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Léon: The Professional (1994) Poster

Trivia

During the filming involving all of the police cars on the street, a man ran from a store he had just robbed. When he encountered the movie set by accident, he saw all of the "police" and gave himself up to a bunch of uniformed extras.
Jump to: Director Cameo (1) | Director Trademark (1) | Spoilers (5)
During the scene when Stansfield 'interrogates' Mathilda's father, he smells the father, and gets extremely physically close to him. According to Michael Badalucco, he had no idea that Gary Oldman was going to smell him, nor that he was going to get as close as he did. Badalucco says that in the film, his look of discomfort during the scene is completely genuine, as he felt decidedly intimidated by Oldman, and the physical proximity between the two made him very nervous.
This is Natalie Portman's motion picture debut. She was 11 when she was cast.
According to Jean Reno, he decided to play Léon as if he were a little mentally slow and emotionally repressed. He felt that this would make audiences relax and realize that he wasn't someone who would take advantage of a vulnerable young girl. Reno claims that for Léon, the possibility of a physical relationship with Mathilda is not even conceivable, and as such, during the scenes when such a relationship is discussed, Reno very much allowed Mathilda to be emotionally in control of the scenes.
The scene in which Stansfield talks about his appreciation of Ludwig van Beethoven to Mathilda's father was completely improvised. The scene was filmed several times, with Gary Oldman giving a different improvised story on each take.
Keith A. Glascoe, who played the enormous Benny, or 3rd Stansfield Man, later became a member of the New York Fire Department, Ladder Company 21 in Hells Kitchen. Courageously he died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
In a 2014 Playboy interview, Gary Oldman said his screaming of the now iconic line 'Bring me everyone!' was improvised to make director Luc Besson laugh "in previous takes, I'd just gone, "Bring me everyone," in a regular voice. But then I cued the sound guy to slip off his headphones, and I shouted as loud as I could." The yelled take is the one used in the film.
Luc Besson got the idea of doing this movie while working on his previous movie, La Femme Nikita (1990). In that film's third act, Victor the Cleaner appears to deal with the aftermath of Nikita's botched mission. Realizing the potential of the character was underused in that movie, Besson decided to create a story that focused on the activities of such a character. Both Victor and Leon appear dressed in a long wool coat, sunglasses and a knit cap. Both are played by Jean Reno. The film's working title was "The Cleaner".
Mathilda checks herself and Léon in under the name "MacGuffin". "MacGuffin" is a movie term coined by Alfred Hitchcock for a plot device whose actual meaning is debated by film scholars.
When the film was first tested in LA, the version that was screened incuded a short scene where Mathilda asks Léon to be her lover. However, the audience became extremely uncomfortable and began to laugh nervously, completely destroying the tone of the film. The film received terrible test scores at the screening, and as such, producer Patrice Ledoux and writer/director Luc Besson decided to cut the scene for theatrical release.
According to Patrice Ledoux, Luc Besson planned Léon as filler. At the time, he had already started working on The Fifth Element (1997), but production was delayed due to Bruce Willis's schedule. Rather than dismiss the production team and lose his creative momentum, Besson wrote Léon. It took him only 30 days to write the script, and the shoot lasted only 90 days. As it turned out, Léon is now generally considered to be a far superior film to The Fifth Element.
In the original script, Mathilda (aged 13 or 14) and Léon became lovers. Luc Besson reportedly altered the script to remove this aspect of the story (possibly due to pressure from Natalie Portman's parents).
Natalie Portman's parents were extremely worried about the smoking scenes in the film, and before they allowed Natalie to appear, they worked out a contract with Luc Besson which had strict mandates as regards the depiction of smoking; there could only be five smoking scenes in the film, Portman would never be seen to inhale or exhale smoke, and Mathilda would give up during the course of the film. If one watches the film closely, one can see that all of these mandates were rigidly adhered to; there are precisely five smoking scenes, Portman is never seen inhaling or drawing on a cigarette, nor is she ever seen exhaling smoke, and Mathilda does indeed give up during the course of the film (in the scene outside the Italian restaurant, when Leon asks her to quit smoking, stop cursing, and not hang out with 'that guy. He looks like a weirdo.').
Natalie Portman stated that the scene in which she dressed up as Marilyn Monroe was inspired by a scene she saw in Wayne's World (1992). She admitted that at the time Léon was filmed she actually had never watched any movie starring Monroe.
Stansfield says he and his goons will show up at noon. At León's house we see a clock that shows 11:58. The following sequence takes exactly two minutes, and they show up exactly at noon.
Liv Tyler was considered for the part of Mathilda but, at age 15, she was deemed too old.
All of the interiors of Léon's apartment were shot in Paris; all of the shots of the outside corridor were shot six weeks earlier in New York.
The cut of the film had more scenes with "awkward sexual tension" between Mathilda and Léon. These scenes were later cut out for the American release dubbed "The Professional", but were included in the 1996 European release, as well as in the deleted scenes of the special edition DVD. They were reintegrated back into the film for the 'International Cut', which is now available on DVD.
The second shot (a tracking shot traveling down a New York street without stopping) could only be accomplished after carefully studying the pattern of the traffic signals so as to insure the camera truck didn't encounter any red lights.
According to Luc Besson, the role of Léon was always intended for Jean Reno and no one else. However, according to the Fact Track on the Deluxe Edition DVD, both Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves were extremely interested in the role.
According to actress Maïwenn Le Besco, part of the film is based on her romantic relationship with director Luc Besson. Le Besco (who plays the blond prostitute in the opening scene) was engaged to writer/director at the time the film was made. Le Besco had met Besson when she was 11, and had fallen in love with him when she was 15 (Besson was 32 at the time).
