Two decades after it was released in theaters, it goes without saying that The Fifth Element is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. It’s funny, the colors pop, the wardrobe was designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, and the action jumps off the screen. But even if you’ve seen this movie 500 times there are a lot of things you didn't know about The Fifth Element.
For instance, Luc Besson started writing the film when he was a teenager, and at one point it was actually three movies and hundreds of pages long. He wisely found a way to cut down some of the more unnecessary scenes in order to deliver the riveting quote machine that is The Fifth Element. Including pre-production, the filming of The Fifth Element took about 10 months, and the cast and crew grew incredibly close during the year they spent together, which lead to some predictably salacious behind-the-scenes stories.
Even if you think you know all of the facts about The Fifth Element, it's likely there are still a few pieces of trivia that you don’t know. Stay green, and read on to learn about the behind-the-scenes insanity of The Fifth Element.
Leeloo Needed A Wig When Her Hair Started Falling Out
According to an interview Milla Jovovich did with Into the Gloss, an accident with the hairdressers early on into filming caused extreme hair loss, and a wig had to be crafted to maintain Leeloo's flaming orange locks. Jovovich recalled:
"My hair grows so fast, so every week they’d have to redo my roots. And, at one point, I think the hairdressers went out for a cigarette and left me sitting in the chair cooking underneath the hat and I felt my hair getting hot, but I was like, ‘They must know what they’re doing.’ Finally, I said, ‘Oh, girls!’ and they went, Gasp! I guess they had forgotten about me and when they took the thing off, my hair was just falling out in clumps and I was pulling it out and pulling it out and they had to make a complete wig. So, in the movie when you see Leeloo clean and dry at the apartment on the computer eating chicken, I’ve got a wig on pretty much from that point onward—we only got a few weeks of shooting in with the haircut, and thank God we got the beginning, which is glorious."
The Film Was Inspired By French Comics
Luc Besson's initial influences for The Fifth Element came from the world of French science fiction and fantasy comic books, like Jean-Claude Mézieres' seminal series Valérian and Laureline (which would also go on to inspire many visuals for Star Wars as well as a mostly terrible movie adaptaion) and Métal Hurlant, otherwise known as Heavy Metal, by the legendary artist Moebius (Jean Giraud).
After the film was released, Moebius attempted to sue Besson, but the case was thrown out after it was revealed Besson actually hired the artist to work on the film.
The Language Leeloo Speaks Has An Actual Dictionary
Throughout the first half of the movie, Jovovich's character Leeloo is speaking what sounds like gibberish, but it turns out Besson was just as particular about the fake alien language as he was about the rest of the movie.
Besson said he "wrote a dictionary with 500 words" for Jovovich, and that they were the only two people who spoke it on set. He also felt that if they were to give Leeloo subtitles, it would diminish her character, so he left what she was saying up to interpretation and imagination.
It Was The Most Expensive Movie Filmed Outside The US
While filming The Fifth Element, Luc Besson was dealing with the burgeoning world of CGI, allowing himself to be playful on a film that needed a lot of visual effects. Because he followed his wanderlust (all the way to Europe), Besson ended up going tens of millions of dollars over budget — cementing The Fifth Element's place among the most expensive films made until The Intouchables in 2011.
Even though he was hemorrhaging money while filming, Besson somehow got away with not having to show his producers dailies. Luckily, The Fifth Element ended up making $263.9 million, more than double the cost of production.