Leon the Professional - Natalie Portman and Jean Reno

Released in 1994, Leon: The Professional is an action-thriller like no other. It follows a young girl (Natalie Portman) whose family is murdered, and the professional assassin (Jean Reno) who takes her under his wing, and trains her up to be his protege.

Here are 11 little pieces of trivia about Leon…

1) 2,000 actresses auditioned for the role of Mathilda

A great deal of young actresses auditioned for the role of Mathilda. As a matter of fact, there were over 2,000 of them. Natalie Portman outshone all of them and landed the role. When she was cast, she was only 11 years old. It was her first feature film.

2) Jean Reno played Leon ‘a little slow’

Since playing Leon, Jean Reno has stated that he played the character ‘a little slow’. This is so that the audience wouldn’t see him as a danger to the little girl – particularly when she becomes more and more flirtatious with him. Reno said that at no point does Leon consider being physical with Mathilda.

3) Uncomfortable sniffing

Michael Badalucco, who plays Mathilda’s deadbeat father in the film, had no idea that Gary Oldman’s terrifying Stansfield was going to start sniffing him during their scene together. The uncomfortable look on his face is completely genuine.

4) Bring me everyone

In the script, when Stansfield says, ‘bring me everyone – everyone,’ there’s no cue to shout it. For the first few takes, Gary Oldman just says it at a normal talking volume. He only screamed it, in fact, as a joke to make the director laugh. However, the director loved that take the most, and put it in the film. It’s now one of the most iconic parts of the film.

5) One actor became a firefighter and died on 9/11

Keith A. Glascoe, who played Benny in the film (one of Stansfield’s men), joined the New York Fire Department. Ladder Company 21 in Hell’s Kitchen. He heroically lost his life on 9/11 when trying to rescue victims of the attacks.

6) Mint oil

Natalie Portman struggled to cry on demand when she started filming. One scene, where she finds her family dead, required her to cry, but she couldn’t produce any tears. The director sprayed mint oil into her eyes. It hurt so much, she cried instantly. In future, whenever she was required to cry, she would do it instantly to avoid having more mint oil squirted into her eyes.

7) Natalie Portman’s parents arranged a strict smoking contract

Very concerned about the smoking scenes in the film, because their daughter was only 11-12 whilst working on the movie, Natalie Portman’s parents created a strict contract with the director. There could be no more than 5 smoking scenes, she could never be seen to inhale or exhale the smoke, and her character must quit before the end of the movie.

8) Wayne’s World

During one controversial scene, Mathilda dresses up as Marilyn Monroe. The actress later admitted that she’d never seen a film starring Marilyn Monroe at that point in her life. Rather, she was inspired by as similar scene in Wayne’s World.

9) Leon was filler for The Fifth Element

Director Luc Besson was all geared up to make The Fifth Element in 1994. However, the film was delayed due to Bruce Willis’ busy schedule. Instead of dismissing his production team, and so that he didn’t lose his creative momentum, Besson wrote Leon. It took 1 month to write and 3 months to film.

10) Leon the Professional was based on Victor the Cleaner

The film was inspired by a character in Luc Besson’s former movie, Nikita. A character called Victor the Cleaner – who is also played by Jean Reno – arrives to clean up after a failed assassination mission. Besson realised the character’s potential was nowhere near fully explored in Nikita, and he deserved his own movie. Leon’s working title was ‘The Cleaner.’

11) Colombiana was the sequel that never happened

Luc Besson wrote a sequel script for Leon, which followed Mathilda when she was older. He was waiting for Natalie Portman to age before making the movie. However, he left the Gaumont Film Company to start his own studio. The Gaumont Film Company owned the rights to Leon, and wouldn’t hand them over to Besson. Besson used his idea for the sequel to create the movie Colombiana instead, which starred Zoe Saldana as a female assassin whose parents were murdered in front of her as a child.

There you have it – 11 pieces of Leon: The Professional trivia!

Leon The Professional trailer

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