According to Luc Besson's first script-draft, Léon's full name is Leone Montana.
Both Mathilda and Danny refer to Léon as a "cleaner". The front window of the bodega in Léon's apartment building prominently displays various cleaning products such as Brillo pads, bleach, Ajax, and soap.
Natalie Portman beat out 2000 other actresses to the role of Mathilda.
Jean Reno and Natalie Portman weren't allowed to rehearse the controversial scene where Mathilda puts on a dress given to her by Leon. As Reno puts it in the film's DVD commentary, it's "the beginning of the perversity." Reno often asked Luc Besson when they would read the part, and Besson would avoid the question. Not being able to read the scene helped Besson and his cast genuinely capture the awkwardness the characters felt at that moment. "[Léon and Mathilda's] relationship was very connected and very strange," Reno concluded.
Stansfield is obsessed with Ludwig van Beethoven. Gary Oldman later portrayed Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (1994).
Composer Eric Serra wrote the song "The Experience of Love" for the end of the film. However, the filmmakers decided to use Sting's "The Shape of My Heart" instead. Serra would re-use the song in the end credits of his next project, the James Bond film GoldenEye (1995) and it appears on the film's soundtrack. The basic melody of the song can still be heard in the film and on the soundtrack, via the cue "The Game is Over."
The character played by Willi One Blood is named only '1st Stansfield Man' in the script, but during the course of the film, Malky calls him 'Willi', and Stansfield calls him 'Blood', different portions of the actor's real name.
This marks the second time that Gary Oldman stars in film a that is shot inside of the Historic Hotel Chelsea in New York. The first was Sid and Nancy (1986).
In 2012 British indie rock band Alt-J released 'Matilda', a song inspired by this movie.
It has been claimed that Luc Besson has written the script for a sequel, which Olivier Megaton was to direct and in which Natalie Portman would reprise the Mathilda role. Filming was to be delayed until Portman was a bit older. However, in the meantime, Besson left Gaumont Film Company to start his own movie studio, EuropaCorp. Unhappy at Besson's departure, Gaumont Film Company "has held The Professional rights close to the vest - and will not budge". According to Megaton, the sequel will more than likely never happen. Besson used the idea for Colombiana (2011).
In the original script, Leon accidentally walks in on Mathilda when she's in the shower.
Stansfield is never seen wearing anything besides his trademark beige suit and white shirt.
In the final scene Mathilda transfers Léon's beloved potted plant to an open field behind the girls' school, believing it will grow roots and be a living symbol of his memory. She doesn't know that that particular plant - a tropical variety called a Chinese Evergreen - cannot survive in cold outdoor climates, and will die in the first winter frost. New York Times critic Janet Maslin noted this in her 1994 review and called the ending "misguided poetry."
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In a 2005 interview, Natalie Portman recalled how she had to train herself to "cry on cue" during filming of "Léon". For her first emotional scene - when Mathilda finds her family dead and goes to Léon's door for help - she was unable to produce the necessary tears. Director Luc Besson solved the problem by having a crew member spray mint oil into her eyes. Portman said this was so painful that from then on she had no trouble crying real tears on command, just to avoid being subjected to the mint oil again.
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The music in the American trailer is "The Dark Side of Time", the theme from Luc Besson's previous film La Femme Nikita (1990) which is about a girl trained to be an assassin.
The drug Gary Oldman's character was taking was a green and yellow capsule called Librium. The generic name isChlordiazepoxide, and is in a group of drugs called benzodiazepines.
The code that Léon gives Matilda to knock on the door when she returns from getting more milk is two knocks, then one, then two knocks again. 212 is the telephone area code for Manhattan, which is where the story takes place.
French actor Samy Naceri has in this film one of his first roles. He plays a bit part, a SWAT, and was only ten days on the set. As Luc Besson wrote the screenplay for the film Taxi (1998), he always wanted Samy for the lead role, because he was much impressed by the short cooperation with him.
The pistols that Léon uses in the film are Beretta 92FS's with AL-GI-MEC compensators added on. In some scenes, he affixes them with sound suppressor, with threads that extend past the compensator cuts to cancel out the escaping gases that could potentially escape and produce a loud gunshot. In the final firefight, one of Léon's Berettas is seen with a stainless or "Inox" frame.
In the confrontation scene at Tony's restaurant, it is revealed that rogue DEA agent Stansfield commissioned contract killings from Mafioso Tony. Léon was Tony's top hit man and his "clients" were primarily drug dealers. So it's possible that, through Tony, Léon unknowingly did a lot of "work" for Stansfield.
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When the villains are turning Mathilda's home upside down, the crook with the dreadlocks finds a reggae album in the record collection. The record he is holding up and referring to as "cool" is "Marcus Children" by Burning Spear (aka Burning Spear) from 1978.
Christina Ricci was among those who auditioned for Mathilda.
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Mathilda and Leon have both seen Singin' in the Rain (1952), which featured Debbie Reynolds, the real-life mother of Carrie Fisher. Portman played Fisher's on-screen mother in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).
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Léon Gaumont was a French inventor developing cinematographic techniques in the late 19th century alongside with the Lumière brothers. Gaumont is the name of the production company that made this film.
Stansfield's oversized service revolver is a modified Smith & Wesson 629 Snub Nose Combat .44 Magnum. Only 5000 of these were manufactured in a limited run during the late 1980s.
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About 27 minutes into the movie Stansfield picks up a bottle of bourbon. The brand name is Ezra Brooks.
This film features a scene showing the now destroyed World Trade Center towers.

