On the first day, we had a table set up with food and drinks. When I came on set, I was like, 'What is this table in the middle of the set?' Someone said, 'It's for the spirits.' It was a great experience, and I loved being able to go to another country and explore the local culture. I believe it brings a lot to the crew and to the film."

Besson also fell under the spell of the country's traditions and recounts the production's first day: "Everyone was holding sticks of incense in their hands and said a prayer in Chinese. Then we bowed, facing north, west, south and east, to chase all the demons from the set. And it worked because we never had a single demon for the entire production. It was so sweet and touching to see that. No matter what your religion, communion is something common to everyone."

A Paris

After Lucy flees Taiwan, she ends up in Paris, where some of the most nail-biting action scenes of the production were shot. Key locations include the famed Rue de Rivoli, just near the Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Garden, the world-renowned Sorbonne University, the Val-de-Grace military hospital, where high-ranking French officials are treated, and a bustling flea market.

As Besson-Silla remarks, when it came to lensing the film's most intense car chases, the team decided to shoot in the middle of summer, when there are fewer people in Paris. Says the producer: "Luc had this crazy idea of having Lucy drive her car against traffic on Rue de Rivoli, which is a very busy four-lane, one-way street, between the Louvre and Concorde Square. And there she goes at full speed, in the middle of the day! It was pretty astonishing."

The director was intent on shooting one of the most challenging action sequences of his entire production in a Paris flea market. "We were in a flea market full of people, at 2 in the afternoon, and cars were just flying all over the place and landing on fruits and vegetables," he laughs. "There was a lot of security, and after shooting for three days, we had a pretty good stunt." Min-Sik also enjoyed working in Paris: "Paris has such great food that it's been very painful for me to resist the delicious French cuisine," he says. "I think I've gained some weight, so it hasn't helped me at all." Cite du Cinema

Besides shooting on location in Paris, the production lensed portions of the film at a soundstage belonging to the new Cite du Cinema, Besson's nine-studio facility just outside Paris. The 102,500-square-foot state-of-the-art studio has already hosted several major productions, including recent films such as 3 Days to Kill, The Family, Taken 2 and The Hundred-Foot Journey.

Most of the interiors, such as the hotel suite, and parts of the Sorbonne University were recreated at the soundstage. Besson-Silla elaborates: "It's much more convenient to work in a studio because it's a more controlled environment. We had so many visual effects that being on a set made it a lot easier to organize."

The director remembers the Sorbonne set: "This is one of the oldest universities in the world, and we put more than 2,000 rounds of bullets into the walls everywhere. So on the first day, it was all clean. Then, day after day, we just shot the hell out of the place. You couldn't even see anything in the end because it became so foggy. I'll keep in mind an image of the first day-when everything was so clean-and of the last day, when you couldn't even recognize the Sorbonne." Besson muses: "The funny thing is that the Sorbonne is all about knowledge, but I dropped out of school at an early age to make films. Now, here I was, making a film on knowledge and intelligence and destroying the ultimate embodiment of knowledge."

Johansson marvels at the sets built at the Cite du Cinema: "The sets were massive and really detailed," she comments. "We could be in an apartment, or in a luxurious Taipei hotel suite, or anywhere else for that matter. I was travelling through different universes, all within the studio."

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