‘The Lady’: Luc Besson’s film about Myanmar’s Suu Kyi was risky business


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Making ‘The Lady,’ the biopic about political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, was risky business for French director Luc Besson and his crew.

The movie, which stars Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh as Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis as her steadfast British academic husband, was mainly shot in Thailand. Many of the secondary characters and extras who appear are nonprofessional actors and citizens of the country formerly known as Burma, whom Besson recruited from a refugee camp in Thailand.


Myanmar’s military government is one of the world’s most secretive and oppressive, keeping a tight grip on domestic and foreign media. But, in order to give his film greater authenticity, Besson urgently wanted to shoot some images inside Myanmar. He did so with the help of anonymous, uncredited camera operators who put themselves in substantial personal danger and later smuggled the footage out.

In an Envelope Screening Series panel discussion last week with Yeoh and Thewlis, Besson discussed the challenges of filming in a closed society.


‘The Lady’: Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh on Myanmar’s Suu Kyi

Screenwriter Kamen is taken with director Besson

-- Reed Johnson

David Thewlis at the premiere of ‘The Lady’ at the AFI film festival last week. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images