Despite its age, The Fifth Element still holds up to the sci-fi standards of films today. If anything, it’s a big breath of fresh air compared to the bleak dystopian sci-fi films I adore. As you may know, I love learning bits of trivia and unknown facts about all my favorite movies, and The Fifth Element is no exception.
If you don’t own The Fifth Element, you can pick it up on Amazon here.
1. LAX Nearly Ruined an Iconic Scene
The iconic opera scene was almost ruined, thanks to LAX. Associate Producer John Amicarella had the negatives flown to California. He received a phone call instructing him to go to LAX, informing him of a terrible mishap. They escorted Amicarella to a storage room where The Fifth Element movie film reels sat in trashcans. It turned out that these negatives fell out of the airplane and onto the tarmac. And then run over by a forklift. Somehow, producers saved the negative and one of the most iconic scenes of the movie.
2. Imagine Prince as Ruby Rhod?!
Director Luc Besson hoped Prince would play Ruby Rhod, but Prince thought the costumes were a little bit too much for him. Huh?! Luckily, Chris Tucker landed the role. Tucker portrayed a character inspired by the likes of Prince and Lenny Kravitz. He also added the comedy that Prince wouldn’t have been able to pull off. Besson once mentioned that Jamie Foxx was also considered for the role, but he was too muscular at the time.
3. The Love Triangle
Besson, left his wife, Plavalaguna actress Maiwenn Le Besco, for Leeloo actress Milla Jovovich. Besson and Jovovich married in 1997 and divorced in 1999.
4. Besson’s Favorite Number
How many times does the number five come into play in The Fifth Element? Besides its inclusion in the title of the film, the number appears many times.
- Korben Dallas’s license had five points left on it.
- Ruby Rhod’s show starts at five o’clock.
- Zorg stops the bomb he placed with five seconds left to spare.
- The Mangalore’s bomb starts with a five-second countdown timer.
- Towards the end of The Fifth Element, Ruby Rhod says, “There’s a bomb going off every five minutes!”
- In the final scene, when President Lindberg visits Leeloo and Korben, the scientist says they need “five more minutes.”
5. Creating the Divine Language
Besson created the ‘Divine Language’ consisting of 400-500 words for Leeloo. Jovovich refined the language since she’s fluent in four languages. By the end of the filming, Besson and Jovovich were able to have full conversations in this new language.
6. Protagonist and Antagonist Never Meet
Bruce Willis’s Korben Dallas, the protagonist, and Gary Oldman’s Zorg, the antagonist, never meet in the film. Besson said every time a scenario presented itself in the movie that reflected something too classical, like the villain fighting the hero at the end, he went against the grain in The Fifth Element.
7. A Star Returns
The Fifth Element marked the return of Milla Jovovich to acting. After staring in Dazed and Confused, she took a hiatus from Hollywood and focused on music. The actress went on to star in the successful Resident Evil franchise.
8. Diva’s Performance is Humanly Impossible
Inva Mula, the soprano who dubs the voice of the diva, had to perform several notes of the music composer Eric Serra wrote in isolation. Humans can’t change notes as quickly as the diva does in the film.
9. Timing: Precise and Not-So-Precise
When President Lindberg gives Father Vito Cornelius only 20 seconds to make his point, the priest speaks for precisely 20 seconds. On the other hand, in the final scene, when a scientist announces, “one minute”, referring to the length of time “Mr. Shadow” enters Earth’s atmosphere, it actually takes 1:49 from that moment until Leeloo stops him.
10. A Familiar Voice Lurks on the Phone
Bruce Willis has a brief conversation via the telephone with ‘Finger’, voiced by the uncredited actor Vin Diesel.
11. Toys From the 1980s Make an Ugly Appearance
Recall the scene where the workers with flame throwers disinfect the landing gear of the spaceship bound for Fholston Paradise. Set designers used Boglins, popular toys from the 1980s, and a Bumble Ball, which shakes and vibrates.
12. Iconic Fashion Design: From Conical Breasts to 900 Costumes
Jean-Paul Gaultier, the same fashion designer who gave Madonna her conical breasts for her iconic Blond Ambition Tour in 1990, designed every film costume, including over 900 outfits!
13. What Year is It, Anyway?
What year does The Fifth Element take place in? The beginning of the film takes place in 1914, then it cuts to 300 years later. You’d think the year should be 2214, right? In the 1997 DVD edition of the film, notes state the year is 2257. Director Besson says the year is 2259 in his book The Story of The Fifth Element. When Korben Dallas looks at his small sliver of a clock, the date shows 18 March 2263.
14. A Nod to Robocop
There’s a nod to the classic sci-fi film Robocop in the taxi scene where Leeloo crashes through the roof. The police officer mouths, “thank you for your help.” Producers later dubbed this to “thanks for your cooperation”, the same line Robocop uses in the 1987 film of the same name. The police officers’ helmet style reflects that of Robocop’s, with only their lower face showing.
15. Zorg Inspiration Will Make You Laugh
Gary Oldman based his character Zorg on a cross between Ross Perot, then a presidential candidate, and Bugs Bunny.
16. Multiple Car Chases?
Did you notice another car chase with a shoot-out with a police car and a long, black car? Rewatch the scene where Korben and Leeloo reach an intersection while driving in Korben’s cab. In that scene, the camera pans to show six police cars are waiting to catch Korben’s taxi. Look in the far background to see the second car chase taking place.
17. Clever Naming
Formed from two words, Plavalaguna comes from plava and laguna. In Slovic languages, plava means blue (in the feminine sense), and laguna means lagoon. So Plavalaguna means blue lagoon, which is a nod to Milla Jovovich’s character Lilli in Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991).
18. Ian Holm & Men Named Dallas
The Fifth Element marks Ian Holm’s second science fiction movie where there’s a fictional character named Dallas. The other one is Alien (1979), which starred Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas.