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BRICK MANSIONS

About The Production
In a dystopian Detroit, abandoned homes from better times house the city's most dangerous criminals. These are the grim, apocalyptic housing projects known as Brick Mansions. Unable to control the rampant crime, the authorities have walled Brick Mansions in, supposedly to protect the rest of the city from its lawless, violent, degenerate inhabitants.

In Brick Mansions, only the strong survive. In this dog-eat-dog society, the ruthless, urbane, and deadly drug kingpin Tremaine, played by RZA, is at the top of the foodchain. Undercover cop Damien Collier, played by Paul Walker, is determined to bring Tremaine to justice for killing his father years prior. Now, more than ever, the line between justice and revenge is razor thin. For Damien, every day is a fight against corruption and although it isn't apparent at first, he finds an unlikely ally in one of the last good souls of Brick Mansions, Lino, played by David Belle. Stuck in the unpredictable and dangerous concrete jungle of Brick Mansions, Lino battles everyday to live an honest life. A vigilante in his own right, he fights for a better overall community.

Upon first meeting, their differences get the better of them and the thought of being allies seems nearly impossible. That is until Damien and Lino realize they share a mutual enemy: Tremaine.

The duo comes from completely different worlds, whose paths never should have crossed. But when Tremaine kidnaps Lino's girlfriend, it sets in motion a chain of adrenaline-spiking events forcing the two to work together. Damien reluctantly accepts the help of the fearless, acrobatic ex-convict, and together attempt to stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city. In the process, they learn that they have more in common than they initially realized. A grudging respect for one another leads to friendship as they begin to realize that what happens inside and outside of Brick Mansions is not what it seems.

Brick Mansions, a film by Camille Delamarre (Last Call, short film; editor of Taken 2 & 3; Colombiana). Relativity Media and Europacorp present a Europacorp-Transfilm International Inc. co-production, a French-Canadian co-production with participation of Canal + DB and Cine +. Paul Walker (Fast & Furious franchise), David Belle (District B13) and RZA (G.I. Joe Retaliation) star in Brick Mansions. Gouchy Boy (Maximum Conviction, Cosmopolis), Catalina Denis (Taxi 4, Le Mac), Carlo Rota (The Boondock Saints) also star. Costume designer is Julia Patkos (Another House, Wetlands, Taxidermia). Production designer is Jean A. Carriere (The Tall Man, Territories). Director of is photography Cristophe Collette (Western Confidential). Editors are Carlo Rizzo (Hitman, Transporter 3), Arthur Tarnowski (Deadfall). Music is by Trevor Morris (Immortals). Executive producers are Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter), Tucker Tooley (The Fighter), Matt Alvarez (Barbershop). Executive producers are Romuald Drault (Taken), Ginette Guillard (Erased, Upside Down), Henri Deneubourg (Colombiana). Produced by Claude Leger (Upside Down), Jonathan Vanger (Upside Down). Based on the screenplay "Banlieue 13," written by Luc Besson (3 Days to Kill, Taken franchise, The Fifth Element) and Bibi Naceri (Je Te Tiens, Tu Me Tiens short film; District B 13 as an actor) . Screenplay is by Luc Besson. Directed by Camille Delamarre.

Brick Mansions began in France, with the popular films District B-13 and District 13: Ultimatum. The amazing Parkour stunts set them apart from most action films, particularly since one of the discipline's co-founders, David Belle, starred in the films. Parkour, or the art of moving through an environment as swiftly and efficiently as possible using only the human body to overcome obstacles, is much a mind game as a series of physical feats. This concept proved to be an exciting and compelling combination for Luc Besson, who wrote and produced both District B-13 and District 13: Ultimatum and has had incredible success with edge-of-your-seat action films, such as Taken and The Transporter. When it came time for the English retelling of the story, Besson reached out to Camille Delamarre.

Delamarre, who began his career as an editor and makes his motion picture debut as a director with Brick Mansions, was a fan of the original films and notes that their appeal was global.

"District B-13 and District 13: Ultimatum were very successful worldwide. I've talked to many people about them, whether in the US, Canada or France, the films received great feedback and were very popular. So it's no surprise that we would make an American adaptation," Delamarre notes.

Delamarre worked closely with Besson in the nascent stages of the film's development and greatly appreciated the veteran filmmaker's trust in him and guidance.

"It was a pleasure to work with Luc. I have so much respect for him and learned so much. We spent two days in pre-production going through the script. He told me his vision for the film when he wrote it and what he expected. We further developed certain aspects of the story and he was very encouraging of my ideas. It was an incredible opportunity to work so closely with him," recalls Delamarre.

