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The star maker

PHOTO: REUTERS

Luc Besson has been both praised and criticised throughout his career. But it's undeniable that he has turned many actors into international stars.

We look at those in Hollywood who have been blessed by the hand of the Frenchman.


NATALIE PORTMAN

LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (1994)

Her big-screen debut was nothing short of striking, especially considering Portman was only 12 when she won the part of would-be child assassin, Mathilda.

Without Besson, we wouldn't have Portman the Oscar winner.


JEAN RENO

LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (1994)

The Frenchman was already a regular Besson collaborator, having first worked with the director on L'avant Dernier (1981) before La Femme Nikita. But it was playing the hitman Leon that brought him much acclaim.


MILLA JOVOVICH

THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)

Before she became the orange-haired alien Leeloo, Jovovich was but another model-turned-actress known for being nude in the controversial Return To The Blue Lagoon (1991).

She became Mrs Besson No. 3 after making the film but they split two years later. Leeloo made Jovovich a femme fatale, a persona she solidified with the Resident Evil series.


JASON STATHAM

THE TRANSPORTER (2002)

While he featured in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels in 1998 and Snatch two years later, this Brit became an instant action star in The Transporter. Besson put him behind the wheel as reluctant martial arts hero Frank Martin, creating a franchise and a Hollywood career for Statham.


LIAM NEESON

TAKEN (2008)

Nobody had a career makeover like Neeson, thanks to a brilliant script by Besson. Neeson went from Oscar-calibre actor into a credible lean and incredibly mean fighting machine. Sadly, the same trick has not worked for John Travolta or Kevin Costner.