By Edward Baran
LONDON (Reuters) - French director Luc Besson's new film, "Lucy", about a woman who ingests a drug that gives her supernormal mental powers, says action films bore him - but his movie still has a spectacular car chase through Paris.
Besson, whose other sci-fi hit, "The Fifth Element" (1997), starred Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich, has turned to the versatile Scarlett Johansson to play the Lucy of the title.
Within minutes of ingesting the drug, Johansson can walk on the ceiling, and a minute or two after that she can gun down anything that moves. Eventually she can read minds, learn Chinese in seconds, stop traffic and drive like no one has driven since "The French Connection" - but this time the wrong way through the tunnels and arcades of Paris, without putting a scratch on her metallic blue Peugeot.
Besson, who wrote the screenplay as well as directing, started with the idea that the average person uses only 10 percent of the brain's cognitive powers.
"I guess we are not at the maximum so it's very exciting to think about it, what can we do more," Besson told Reuters in an interview in advance of the film's British premiere on Aug. 22.
The film is interspersed with clips from the animal kingdom, including some of dolphins, which intrigued Besson because of the capacities they have that humans do not, such as natural sonar.
"I can build a sonar but I can't have a sonar...so that was interesting for me," he said.
Besson's movie contains plenty of high-octane action sequences, but the director said that as he grew older he found he felt the need to "mix philosophical content with fun".
"I'm a moviegoer also and I am 50 years old now," he said.
"I am not a 16-year-old moviegoer and I love action film and thriller and all this, but I need content now, I need more. You know if it's just an action film, I get bored after an hour even if it's really well done."
Besson has praised Johansson for her performance - but also her punctuality.
"I was very happy with the first meeting because she was on time," he said with a laugh.
"She has no make-up and she has no entourage, so she comes as a decent person and it was just about meeting and talking about the subject and she asked tons of questions about the brain and where I got the information and then she read the script and she came back with more questions and I was very pleased by that, she was acting like a real worker who wants to make it good."
The special effects-laden movie is released by Universal Pictures and was made for a relatively inexpensive $40 million, according to the movie site Box Office Mojo.
The film, which also stars Morgan Freeman as a university professor who helps Lucy understand what is happening to her, has already taken in more than $128.9 million worldwide, according to Screen Daily.
It topped the French and North American box offices on release.
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)