Filmed in the Czech republic, this historical epic traces the life of that famous French martyr Joan of Arc, from her roots as a simple peasant girl to her valiant quest to lead the French armies against the English, a call she believes is God’s, which lands her in a hot spot at a Catholic bar-b-que.
The picture stars Milla Jovovich, who married Besson in 1997 then separated from a while later, in her first leading role since Return to the Blue Lagoon in 1991. The Messanger also includes an impressive lineup of stars, with Dustin Hoffman as the Grand Inquisitor/Conscience, Faye Dunaway as Yolande d’Aragon and John Malkovich as King Charles VII.
The director, whose last film, The Fifth Element, also featured Jovovich, says he “got lucky” with his cast, according to Hollywood.com.
“I wanted each of them. I tried to be honest and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Sometimes people say yes, and I was very lucky. Dustin and Faye and John Malkovich said yes very quickly. You’re a little obliged to have one or two actors in mind, just in case one is not available, but the three of them were ones I really wanted to work with.”
Jovovich said her casting came from a conversation with Besson over Joan’s resemblance to a mystical-looking portrait of Jovovich. “He started thinking and obsessing and coming up with more ideas, and the next thing we knew, we were getting ready to make a movie.”
Jovovich claimed she was more excited than scared to be carrying the film, but after previous co-operation she had such complete trust in Luc that the fear never materialized. Her main fear was that she wouldn’t be able to show Joan of Arc as real and as humane, to surpass the cartoonish stereotype. But she was wrong, this movie exceeds in spades.
The epic also introduces Desmond Harrington, who was bartending in the Bronx and taking acting classes before he landed the role of Jean d’Aulon through auditions. He’s the guy who falls in love with her, and will do anything for her love, even following her into battle. Harrington, at his first premiere, said of his character.
“He’s a young, intelligent character. He sees something in her. He finds her amazing.” In addition to the heavyweight lead actors, other stars turning out for the lushly detailed biography include Chris Tucker, Rebecca De Mornay, Matthew Lillard, Victor Webster, Kelly Rutherford and Jennifer Tilly. Tilly said that the inspiring saga of the martyr is the film’s draw.
“She was a young girl, and armies followed her and listened to her. It sort of proves that it doesn’t matter what side you are on, or how powerful you are – if you have something persuasive to say, people will listen to you,” and this story has plenty to say, but I wonder, is for those of us in Prague the statement “Come to the CZ for the perfect medieval types for your next movie”, coz, I mean, the extras were perfect! Check out The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.