Directed by Luc Besson, 1994’s Leon (also known as The Professional) follows a lone hitman who unexpectedly finds himself looking after a young girl when her family are murdered by a corrupt DEA Agent. Based on this description, it may sound like a fairly conventional action thriller, but Leon breaks with convention in some very significant ways, which resulted both in widespread acclaim and enduring controversy.
Join us now as we revisit Leon, with some facts you might not have known about the film.
20. It was Natalie Portman’s first movie
Today, Leon is best remembered as the film that launched the career of Natalie Portman. Aged just 12 at the time the movie was shot, Portman had been a theatre school student and an understudy on Broadway before she auditioned for the key role of Mathilda in the first English language production from French writer-director Luc Besson.
Leon was Portman’s very first acting role, even though the film’s credits do not declare ‘introducing Natalie Portman’ as often occurs when an actor makes their first appearance in a main role. Portman’s performance astonished audiences, and the young actress soon found herself highly in demand. However, Portman was discerning in the roles she chose, allowing herself time to complete her education while taking on occasional acting jobs.
19. Supporting actor Keith A Glascoe later became a firefighter – and died on 9/11
One Leon actor whose name you might not remember off-hand is Keith A Glascoe. Aged 31 at the time, Glascoe co-stars in Leon as Benny, a physically imposing member of Stansfield’s villainous crew. Leon proved to be the biggest movie Glascoe ever made; outside of his acting career and playing with the New York Jets football team, Glascoe was also a New York firefighter.
Serving with Ladder 21 of the New York City Fire Department, Glascoe was one among the many firefighters who were called out as part of the rescue efforts following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Tragically, Glascoe would be one of the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives on that dark day in the city’s history.