Luc Besson already wanted to direct a Valerian movie back when he was working on The Fifth Element, the 1997 film that made his name as an influential sci-fi director. The only problem? "It's too big," Besson told SFX in an interview for its most recent issue. Pulling off all those alien characters and worlds for a live-action, feature-length production seemed "impossible" at the time.
“A few years later I read it again, and I said, ‘Okay, maybe one day the techniques will be there. Let’s see if we can make a script,'" Besson said. "And then Avatar makes everything possible, because James Cameron arrived with this new generation of technology. Today, imagination is the only limit. You can do whatever you want now. So now you can make Valerian.”
After that, Besson said he took the first Valerian script he wrote and "literally threw it in the garbage". But that's not to say he felt discouraged by the achievement, or caught up in a fierce competition with Cameron and the creators of other sci-fi blockbusters. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“Jim [Cameron] invited me on the set of Avatar. He gave me advice on this film. He’s a sweetheart. Steven [Spielberg] invited me on the set of Jurassic Park. He shared everything. I’ve had dinner with Peter Jackson a few times. These guys are not fighting at all. It’s the reverse. They appreciate it. They say, ‘Oh my god, there is a new guy who has some guts – welcome to the club!’ In reality there is no competition, because the films are so unique.”