In fact, it was a relationship that continued throughout production. Having Besson involved with the film through EuropaCorp greatly reassured Delamarre as this was his first time behind the camera. "He was incredibly supportive throughout, which was like a magic potion for me. On the production side, he was always there to answer any question I might have or solve any problem," he adds.

Of course, the critical connection between the American and French films is Parkour star David Belle, who reprises his role in a new way, not to mention that Brick Mansions marks his first English language film. Like many fans, Delamarre was particularly fascinated by the Parkour sequences and interested in applying this approach and philosophy to the mean streets of this futuristic American Setting.

"I thought it was intriguing that Parkour takes place in an urban setting so we tried to use that to our advantage. The visual mix of stunts and physical performance in a run down, devastated urban wasteland made of concrete and decay was a really interesting combination. David really helped me understand what Parkour was and how to use it. He told me its history, how it came about, his family's relationship to it and the influence of his dad. He showed me many, many videos. It is very impressive, a true spectacle done without special effects or wires, performed by nonprofessionals who are unafraid to jump from one roof to another. It was clear that on top of being astonishing visually and physically, Parkour is a really authentic discipline and that's what we tried to honor and show in the film. These are not superhero stunts. We tried to reflect the initial premise of Parkour, which is to perform everything for real," Delamarre says.

The banter between the Lino and Damien characters was offbeat and funny, which also appealed to Delamarre. The story's singular mix of action and humor is what separates it from other action films. The Parkour acrobatics coupled with hard-hitting urban visuals, a pulsing, addictive score and offbeat, character-driven comedy makes for a unique genre-tweaking, entertaining and stylized riff on the buddy-action movie. Luc Besson is no strange to the buddy-action film as he has had similar success with The Fifth Element.

In Brick Mansions, Belle, joined by Paul Walker as his unlikely partner, face off against the vicious drug lord, Tremaine, played by the multi-talented RZA. The three, each with their own unique background, are very different actors and each brought something fresh to their character.

"The challenge I saw right away in preparing this film was to work with these three completely different actors. Paul Walker came from Hollywood cinema, David Belle's background was Parkour and stunts - plus he is French. RZA is a director as well as a well-known and talented musician and rapper. They each had their own idiosyncratic approach and work method. To make those different backgrounds mesh was initially a challenge, especially since we didn't have a lot of prep time - they met right before the first day of the shoot. But they were all super committed to the project and to each other and clicked quickly. When we shot the last scene of the movie, which was in the first week of principal photography, I thought they had real chemistry, personality and charm," Delamarre says.

Belle adds that his American counterparts made his work on the film much easier.

"It sometimes takes me a while to get into a film that I am working on and this was a new thing for me, to speak in English, to work with American actors. But they were really cool with me, they made me feel at ease, so I was able to express myself the way I wanted," Belle explains.

While he was thrilled to join the production, initially Belle was not entirely prepared for it. "I had to train a lot because I hadn't done any Parkour for a while. I was in a quieter period of my life where I thought, I've done enough of that! So when Luc (Besson) called me about the film, I said, 'Wow. I have to lose 20 pounds, learn English, come up with the choreography ... but it was worth it," Belle says.

Belle notes that Paul Walker, who he shared the majority of his scenes and stunts with helped ease the transition. "In other movies, I felt more confined. But Paul helped me to relax, to let go, it was a much nicer atmosphere," Belle says.

Walker, who plays the undercover cop to Belle's crusader Lino, explains that although he and Belle were born continents apart, he felt a real bond and kinship to him. The two actors learned a lot from each other during production and the result was undeniable chemistry on screen.

"If David had been born in Southern California, I would have grown up skating and surfing with him. I definitely would have seen him at the skate parks. He felt like a real Southern California boy. He has a real laid back, cool demeanor - he doesn't take himself seriously, but he takes his job very, very seriously. He was really hard on himself, which I admired and identified with. And he took a lot of physical abuse on this movie, in terms of the stunts. What he did with the Parkour was amazing and I did what I could to keep up," Walker says.

Walker credits his nephew with introducing him to Belle and the original film and once he saw Belle's exploits, he was mesmerized.

"Growing up in Southern California, we skated a lot and took a lot of beatings in those skate parks. We considered ourselves pretty tough guys - like a lot of those bank up sports, it required a certain degree of athleticism. My nephew told me to check out 'B-13.' Watching David run around, doing all that crazy stuff on rooftops, breaking through windows and flips like those rodeo guys - he was incredible. After that, we spent about two hours on YouTube watching Parkour. When they asked me to do the movie and told me that David Belle was coming back, that was it. To hang out with him and soak up a little of his knowledge and what he does was a real treat," Walker says.

In Walker, Belle had a talented and enthusiastic student who became proficient in front flips and standing back flips. "I ultimately learned how to do a dive roll from eight feet," Walker said proudly.

