Admired in the U. S. as an ersatz French Steven Spielberg and reviled by his home country's critical elite as the man who ruined Franco cinema, writer-director-producer Luc Besson was inarguably one of the most commercially successful and prolific filmmakers ever to emerge from Europe. After establishing the slick, visual aesthetic known as "Cinéma du look" with early efforts like "Subway" (1985), "The Big Blue" (1988) and "La Femme Nikita" (1990), Besson officially crossed over to Hollywood with the films "The Professional" (1994) and "The Fifth Element" (1997). Following the disappointment of his historical epic "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" (1999), he returned - usually as a writer-producer - to stories featuring hard luck heroes and spectacular chase sequences in genre movies like "Kiss of the Dragon" (2001), "The Transporter" (2002) and "Unleashed" (2005). Amongst the numerous writing and producing projects, Besson occasionally directed more personal films, among them the low-budget fantasy-romance "Angel-A" (2005) and the family adventure "Arthur and the Invisibles" (2006), based on a series of books authored by Besson himself. Even as he neared the 30-year mark in his career, Besson continued to rack up impressive writer-producer credits on such international smash hits as "Taken" (2008). A self professed purveyor of populist entertainment, Besson's strongest response to his detractors was his lengthy career - one that allowed him the freedom to produce precisely the films he wanted to make.