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Tackling Stunts And Parkour
Filmmakers Go Right to the Source

From fantastic parkour displays of gravity- and death-defying leaps and acrobatics to outrageous ostrich races to medieval Near Eastern battles on a grand scale, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” gave its stunt coordinators an epic canvas. The daring team was comprised of first-unit stunt coordinator George Aguilar, second-unit stunt coordinator Greg Powell, Morocco co–stunt coordinator Stephen Pope, co–fight coordinators Thomas Dupont and Ben Cooke, and park our choreographer David Belle. For the actors, preparation began several weeks before the cameras rolled, with rigorous training programs designed to whip them in shape and get them on horseback. Jake Gyllenhaal was already in prime physical condition as an avid runner, cyclist and all-around athlete.

"There's no reason to do a movie like this if you can't do the stunts,” says Gyllenhaal. "It was all about functional fitness, being able to do everything that was asked of me. So I got into the best shape I could, with a whole lot of running, parkour training, circuit-training and horseback-riding.”

Along with the other cast members, Gyllenhaal did extensive training with horses under the tutelage of Ricardo Cruz Moral, one of Spain's top equestrians, at his ranch outside of Madrid. For Gemma Arterton, it was a revelation. "I'd never ridden a horse in my life, so I was sent away with the others on a kind of horse-riding boot camp before we started the film. It was brilliant, and now horseback-riding is one of my hobbies. One of the stunts in the film that I do myself is when I'm swept onto a horse as it's coming towards me, and I was really proud of that.”

Thomas Dupont, whose credits include all three "Pirates of the Caribbean” films, served on "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” as co–fight coordinator, with Ben Cooke. He also portrayed the lethal Hassad, a Hassansin who fights with two blade-tipped whips. Dupont was charged with shooting a big action scene at an elevation of 8,200 feet. "As far as the altitude was concerned, the hardest part was the sustained fighting. We had to do a lot of things at once for up to a minute at a time. Now, that may not seem like a long time, but if you're performing at full energy, with strikes, running and jumping, that tends to wind you. And if you're already up 8,000 feet and the oxygen is scarce, it really takes its toll.”

Filmmakers incorporated one aspect of Jordan Mechner's creation that promises to set "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” apart. "In the video game, the prince can run up walls and has other skills which are based on parkour,” explains director Mike Newell. "Parkour started in the suburbs of Paris, where the kids were so bored that they started to use what was available to them as some kind of test. I watched documentaries about them and saw that they really do walk up walls and leap from rooftop to rooftop. They are extraordinary athletes. So we brought some of the great world experts of parkour to teach us what to do and how to make it look good.”

"We decided to go right to the source,” says Bruckheimer. "We wanted the best of the best, and that's David Belle.”

Belle is a young legend and the originator of parkour. ”This is the kind of film that makes me wish I was in the movie industry,” says Belle. "When you watch this type of movie, it's so magnificent that you want to be a part of the scene. And all of a sudden, I find that I am. It's like a child's dream come true.”

In French, parkour is also known as "l'art du déplacement,” or the art of movement. And indeed, to its practitioners and those who observe the astounding feats of traceurs—practitioners of parkour—it is nothing less than wondrous. The action of "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” incorporates both parkour and i

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