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,
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
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
"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
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
"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,"
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
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
"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
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 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
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
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"
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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