How Daft Punk Made the Most Unexpected Sci-Fi Movie of the Century

For its 20th anniversary, Inverse spoke to Interstella 5555 editor Olivier Gajan.

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In May 2003, the Cannes Film Festival’s greatest honor (the coveted Palme d’Or) went to Elephant by Gus Van Sant. But that same year, a very different type of movie also made its debut at the event. And while science fiction doesn’t typically take home many awards at the French film festival, this one had an advantage: It was created by two of the biggest rock stars in France.

Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem debuted at Cannes two decades ago on May 18, 2003 before getting a global release on May 28. And the electronic music duo were there to celebrate, along with a few of their collaborators on this unique and unusual science fiction movie.

“We went to Cannes,” Interstella 5555 editor Olivier Gajan tells Inverse. “We were all together. All the crew. All the band, which was funny because it’s not really a movie. I mean, it’s a movie, but we were in Cannes just because they were so famous. It was nice to have Daft Punk in Cannes.”

For the uninitiated, Interstella 5555 is an animated science fiction movie that encompasses the entire length of Daft Punk’s (aka Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo) seminal second album, Discovery. Produced by Japanese studio Toei Animation, the 65-minute-long film tells the story of an alien rock band that gets kidnapped, brought to Earth, and forced to perform — along with the alien space pilot who saves them.

Despite having zero dialogue, there’s a surprisingly emotional story at the heart of Interstella 5555 thanks to a romance between the pilot (Shep) and the band’s bass player (Stella). According to Gajan, who’d already worked with Daft Punk on their music video for “Around the World,” this was baked into Discovery from the very start.

“The story was already in the record,” he says. “They had that in their mind at the beginning.”

Gajan’s job mostly consisted of lightly editing the video so that the animation matched the beat of the music — a detail that mattered a lot to Daft Punk, but which Toei Animation entirely ignored.

“When they did the music video in Japan they didn’t really give a sh*t about the beat,” Gajan says, “and Thomas [Bangalter] said, ‘I want that on that beat, blah, blah, blah.’ So I played with slow motion or I sped the video up just to fit the beat of the music.”

Gajan is the first to minimize his contributions to Interstella 5555, but there’s no denying that one of the reasons the movie works so well is because the music matches the action. It’s those little details that make this a sci-fi classic worth revisiting 20 years later.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt that the music still rocks, too.

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