Luc Besson at CinemaCon: 'This young director James Cameron just made my childhood dream possible'

Valerian's Cara Delevingne (left) and director Luc Besson attend STXfilms' "The State of the Industry: Past, Present & Future" presentation during CinemaCon at Caesars Palace.
Valerian's Cara Delevingne (left) and director Luc Besson attend STXfilms' "The State of the Industry: Past, Present & Future" presentation during CinemaCon at Caesars Palace.PHOTO: AFP

Las Vegas (AFP) - French director Luc Besson revealed on Tuesday (March 28) that he had been thinking about making his latest film Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets since he was 10.

The 58-year-old has made a string of iconic hits, including The Fifth Element (1997), Leon: The Professional (1994), Nikita (1990) and Lucy (2014). But he said his upcoming movie had been a passion project since he began reading the serialised 1960s comics from Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres on which it is based.

"There was no internet, no YouTube, nothing and you had to wait a week to get two more pages," he told delegates at the CinemaCon gathering of movie theatre operators in Las Vegas.

"I got totally addicted... It was so cool at the time, really new and I never stopped thinking about it."

Besson believed that a movie based on a comic with just two human characters and 1,000 aliens would be impossible, he told the audience at Caesar's Palace.

"But then this gentleman, this young director James Cameron - you've heard of him? - he just made these techniques possible after Avatar. Thanks to him now, the imagination is the limit," Besson added.

The US$180 million Valerian - which comes out on July 21 - centres on a dark force threatening Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets.

Blacks ops agents Valerian (Dean DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard the universe.

The audience was treated to a new trailer, a surreal but self-aware fever dream in vivid 3-D featuring a huge, drooling CGI dog-like monster that rips a bus apart, as well of plenty of large Zen-like aliens and desert vistas.

"I grew up loving Luc's movies from when I was a kid. This is my biggest dream," said British fashion model-turned-actress Delevingne (Paper Towns, 2015).

Adam Fogelson, head of the new Hollywood studio STX, introduced Valerian as part of a slate of upcoming movies, which builds on an impressive portfolio of 10 releases in its first two years in business.

An array of stars, including Jessica Chastain, Aaron Sorkin, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, took the stage to discuss upcoming projects in various stages of development.

There was a first look at the Jackie Chan action vehicle The Foreigner, a Sino-American production that hits American theatres on Oct 13.

There was also very early concept art from the animation Ugly Dolls - which Fogelson announced would be overseen by director Robert Rodriguez - and an untitled rodeo comedy starring Eddie Murphy.

Wahlberg introduced the actioner Mile 22, saying he hoped it would become a trilogy and "the thing that defines me", while Kunis chatted about motherhood and the sequel to the 2016 hit Bad Moms, due for release in November.

Oscar nominee Chastain stars in Molly's Game as Molly Bloom, a real-life skier who lost out on her Olympic dream and became an organiser of underground poker games for the Hollywood elite.

"I like that the film explores female power and what that means in society," said Chastain, who got to meet Bloom during production.

First-time director Sorkin is best known for writing the television series The West Wing and The Newsroom, as well as the movies Moneyball (2011) and The Social Network (2010). "It isn't often you come across a story that is both cool and has a lot of heart, and this one does," he told the CinemaCon crowd after a screening of the trailer.

"And what drew me to the story is the character of Molly. She is a thoroughly original movie heroine."