The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

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  • Directed By: Luc Besson
  • Written By: Andrew Birkin, Luc Besson
  • Release Date: November 12, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: Sony
  • Cast: Milla Jovovich, Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich

Box Office Info:
Budget: $63 million Financed by: Gaumont
Domestic Gross: $14,276,317 Overseas Gross: $52,700,000

Luc Besson was attached as the producer of a Joan Of Arc project, which was to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who had been gathering research for nearly a decade.  The Bigelow Joan Of Arc pic (Company of Angels) was in development at FOX and then moved over to Morgan Creek, with both Sinead O’Connor & Drew Barrymore at one point tapped to play the lead.  In 1996, as the project was moving forward with negotiations with Claire Danes for the lead, Besson demanded that his then wife Milla Jovovich be given the part and Bigelow refused.  Besson withdrew his support of the project and it went into turnaround.

Besson then allegedly stole Bigelow’s research and began his own Joan Of Arc project, which became the major commercial failure The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.  Bigelow sued Besson and in 2000 he settled with her under confidential terms.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc was set up at Gaumont, which had backed all of Besson’s projects since Subway (1985).  Besson, Gaumont and Jovovich were fresh off the box office smash The Fifth Element (1997), which was at the time the most expensive and successful French production at the global box office.  The budget for The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc was a pricey $63 million, fully financed by Gaumont and they landed a huge international distribution deal with Sony at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival — which purchased worldwide rights outside of France.   Terms of the pre-sold rights package to Sony were not disclosed.

Gaumont handled the release in France and it disappointed with 2,967,029 tickets sold (about $17.6M).

Sony dated The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc for November 12 and it bowed against Pokémon: The First Movie, Dogma, Anywhere But Here and Light it Up.  Reviews were mixed, but Milla Jovovich’s embarrassing performance was almost universally panned.  The picture was dead on arrival with $6,360,968 — placing #4 for the weekend led by Pokémon.  It plummeted 64.2% to $2,275,613 in its second frame and flamed out with just $14,276,317.

The overseas release pulled in $52.7M.  The Sony markets (including US) saw $49.3M in receipts — which would return about $27.1M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, leaving much of the P&A expenses at a loss and their expensive acquisition cost in the red.

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