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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Luc Besson

'The Lady': Re-creating 15 years of house arrest [Video]

November 10, 2011 |  2:10 pm

The Lady

When Luc Besson was making "The Lady," his bio-pic about Burmese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, he couldn't just set up his camera on a studio backlot and start rolling.  

Much of the drama takes place at the home outside Yangon (Rangoon) where Suu Kyi, played in the film by Michelle Yeoh, was held under house arrest for nearly 15 years. To replicate the exact look and feel of her domestic prison, Besson relied on Google Maps images, eyewitness recollections and whatever else he could find.

Shooting primarily in Thailand, the filmmakers knew it was crucial for their movie to look and sound as authentic as possible: from the stirring words that Suu Kyi has used in defending democracy, to the classical music that was played when her son accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf in Stockholm. (For the record, it was Pachelbel's "Canon in D.")

Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia and speaks English, Cantonese and Mandarin, even went so far as mastering enough Burmese to be able to deliver one of Suu Kyi's key speeches in her native tongue. 

Here's an exerpt from the filmmakers' conversation last week with The Envelope at the Arclight theater in Sherman Oaks.


Screenwriter Kamen is taken with director Besson

'The Lady': Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh on Myanmar's Suu Kyi

'The Lady': Luc Besson's film about Myanmar's Suu Kyi was risky business

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Luc Besson, left, Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis and Virginie Besson-Silla at the Rome Film Festival. Credit: Claudio Peri / European Pressphoto Agency

'The Lady': Luc Besson's film about Myanmar's Suu Kyi was risky business

November 9, 2011 |  6:42 pm

Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis star in The Lady.
Making "The Lady," the biopic about political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, was risky business for French director Luc Besson and his crew.

The movie, which stars Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh as Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis as her steadfast British academic husband, was mainly shot in Thailand. Many of the secondary characters and extras who appear are nonprofessional actors and citizens of the country formerly known as Burma, whom Besson recruited from a refugee camp in Thailand.

Myanmar's military government is one of the world's most secretive and oppressive, keeping a tight grip on domestic and foreign media. But, in order to give his film greater authenticity, Besson urgently wanted to shoot some images inside Myanmar. He did so with the help of anonymous, uncredited camera operators who put themselves in substantial personal danger and later smuggled the footage out.

In an Envelope Screening Series panel discussion last week with Yeoh and Thewlis, Besson discussed the challenges of filming in a closed society.


'The Lady': Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh on Myanmar's Suu Kyi

Screenwriter Kamen is taken with director Besson

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Cast members Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis at the premiere of "The Lady" at the AFI film festival last week. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images


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