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Did You Know Luc Besson Originally Wrote The Fifth Element While Still in High School?

Let this be a lesson to all you adolescent meat popsicles looking to write and direct your own movies!

By Josh Weiss

Have you watched The Fifth Element lately? Because you really should.

Luc Besson's sci-fi classic (now streaming on Peacock) plays like the collective fever dream of George Lucas, Jim Henson, Ridley Scott, Terry Gilliam, and John McTiernan. It's as though a film-loving teenager mashed all of their favorite cinematic influences together.

In a way, that's a bit how the movie originally came to be. According to Besson himself, the project first took shape in his 16-year-old mind.

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Luc Besson Began Writing The Fifth Element as a Teenager

"I started to write at 16 and shoot at 30, so I had the time to think about it," he explained during an interview with Nerdist in 2017 to celebrate movie's 20th anniversary. "But when I started to write at 16, it was more like a novel. It was not a film in my head. I never thought about making a film of it. So it was a novel for a long time and then, at a certain point, 10 years later, I said, 'You know what? I would love to make a film of that.' But I started changing a lot of things because a novel is really different."

Turns out the key (or Multi Pass, if you will) to cracking the story laid in the philosophical teachings of the Ancient Greek thinker, Plato, who inspired Besson while the budding filmmaker helped his 13-year-old sister with her homework.

"I struggled a lot with the script of The Fifth Element for a long time," he confessed. "I was younger, I had less experience, and it took me forever to figure out. And you know how I found the theme of The Fifth Element? My sister at the time, she was like 13, and I helped her with homework, and she had an exercise about Plato. You know, the Greek philosopher. He wrote about [the five elements which were thought to comprise all matter], you know the water, the earth, the fire, and the air. And the fifth element is the human being. And I read the thing, and I said "F--k! That’s exactly what I’m missing.' So, I have to apologize because I stole from Plato. When I see him up there [in heaven], you know, later? I will go to him and say, 'Hey man, I’m sorry I stole your book.'"

Will We Ever Get a Fifth Element Sequel?

Korben (Bruce Willis) and a attendant in a blue hat appear in The Fifth Element (1997).

Given that star Bruce Willis has retired from acting and the public spotlight, a Fifth Element sequel seems highly unlikely. Besson could, of course, recast the role of taxi driver turned universal hero Korben Dallas, but let's be real here — no one else can play that character like Willis did, and it would be something of an insult to his legacy if anyone tried to replicate the magic. While the material for a second movie did exist, the plan was scrapped after the original movie underperformed in the United States.

"It was actually 180 pages, and then he added a second part to it, which made no sense either," The Fifth Element co-writer Robert Mark Kamen told Uproxx in 2021. "We were going to do it as a sequel, but it made no sense, and The Fifth Element wasn’t big enough here. It was huge in the rest of the world, and it’s a classic, but it only did $75 million here or $80 million. It was way ahead of its time. So we never did the sequel, and the sequel would have been taking the other 180-page thing he had and working it into a script."

Your own personal Multi Pass awaits — The Fifth Element is now streaming on Peacock!

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