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This Is What The Diva From The Fifth Element Looks Like In Real Life

Director Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" has it all. Set in the 23rd century, the 1997 summer blockbuster features an intriguing storyline about an ex-Special Forces major and current cab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) who, alongside the orange-haired humanoid Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) embarks on a mission to obtain stones needed to save Earth from certain doom. It touts strong performances from its incredible cast (which includes Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Tommy Lister Jr., Brion James, Luke Perry, Chris Tucker, and more); intense fight scenes, and great comedic lines. Basically, "The Fifth Element" has everything but a sequel

Perhaps the most iconic scene of the film, though, is the one centered around the alien Diva Plavalaguna's operatic performance. Singing a unique arrangement of "Il dolce suono" from the opera "Lucia di Lammermoor," performed by Inva Mula in the movie, the blue-skinned Diva enraptures not only the scene's fictional audience, but also the real-life audience watching "The Fifth Element." From the vocals to the visuals floating around the Diva to the way she herself looks, it's hard not to be captivated by the sequence.

However, looking back, a big question occurs: Who was the actual performer there — beneath the unforgettable blue makeup, the tentacles sprouting from her head, and the intricate black neckpiece and matching wristbands? Her name is Maïwenn Le Besco, who professionally as simply Maïwenn. Here's what she looks like — and what she does — in real life.

Maïwenn's life and career pre-The Fifth Element

Before she donned the blue face-and-body paint and elaborate alien costume to play the Diva Plavalaguna in "The Fifth Element," Maïwenn had been working as an actress for several years. The actress, born in Les Lilas, France in 1976, appeared in her first credited role when she was just 5 years old — playing a character called Prune in the 1981 film "L'année prochaine... si tout va bien" ("Next Year If All Goes Well" in English). Maïwenn then played the Kid in director Jean Becker's award-winning 1983 drama "One Deadly Summer," aka "L'Été meurtrier," which was a big hit in France at the time.

From there, Maïwenn appeared in a number of French films (including 1986's "State of Grace," aka "L'État de Grace") from 1983 to 1992. "The Fifth Element" director Luc Besson actually began a relationship with Maïwenn during this time, when she was just 15 years old and he was in his early 30s; per the Washington Post, Maïwenn and Besson met when she was only 12. Four years later, on January 3, 1993, Maïwenn gave birth to their daughter, Shanna Besson.

In 1994, Maïwenn portrayed "the Blond Babe" in Besson's film "Léon: The Professional," starring Jean Reno as the titular French assassin and Natalie Portman as 12-year-old Mathilda Lando, whom Léon hesitantly takes in after her family is murdered. Maïwenn's call girl character isn't in "Léon: The Professional" for very long: She appears for a brief moment near the beginning of the movie.

How Maïwenn came to play the Diva Plavalaguna in The Fifth Element

Maïwenn was only 21 years old when "The Fifth Element" hit theaters in May 1997. At the time, she was married to Luc Besson, who asked his wife to play the part of the Diva Plavalaguna. Surprisingly enough, Maïwenn initially declined (via an interview now on YouTube), as she believed that working together wouldn't be in the best interest of their marriage. Maïwenn explained that she gave Besson an ultimatum: Either they're married and they don't work together, or they get divorced and she'd play the Diva. "He said, 'I think I prefer to be with you,'" Maïwenn said with a smile.

In the same interview, Maïwenn explained that Besson accepted the rejection and cast a German model in the role. However, the model never showed up for a scheduled costume fitting and makeup test in London, and no one could reach her or her agent. Seeing Besson's stress, Maïwenn offered to step in, and she began filming "The Fifth Element" two days later.

It seems that Maïwenn's worries about how working together might impact her and her husband's marriage were well-founded. She and Besson ultimately ended their marriage while filming "The Fifth Element" — a time in which Besson had left Maïwenn for Milla Jovovich, who played Leeloo in the film (via Voici). Besson and Jovovich married in 1997, later divorcing in 1999 after famously appearing in the title role of his film "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc."

These days, Maïwenn is an actress, writer, director, producer, and mother

In positive news, Maïwenn's career has soared since playing the Diva. From 1997 to 2020, she has notched over 20 roles in film and television. Maïwenn's appeared in short films like "Coquillettes" and "8 rue Charlot"; the TV movie L'oiseau rare"; various films including "High Tension," "Love Is the Perfect Crime," "The Price of Success," "All Inclusive," and "The Man in the Hat"; and series like "Nestor Burma" and "Caméra Café."

Maïwenn also began directing, writing, and producing in 2004. Her first project as a director was the 2004 short film "I'm an actrice," in which she played Isabelle. From there, she directed, produced, and starred in 2006's "Pardonnez-moi." She then directed and appeared in 2009's "All About Actresses." Maïwenn's third full-length feature "Polisse" — which she wrote, directed, and starred in — was nominated for 13 César Awards (the French Oscars), including Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Film (via IMDb). She received similar accolades for her next film, "Mon Roi." 

Maïwenn's most recent original project was "DNA," or "ADN" in French, which she directed, co-wrote with Mathieu Demy, and starred in as the character called Neige. It premiered in French cinemas on May 19, 2021 after debuting at the Deauville Film Festival in September 2020.

Beyond her professional career, Maïwenn is also mother to daughter Shanna Besson, who's now a photographer and actress, and son Diego, whom she had with her second husband Jean-Yves Le Fur.