The French director, best-known for his kick-ass action movies, has resumed filming on The Lady, his biopic of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Paris. But Besson is determined to keep filming under wraps because of the pic’s delicate political situation. Michelle Yeoh, who co-starred in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, stars as Suu Kyi, the reluctant politician who spent almost 15 years under house arrest in Burma until November. Besson and the producers are keeping quiet about the film because they don’t want to make Suu Kyi’s position any worse: the academic-turned-politician could still be re-arrested any moment. Still, it’s hard for Besson and his crew to keep secret filming in Oxford, England before Christmas after spending 6 weeks on location in Bangkok, Thailand. In fact, they were filming in Bangkok on the day of Suu Kyi’s release from prison.
The Lady (as Suu Kyi is called in Burma because the military junta was so determined to wipe Suu Kyi from people’s minds, they still aren’t allowed to use her real name there) focuses on the heartrending choice she had to make about whether to return to England and nurse her husband, played by David Thewlis, who was dying of cancer, or to carry on fighting for democracy in Burma. Burma is controlled by a military junta paranoid about her popular support. That’s why they first arrested her in 1989. She then spent most of the next 21 years as a prisoner in her own home despite winning an election.
Left Bank Pictures (The Queen, The Damned United) is the production company of British TV and film producer Andy Harries, and has spent 3 years developing The Lady. Harries’s wife, Rebecca Frayn – daughter of noted English playwright Michael Frayn — spent 18 months interviewing Suu Kyi’s relatives and friends for her screenplay. Harries knew that he wanted to cast Yeoh –whose other credits include Ang Lee’s martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — as Suu Kyi. It was Yeoh who took the project to Besson’s company EuropaCorp, which is fully financing. Actress Yeoh met Suu Kyi in Rangoon, although the opposition leader has not given the film her official blessing. Besson’s wife Virginie Besson-Silla is co-producing with Harries. UK distributor Entertainment will release The Lady in the UK next autumn. There is no U.S. distributor on board yet.