That Time Bruce Willis Negotiated Fridays Off During The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element Bruce Willis Korben negotiates

In some lines of work, if you work harder Monday through Thursday, you get Fridays off. It's a hell of a perk, if you can get it, and it's one that Bruce Willis actually scored way back on the set of The Fifth Element. Though as fate would have it, some particular circumstances proposed by Willis and his handlers were to thank for such a scenario, as Besson recently recalled how the Die Hard star snagged such a schedule. Here's how it happened, according to the director:

I remember a long time ago on Fifth Element the assistant to Bruce Willis came and said, 'Okay, I'm going to tell you how it works. We need a pre-call at 30 mins, then a pre-call at 15 mins, then a pre-call at 5 mins before he goes on set.' And I said, 'I make a shot every 4 minutes. Are you kidding?' And he said, 'What do you mean, you do a shot every 4 minutes?' Yeah! [Laughs] I do the shot and then I turn the camera around and I do another shot, so I can't warn you 30 minutes before the shot.

With a three pre-call requirement on the part of Bruce Willis' team, it would have been crazy to even try to attempt such a protocol when shooting in Luc Besson's quick-paced work model. Such a delay between shots could have robbed The Fifth Element of the manic energy that propelled the film into cult classic fame in the decades since its release. So obviously, any good leader would take this time to compromise with their crew, for the greater good. Besson's compromise went a little something like this, according to his recent interview with Screen Rant:

So then I made a deal with Bruce and I said what about rather than working 5 days, you know, from like Monday through Friday, you work for 4 days per week? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but you sit on the box next to me by the camera and we shoot like crazy, and he said okay! Deal! So he was like on the entire set like 10 feet from the camera on a box and he was so happy. Because he preferred it shorter and tenser.

As anyone who remember the fallout from Kevin Smith's Cop Out will tell you, Bruce Willis is the sort of person who you either get along with or you don't. In the case of Luc Besson, Willis definitely got along with him, as he was given a pretty sweet deal in exchange for being able to adhere to Besson's shooting schedule. In turn, The Fifth Element still stands as one of the actor's more memorable appearances, with a lot of competition still remaining to spare.

In an industry that's rife with stories surrounding "creative differences", a victory such as the one that ensured The Fifth Element's success is always welcome. When everyone is at their best, the work reflects it, and if that film isn't a prime example of peak Bruce Willis, as well as Luc Besson at his finest, then we don't know what is. Especially considering that these constructive negotiations lead to one of the most memorable instances of not-so-friendly negotiations on film.

The Fifth Element is available on UHD, Blu-ray and DVD, while Besson's latest film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is currently available on Digital HD. Physical releases on UHD, Blu-ray and DVD for that movie will occur on November 21. But if you want to see a visual spectacle on the big screen, take a look at what's coming to theaters through the rest of the year with our 2017 release schedule.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.