Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'

Courtesy of eOne

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Jul 7, 2017

Promotional consideration provided by eOne

There are plenty of comic book adaptations hitting the big screen this summer, but none more visually stunning than Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The film is based on Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières' long-running comic series Valérian and Laureline, which depicts the adventures of a pair of space- and time-travelling agents in the 28th century working for an intergalactic organization that protects the world from inter-dimensional mishaps.

Director Luc Besson — best known for directing 1997 sci-fi film The Fifth Element — has brought the vivid worlds of the comics to life, and actors Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star as Valerian and Laureline. Before Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theatres on July 21, here are some things you might not know about the franchise's storied past and exciting present.

1. The comics were a major influence on Star Wars.

Though Star Wars creator George Lucas has never directly spoken about it, several elements from the original Star Wars trilogy resemble those from the original Valérian and Laureline comics, which were first published in 1967 — ten years before the first Star Wars film was released. According to comic book editor Kim Thompson in his introduction to English-language Valérian translation Valerian: The New Future Trilogy, "Polite inquiries to the Lucas camp went unanswered, but over the years word leaked back that the Star Wars designers (some of them French) had indeed maintained a nice collection of Valerian albums." Upon noticing the similarities, Mézières stated that he was "dazzled, jealous and furious" and "I'm sure he looked at my books." He even included Princess Leia and Han Solo in a Valérian comic as an Easter egg.

2. This isn't the first collaboration between director Luc Besson and Valérian artist Jean-Claude Mézières.

When Besson was planning The Fifth Element in 1991, he reached out to two of his favourite comic book artists to contribute concept artwork for the film: Mézières and his long-time friend Jean "Moebius" Giraud. After Mézières submitted his concept artwork for The Fifth Element, Besson put the project on hold to focus on his 1994 film Léon: The Professional. Meanwhile, Mézières incorporated his Fifth Element work into the 15th volume of Valérian, The Circles of Power, which teamed Valérian and Laureline with a reckless cab driver. After sending a copy of Circles to Besson, the director rewrote The Fifth Element to include inspiration from Circles, most notably changing protagonist Korben Dallas's occupation from factory worker to cab driver.

3. Rihanna plays a major role in the film.

Valerian is filled with its fair share of stars, including Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke and Herbie Hancock, but its most recognizable face isn't particularly known for her acting: Rihanna, who stars as enigmatic shape-shifter Bubble. It's not her first major big-screen role — that honour goes to 2012's big-screen board game adaptation Battleship — but if Rihanna has any say in the matter, it won't be her last; she recently told UK publication The Sun that she aims to eventually win an Oscar.

"The most difficult thing was trying to catch her to get her on set," Besson told Business Insider. "I think her schedule is worse than any president in the world — I couldn't believe it. She can land at midnight, work until 2am, and I thought I was busy. But she's the queen."

4. Valerian is the most expensive French film production ever.

Clocking in at a whopping €197M (which, at press time, is $291.5M CAD), Valerian is far and away the most expensive French film ever produced, trouncing 2008's Asterix at the Olympic Games and its €78M budget.

5. Several of the film's costumes were designed via a contest.

In October 2015, Besson teamed up with Yahoo! Style to host a contest in order to design costumes for a lavish party scene featuring politicians and dignitaries from every corner of the universe. Over 3000 designers from across the globe submitted designs, and Besson — with the help of costume designer Olivier Bériot and Yahoo! Style editor Joe Zee — handpicked 20 winners whose work will be featured in the final film.
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets: Costume Design Winners

The 20 winners hail from 10 countries including Canada, home of winning designer Andrew Martin. Patriotically enough, Martin's design looks like a spaced-out version of a winter-ready plaid jacket.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theatres across Canada on July 21.

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