Producer Luc Besson is well known for his films featuring strong, powerful, but emotionally damaged women. The latest entry in this oeuvre is Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana (Avatar) as an assassin focused on avenging the murder of her parents. “When Luc approached me to star in the movie, I asked him what it was about. He said, ‘It’s as if Mathilda (from Léon/The Professional) is all grown up and became an assassin,’” says Saldana. “That was it; I was in. It hit all the beats of a classic revenge film, but it was also compelling and very moving.”
Besson wrote the screenplay with Robert Mark Kamen – “my accomplice since The Fifth Element,” he notes – for the full-on action movie with a feminine hero. “It is a continuation of Nikita and Léon,” he explains. “I have often created bruised feminine characters in disagreement with the society in which they are forced to live. Their everyday life is usually caught between love and violence, which will make each of these women striking heroines. I found it degrading for women to be considered ‘the weaker sex,’ and it’s important to me to give them beautiful roles. I wanted to investigate and to take as far as possible the psychology of the central figure. Colombiana tells the rich and moving story of a heroine, which still remains rare in action movies.”
To prepare for the role, Saldana says she went to Luc Besson film school. “I watched La Femme Nikita and Léon and The Fifth Element repeatedly, because I wanted to understand what all of these women have in common,” she says. “In the end, what they have in common, of course, is the Luc Besson factor. It’s like they’re a composition of one individual, but at different stages of their lives. I wanted to see if it was possible to create another extension of this individual, but layering it to make it unique and completely autonomous.”
Saldana says that she has been fortunate to work with filmmakers, like Besson, who take extra care with the female roles in their films. “You’re never one-dimensional or ‘the chick in the flick’ – they envision and then write female characters that resemble the women in their lives. I get the impression that Luc must have been raised by great women, or maybe it’s that he likes to see women represented more appropriately in art.”
Besson further explains that he enjoys turning the sexual politics of action films on its head. “I find it interesting to explore the ‘manliness’ in female characters and the femininity in men,” he says. “The same story with a man would not have attracted me.”
“Colombiana” is available starting Dec. 20 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group