Walker trained for the film before and during production, even tearing a meniscus along the way. "I heal pretty quickly. David and I tried throughout the film to try to find ways to make it more visually dynamic and funny, it was a great collaboration," he says. "But there's no way I could do what he does, his ability is unbelievable. I was privileged to be around him to watch him work," Walker says. Walker adds that the movie was a blast to work on.

"Damien has a score to settle but he also just wants to play - he likes girls and cars, he's a cool guy. I think we were similar in that we like having fun, kicking some ass and those were some of the reasons I wanted to do this. I mean, I got to jump off buildings and do fun guy stuff!" Walker says.

Walker adds that having a director with an editorial background was also a new experience for him and ultimately an asset. "Having a director who knows the editing game as well as Camille does was definitely a plus. It was a little unusual for me at first because I'm used to working from the inside out and there were moments where I could see his mind working from the outside in - he was really confident in his takes because he knew how he could make it work in post. To watch his mind working that way was fun, there was a real flow and synergy," Walker says.

Having been a fan of RZA's before production, Walker was elated to work with him. "RZA is cool as shit. I mean, I grew up on his music and he is even cooler in person. He's an incredibly deep thinker, humble and honest - there is no front with him," Walker says.

RZA was a fan of both Walker and Belle and had seen the original films. "David was a pioneer in his own way, coming from France and taking Parkour and really putting it on a world stage. What I loved about working with him was that we would be doing a scene and it would come time for a stunt, it was not a stuntman standing in front of you, it was David. I was very impressed by that. We all melded really well. In fact, one day, Paul and I were talking about a scene we had to do and because I'm the villain of the movie, we had to deliberately decide not to be so cool with each other in between takes because the scene was all about aggression between the two characters. So we kept our distance that day, but it was definitely not our natural instinct," RZA says.

Even though RZA is the antithesis of his character, Tremaine, he felt he was able to understand what made him tick and what drove him to be a leader in the unfortunate environment that he was placed. "Tremaine is different than me in that he is materialistic, into cars and things like that, and I am definitely not into that. I am not impulsive, crazy and violent like he is but what I can agree with about him is that sometimes, you have to be a leader of your community," explains RZA. "I've been a leader of men, in my capacity as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. In his case, because of his environment, he's forced to live a negative life but there's a positive undertone about him that he is looking to find."

Putting aside their differences, one passion that both RZA and Tremaine share is food. "The character was written as a guy who likes to cook and uses his mother recipes. People may not know this about me but I love to cook too. So that was cool for me to be chopping up food while acting out the scenes, I felt at home and real comfortable doing it," RZA says.

Although it took him out of his comfort zone at first, RZA appreciated Delamarre's directing approach, which he likens to a stage play. "There is a scene where Damien and Lino are brought back to Tremaine and they are essentially captured. We shot this sequence which was about five pages all the way through, over and over. That was very challenging for me because I am used to doing things bit by bit. This was more like theater, a real performance. He just kept going! It took a lot of energy and after about five or six takes, a kind of magic started happening, in terms of our spirit. For a minute, I felt like I was no longer me but transformed into the world of Brick Mansions. I was not prepared for that and it was a good tactic," RZA says.

Rounding out the cast is Catalina Denis as Lola, Lino's resolute girlfriend who is determined to rise above the chaos of Brick Mansions. Although she lives in France and has established her career there, Denis says it is her Columbian upbringing that gave her some insight into Lola. "Lola is a girl who used to live in Brick Mansions and saw everything that was happening there, how it was deteriorating and she just didn't want to be a part of that. She wanted more out of the world and her life. Her goal was to go to law school and maybe one day return to help people. Of course as soon as she does get out, she gets dragged back in. She's a very strong person who has been through a lot and seen a lot of crazy things. I'm Colombian, I come from a country where you also see a lot of really bad things and I used that a lot. I know what it feels like to just want to get out, to do anything to leave, to change your life around. And she's very smart, she knows how to adapt to any situation without compromising herself."

Denis appreciated that the tone and characters of Brick Mansions were not black and white but rather shifting shades of gray. "In most movies, you have good guys and bad guys but in 'Brick Mansions,' the good ones are not quite as good as they seem and the bad ones are not as bad as you may think, which is what happens in life. I really liked that aspect of the script," Denis notes. Delamarre worked closely with all of his actors, in the short period of pre-production and throughout filming. Each relationship had a different and unique dynamic to it. In particular, the Lino-Damian relationship was a collaborative effort that evolved from the input of Delamarre, Belle and Walker.

