Making ‘Valerian’ was childhood dream for France’s Besson

Legendary sci-fi director Luc Besson revealed Tuesday he has been thinking about making his latest film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” since he was 10.

The 58-year-old French auteur has made a string of iconic hits, including “The Fifth Element,” “Leon: The Professional,” “Lucy” and “Nikita.”

But he said his upcoming movie has been a passion project since he began reading the serialized 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 theater 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 a movie based on a comic about 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.

– Fever dream –

The $180 million “Valerian” — which comes out on July 21 — centers 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 with echoes of Mad Max.

“I grew up loving Luc’s movies from when I was a kid. This is my biggest dream,” said 24-year-old British fashion model-turned-actress Delevingne (“Paper Towns”).

Adam Fogelson, studio head of Hollywood newcomer STX, introduced “Valerian” as part of a slate of its upcoming movies building 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 to the stage to discuss upcoming projects in various stages of development.

There was a first look at Jackie Chan action vehicle “The Foreigner,” an American-Chinese production that hits US theaters October 13.

– ‘Female power’ –

There was also very early concept art from animations “Ugly Dolls,” which Fogelson announced would be benefiting from the creative oversight of veteran director Robert Rodriguez, and an untitled rodeo comedy starring Eddie Murphy.

Wahlberg introduced 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 smash-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 organizer 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, 55, is best known for his writing on televisual milestones such as “The West Wing” and the “The Newsroom,” as well as movies “Moneyball” and “The Social Network.”

“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.”

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