Director Cameo 

Luc Besson: in the "International Cut", he's the guy shooting back at Léon and Mathilda, who Léon kills by using the 'ring trick'.

Director Trademark 

Luc Besson: [casting Jean Reno]
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The original script had a much darker ending. After Stansfield shoots Léon, Mathilda performs the grenade ring trick (seen in one of the restored scenes of "Version Integrale") and opens her jacket to reveal the live grenades. It was changed by Luc Besson, fearing that the audience would not accept Mathilda's transformation from innocent girl to crazed juvenile killer. Besson had never intended such a transformation for the character.
Natalie Portman was originally turned down by Todd Thaler (the casting director) due to being too young, but she returned to the auditions and performed the scene where Mathilda laments the loss of her brother. Luc Besson was so impressed with the depth of emotion she summoned during the audition that he gave her the role.
Mathilda wants Stansfield dead in order to avenge the death of her brother, which was the only member of her family that she cared about. Although Stansfield kills the rest of Mathilda's family, her brother is actually killed by Stansfield's henchman Willi (you can hear Malky scolding him for it when Mathilda walks by the entrance to the apartment, right after the raid). This means that she is actually present to witness the death of her brother's killer, as she is in the room when Léon shoots him.
Body Count: 34.
The potted plant Léon nurtures and Mathilda replants at the end of the movie is an Aglaonema, or Chinese evergreen.

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