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.
Even though Luc Besson started out on The Fifth Element married to Maïwenn, the actress and singer who played Diva Plavalaguna, throughout pre-production and filming he started an affair with his lead actress, Milla Jovovich. While the duo was secretive about their on-set romance, the cast and crew knew that something was up.
In a 20-year retrospective of the film, Bruce Willis — who played Korben Dallas — told Entertainment Weekly: "...the real romance was between Luc and Milla. By the time I had gotten to Paris they were already kind of smitten with each other." The two married seven months after the movie premiered.
Many of the biggest scenes in the scenes in the Fifth Element were filmed with multiple cameras at different angles, in an attempt to capture true emotion. One of the biggest and most complicated of all was the appearance of the Diva, but that scene almost had to be reshot thanks to a mishap at LAX.
The film's associate producer, John Amicarella, experienced a Hollywood nightmare after he had the negatives flown to Los Angeles so he could have it transferred. He said that one day he got a call and was told to come down to the airport, and that's when his life flashed in front of his eyes.
"We were escorted into a little room where they brought multiple trashcans of negative that had fallen out of the airplane onto to the tarmac and had been run over by a forklift. That was the diva scene — like, one of the money shots. It was the one thing you absolutely did not want to have happen."
Luckily, the editors were able to salvage the footage and the audience never knew that they were watching roadkill.
Initially, The Fifth Element was meant to be director Luc Besson's follow up to his 1990 film Nikita, and at the time he was in talks with some huge names to appear in the film. According to an exhibit of costume designer and artist Jean-Paul Gaultier's original illustrations and notes for his work on the film, Prince was meant to play the part of Ruby Rhod — which was eventually immortalized by Chris Tucker — but the pop star felt that the character was "too effeminate." He also got off to a rocky start with Gaultier himself.
Gaultier's notes also reveal that Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson were originally meant to star in the film, but when the money never came together they eventually backed out. The designer claims he actually met Prince while the star was still considering the role, but because of Gaultier's less-than-stellar handle on the English language, he may have scared Prince away from saying yes. Gaultier recalled:
"Luc told me that Prince had been very surprised and amused — by my presentation, but that he found the costumes a bit too effeminate. And, most importantly, he had thought he heard "F*ck you, f*ck you!" when I was saying in my terrible English accent 'faux cul, faux cul' [fake ass]!"
Besson is one of the most creative writers and directors on the planet, so it shouldn't be a surprise he was writing sweeping sci-fi stories about love when he was 16. It is, however, a bit shocking he was able to craft a three-movie epic before actually bringing it to life decades later. He told Entertainment Weekly: "At 16 I wrote three stories. I wrote 200 pages, and it was bad. I wrote 200 more, it was still bad."
Besson credits his creativity with living in the middle of nowhere in France as a teenager, and only having his imagination to keep him company. When it came time to actually craft the script for The Fifth Element, veteran screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid) was brought on to make sense of what a teenage Besson wrote. When they first started Kamen said that "It just made no sense." But in the end they had "a 180-page script or something, a crazy, endless thing."