"David Belle hadn't done as many films as Paul, especially in English. I had to reassure him and myself too, because it wasn't easy to work in English for either of us for so long. It was also a lot of work for him physically. He had to train to be in perfect shape for all the stunts. So for him, it was both acting and physical preparation. I met Paul very late, right before the shoot began, so our work was more intense in a shorter period of time. We exchanged ideas and adapted the dialogue to him. I think it is important not to impose lines on an actor unless he is comfortable with the dialogue, otherwise it doesn't sound natural. Working with both David and Paul, we developed a kind of humor that comes from the French-English language barrier they have," Delamarre says.

RZA approached the project with fresh and creative ideas for the character of Tremaine that would make him a more dynamic individual. Delamarre remembers that "besides being very structured, professional and precise, [RZA] had a lot of suggestions to add to the extraordinary character of Tremaine. While he is clearly the boss of Brick Mansions' gang and the way he looks and talks reflect that fact and also that he is very dangerous, he is also very educated and sophisticated. Those specifics were already in the script but he brought so much more to it. I had detailed ideas about the character done on mood boards to explain how I envisioned it but he really elevated everything, it was true teamwork."

When it came to casting the part of Lola, Luc Besson suggested Catalina Denis. They were looking for an actress that would be able to hold her own when face-to-face with the thugs of Brick Mansions.

Based on Catalina's original video screen test, she won the part almost immediately. "Catalina brought certain courage to the part. She is in very uncomfortable, terrifying positions throughout the movie and she never flinched. But most of all she had to face RZA in a fight and she was utterly convincing" says Delamarre.

Like almost all of the rest of the cast, Catalina jumped at the opportunity to do her own stunts. Delamarre recalls that "there was no persuading her otherwise, which I found very brave. She came out of it tired and sore but she did it. She should be very proud of her performance."

Whenever possible, all of the actors performed their own stunts, not just to follow Belle's lead but to keep the action and pacing as genuine, heart-pounding and visceral as possible. Several stunt teams contributed their expertise, from car stunts to shoot outs, all anchored by Belle's Parkour. Delamarre worked particularly closely with Stunt Coordinator Alex Cadieux who oversaw the elaborate fight scenes.

One of the toughest sequences took place on a rooftop, befitting the Parkour sensibility and choreography. "The hardest fight David and Paul had to do was definitely the roof sequence at the end of the movie when they disagree about how to stop the bomb from exploding. First of all it was 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). It was super hot. And the surface was covered in gravel but the guys were dressed in a tank top and a t-shirt. So pretty hard to hide pads under that. David and Paul had to throw themselves everywhere, take after take, and I know they were scratched and bruised and banged up but they were real troopers. It took two and a half days to complete but I think the end result was fantastic," Cadieux says.

This scene even challenged the great Parkour expert David Belle, himself. But from that challenge, he says, came authenticity.

"It was very, very hot and we fell a lot on that gravel. It was very tiring and we had to be extra careful. Because we both wanted it to be very realistic and our first tendency was to really go for it. We had to establish boundaries so there was a real push-pull between those two inclinations. That's why it was such a powerful scene, it was very realistic," Belle says.

Of course, spectacular stunts cannot take the place of an authentic performance. Delamarre is fan of improvisation on many levels. "Once you begin setting your camera on an actor, sometimes you will see a better shot and you have to leave yourself room for that, to trust that maybe the alternate version might be better. The same goes for the actors - it's not good to restrain them. If they have a suggestion or something more to add to a take, it often is a good surprise. It's always good to have that - it gives you more choices in the edit room," Delamarre says.

Brick Mansions shot on location in Canada. In order to capture the gritty, urban, almost apocalyptic decay that is Brick Mansions, Delamarre relied on several techniques, some old, some new, abetted by his cinematographer Christophe Collette, who, like Delamarre, makes his motion picture debut.

To achieve the feeling that the audience is in the center of the action, Delamarre used some innovating film equipment that got the camera as close to the action as possible. "We used new devices, like drones or, as they call them in Canada, 'unmanned aerial vehicles.' It's similar to a helicopter shot but allows you to get closer to the subject. So when you're filming a chase scene, for instance, you can follow very closely and go into confined spaces where a helicopter couldn't go," Delamarre says.

He also played with the film's speed to highlight the action by slowing it down to a split-second halt. "I tried to use slow motion often in the film. I like to pause time to have a moment where the music stops and you transcend a stunt or a punch." Delamarre explains.

Delamarre has high hopes for the film, not just because it is his first effort as a director but because he believes Brick Mansions puts a new spin on the action genre. "It's unique but delivers for people who love action films. It has everything - car chases, gunfights, suspense, plot-twists, excitement but also spectacle Parkour, emotion and comedy. I think it is a real shot of adrenalin that will appeal to fans of this genre."

The film drops audiences right into the middle of this concrete jungle as they follow Damien and Lino on a high octane mission to avenge Damien's father, save Lola and reclaim Brick Mansions.

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