Luc Besson's Sci-Fi Epic 'Valerian' to Shoot in France After Incentives Tweak (Report)

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Luc Besson

After the director threatened to move production on the $180 million film to Hungary, legislation was introduced to close a tax loophole.

After publicly threatening to move production of his new sci-fi epic Valerian to Hungary, Luc Besson will be getting a tax break from the French government to keep the big-budget production in France.

According to media reports, a special amendment to current tax incentives was introduced Friday with help from the ministries of economy and culture, which want Besson’s latest blockbuster to stay.

At $180 million, Valerian is set to be the biggest-budget European film ever. Starring Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen and Dane DeHaan, it is based on the French comic by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres.

For such a high-profile French project to move would have been a major embarrassment to the French government, leaving Besson caught between a rock and a hard place with the film. He was not eligible for French tax credits, because the movie will be shot in English, but he was not eligible for foreign tax credits because his company EuropaCorp is based in France.

EuropaCorp didn't immediately comment on the reports, and it wasn't immediately clear how big a percentage the incentives tweak the film would be eligible for.

In an interview on radio station RTL on Aug. 24, Besson explained: “Tax credits are 20 percent for French films and 30 percent for foreign. But I am French and the film is in English. I am entitled to zero percent as a French film. As a foreign film, I am entitled to zero percent because the producer is French. I am in a legal hole.”

Besson was set to move his film to Hungary, where tax credits for films range from 35 percent to 40 percent. If the proposed amendment goes through, the production would be eligible as a French film and could benefit from up to $34 million (€30 million) in savings.

In the August interview, he said he preferred to shoot in France and create roughly 1,000 jobs for the local economy, but felt backed into a corner. "I cannot do the movie if I have no credit. It is physically impossible,” he said at the time.

Soon after, minister of culture Fleur Pellerin said that the government would work on a legal solution to allow Besson’s production to stay in France.

Besson is expected to shoot at his Cite du Cinema studio outside of Paris. Besson's English-language film Lucy, partially shot in Paris, went on to gross $459 million worldwide and became the most successful French film of all time.

The new rule would also help other producers who want to film in a foreign language, including English, but shoot in France.