Considered the French equivalent of Steven Spielberg, filmmaker Luc Besson has a reputation for creating fast-paced, ultra-stylish, and hugely budgeted films with mass appeal. The son of two scuba instructors, he was born in Paris on March 18, 1959, and spent most of his youth following his parents on the club Med circuit between Greece and Yugoslavia. Like his parents, Besson was an avid diver. At the age of ten, he swam with a wild dolphin while his parents were on a dive. The experience so moved him that he decided to devote his life to observing and understanding the sea mammals by becoming a marine biologist. Living in such close harmony with the ocean had a profound effect on Besson; the idea for his film The Big Blue was born after an Italian filmmaker showed him footage of world champion free diver Jacques Mayol descending 92 meters on one breath of air. Before it became a screenplay, the film was a story Besson titled Le Petit Siren.
Besson's dreams of becoming a marine biologist were dashed at the age of 17 after an accident that rendered him unable to dive. Following his recovery, he moved to Paris to finish school. While readjusting to city life, Besson discovered television and the cinema. They soon replaced his passion for the sea, and he decided to pursue a filmmaking career; after dropping out of school, he began seeing nearly a dozen films per week. He also began toying with the possibilities of Super-8 film. At 19, Besson went to Hollywood and spent three years working on and learning about American films. The influence of the experience led one critic to claim that Besson's films are really just American films made in France.