THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC
About The Production
The production involved six months of preparation prior to filming. With J ovovich in place in the title role, Besson set out to cast the other parts in the film.
There is no doubt that Joan of Arc is one of the most captivating and mysterious figures in history. Her significance as a role model, historical figure and dramatic character has fascinated everyone from scholars and historians to a new, hip generation of young people championing 'girl power.' The story of this teenage peasant girl who asks her King to let her lead the French army to victory against the English resonated with Milla Jovovich and writer/director Luc Besson, known for such thoroughly modern films as The Fifth Element.
"It all started with a picture of me that Luc and I were looking at," says
J ovovich. "It's one of my favorite pictures. It's sepia-toned and very crazy. The hair is
really wild, and the make-up is very smoky, very strange. And I was looking at it, and
I said to Luc, 'This is Joan. This is her.' That picture really made us want to make the
"Luc was interested in doing it too, because he's French, and it's a French story from French history," says Jovovich. "It's very interesting to make an American movie about a French legend by a French man, because who else could do it better?"
Why the resurgence in interest in this medieval peasant girl, who spent a mere 19 years on the planet over 500 years ago? "I think there's a spirit that she has that people are waking up to," says Jovovich. "She's inspired. She really starts a movement. She starts her own revolution.
"She's a woman with a mission. And I think a lot of girls today can understand that," says Jovovich.
The actress adds that people's image of Joan of Arc has traditionally been very one-dimensional. The idea of shattering that image appealed to director Luc Besson. "That's what intrigued me," he says. "To see that's she's a human being."
For the part of Joan's Conscience, Besson wanted a respected American actor who was talented enough to play the tough role, but who wouldn't take the attention away from Joan, who needed to be the center focus in those scenes.
"The first time we talked, Luc said he didn't want to send the script," recalls Dustin Hoffman. "He didn't think it reflected the film enough. And I said, well, it was hard for me to take a part if I can't read it. The next thing I knew, he was at my doorstep."
Hoffman recognized the part of Joan's Conscience as wholly unique. "I'd never played that before. I'm not playing a person. It's like smoke. That was interesting to me, to be someone who is inside someone.
"It's her," says Besson, explaining Hoffman's character. "Joan's talking to
herself. When she's little, her conscience is eight years old. Her conscience is beautiful,
like a king." As Joan endures more experiences, explains the director, "her conscience is older, simpler and has a lot of things to say.
All of Hoffman's scenes, except one, were with Jovovich. "Right from the beginning, there was just me and Milla, and Luc on the camera. In a cell," says the actor.
Having worked with some of Hollywood's greatest helmers, Hoffman has words of praise for Besson. "Luc reminds me of a silent film director. He talks to you while you're shooting. He's like the man who's making a documentary—he's looking through the lens and he's asking you questions. But what's wonderful about it is a lot of the self-consciousness is taken away. You forget you're making a movie, which is the best."
Oscar winner Faye Dunaway was cast in the role of Yolande D'Aragon, the shrewd mother-in-law to Charles who nurtures him like her own son. No stranger to great directors, the actress commends Besson. "It was a gr
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