Friday, February 5, 2010

David Belle: District 13: Ultimatum

Some people choose the easiest path through life; David Belle prefers to take the most interesting. As the world's premier exponent of parkour, a physical discipline of movement that's as much a philosophy as it is a sport, Belle has carved a career out of taking the unconventional route.

The freeform method of getting around is based on techniques developed at the turn of the last century by a French navel officer called Georges Hébert. Belle's father picked up the baton laid down by Hébert, building upon his techniques while serving in the French military. The passion for the physical discipline-cum-artform was then passed down from father to son. The latter helped brand l'art du déplacement (or art of movement) with its popular name, bringing "parkour" to the awareness of the mainstream through gravity defying appearances on TV and film. Thrusting parkour further into the popular psyche, Belle's stunts have also been showcased on TV commercials for companies such as Nike, Vittel and the BBC that have since gone viral throughout the net.

In 2004 Belle starred in District 13, a French language action movie co-written and co-produced by Luc Besson (who was responsible for the 1997 sci-fi classic The Fifth Element). District 13 was set in the near future in a fictionalized dystopian suburb of Paris, and was the first major film to feature parkour-inspired action sequences. Belle reprised his role as the gang-busting Leïto in a sequel, District 13: Ultimatum, which was released in Europe last year. Featuring spectacular rooftop chase sequences that should thrill action fans, the film is finally getting a North American theatrical release on Friday, February 5.

I called Belle up at his home in Corbeil-Essonnes, in the southern suburbs of Paris to find out more. With the help of a translator, we spoke about the new movie, the stunts it features, the origins of parkour and where it's taking him now.

Read my exclusive interview with David Belle at

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