Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is widely considered by many to be a sci-fi classic. The movie starred Bruce Willis and essentially put both Milla Jovovich and Chris Tucker on the map. Believe it or not, The Fifth Element was not intended to be the only film in the series, but plans for The Fifth Element 2 went nowhere after the film was released.
The Fifth Element was not as popular upon its release as it is now, but Besson and co-writer Robert Mark Kamen were ready to go with a script for the sequel. Yet The Fifth Element 2 never happened due to the box-office failure of the original film.
Kamen, who has had a hand in many franchises like The Karate Kid and Taken, spoke to UPROXX about his many accomplishments, including his initial take on The Fifth Element and the possibility of The Fifth Element 2. Kamen recalled when he was asked to take a look at Besson’s initial draft of The Fifth Element, “Bill Gerber, who produced Gran Torino, who was the executive vice-president or whatever at Warners, 1993, called me in. He said, ‘We have this script. We can’t make heads nor tails of it, but we think this guy is a visionary.’ He sent me the script, and it made no sense.”
But Kamen told Gerber that he’d go in and meet with Besson anyway. It was not a meeting that went well. Kamen started by telling Besson everything that was wrong with his 180-page script. First off, there was a slight language barrier between the two as the French-speaking Besson spoke little English. “He doesn’t get all of it because his English wasn’t that great. And he sits there, and I could see that he was getting more and more pissed off. He’s a French auteur, I’m just this fucking Hollywood screenwriter. And at the end of the meeting, Billy called me up, he said, ‘Dude, you just ruined that relationship.’ Because all I had done was I just kept saying what a huge piece of shit this script was.”
Kamen pretty much put the meeting in his rearview until he received a call a week later from Besson. Kamen was shocked when Besson told him that he thought a lot about what Kamen told him about the script and wondered if Kamen would like to work on it with him. Kamen jumped at the chance, flying off to Paris to help Besson develop The Fifth Element. It turned out to be a match made in heaven for Kamen. “He and I worked for a long time, we’ve since done 15 or 16 films together.” Kamen has worked on such films as The Fugitive, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Devil’s Advocate, but has teamed with Besson on such films as Kiss of the Dragon, and the Taken and Transporter franchises.
But it wasn’t just the initial 180-page script that Kamen had to deal with, there was also another 180 pages that could have become The Fifth Element 2. According to Kamen, “We were going to do it as a sequel, but it made no sense, and The Fifth Element wasn’t big enough here. It was huge in the rest of the world, and it’s a classic, but it only did $75 million here or $80 million. It was way ahead of its time. So we never did the sequel, and the sequel would have been taking the other 180-page thing he had and working it into a script.”
When The Fifth Element premiered, it actually fared pretty well at the box office. It had an opening weekend of over $17 million and a total worldwide box office of $263 million against its $90 million budget. But in the producers’ eyes, this was not nearly well enough to warrant a Fifth Element 2.
Critics were mixed on The Fifth Element. Some saw it as campy, or an overblown atrocity, while others viewed it as a science-fiction extravaganza. While the film may not have caught on with audiences upon its initial release, over the 24 years since it premiered, The Fifth Element has definitely found its audience. Even Willis, Jovovich, and Tucker have looked back on the film fondly, though according to Kamen, Bruce Willis was difficult to deal with on set, “He was very difficult, and Luc worked around it. But Luc wasn’t used to it.” But as much as these actors admire the film now, it’s unclear if they enjoyed it enough to theoretically return for a Fifth Element 2.
With an 180-page script already finished, it’s somewhat surprising that we never got a glimpse at what The Fifth Element 2 would look like. When Luc Besson couldn’t get a sequel to The Professional made, he turned it into the Zoe Saldana-starring film Columbiana. Between Taken and The Transporter, Besson has shown that he can make crazy franchises and make them profitable. With The Fifth Element big elsewhere in the world from the beginning, maybe one day we will get to see what The Fifth Element 2 had planned someday.