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PAUL BLART: MALL COP

The Extreme Team Of Villains
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. Or maybe you don't: in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Santa's Reindeer are in fact skateboarders, BMX riders, and free runners – and, not to mention, thieves, orchestrating a scheme to steal consumers' credit card info on the busiest shopping day of the year.

To play the roles, the filmmakers tapped some of the biggest stars from the world of extreme sports. The team consists of six action sports stars in three distinct fields who are at the top of their game. Mike Vallely (aka Mike V) and Jason Ellis are world renowned skateboarders. Mike Escamilla (aka Rooftop) and Rick Thorne are record-holding BMX bikers. Victor Lopez (a champion in Vienna) and Natascha Hopkins round out the team as free runners.

"It was appropriate casting,” says Mike V, "because I am a badass skateboarder. They got that right.”

Thorne explains how he got the gig. "I just went in and acted like I had a gun, pointed my finger at the director and said, ‘I'm taking over the mall. Give me the role, kid.'”

Although all of the action sports stars tapped as Reindeer for the film had been in other movies, none of them ever had a real role to play, a real character to bring to life. Previously, when any of them appeared on screen, it was to do stunts or in a documentary or a cameo as themselves. So, each of them relished the opportunity to test their chops acting with the big boys.

"This isn't my first job doing both stunt work and acting, but it is definitely my favorite. This is the most fun I've ever had on a set,” says Hopkins, a free runner, gymnast, and stuntwoman specializing in wire work and falls.

Each of the six had a part to play, but each also wanted to be sure that he out-extremed the other five. "You want to do the sickest stuff and go bananas,” Thorne explains, "and you want everyone to know what you can do.”

"It's all about grinding, jumping, flying through the air,” Escamilla adds. "It's all real.”

Interestingly, life on the set was challenging for the six sports stars – their friends would change from day to day. "Typically, the actors eat with the actors and the stunt guys hang out with the stunt guys. No one wants to hang out together,” Escamilla states. "The stunt coordinator comes to me and says, ‘Are you a stunt man or a thespian today?' It was a big joke.”

Most viewers will be familiar with skateboarding and BMX, but the film may be many viewers' introduction to the sport of free running. "Free running is all about redefining your environment,” Victor Lopez says. "It's about going as fast as you can, climbing, jumping, flipping – no special equipment.”

"It's transitioning through your environment with style,” Hopkins clarifies, "with flavor.”

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