Interview with District B13 director Pierre Morel
(2006-08-09)An interview with the director of this movie based on an original idea by Luc Besson.
How does one prepare a film like DISTRICT B13?
There were several challenges. The technical challenge was to be able to create spectacular and relatively dangerous things, and come up with the right places to do them and film them. The two leading characters must always be highlighted while in the very heart of the action. Outside the action scenes, there were the comic ones as well. So we worked a lot! It was a script studded with action sequences, a real plot and genuine scenes, not just guys banging each other over the head for an hour and a half. We took a long time to cast the actors, stuntmen and fighters surrounding them. As soon as everything was fully defined, they started to train. For several weeks, I had them all rehearse, one after the other, so that things would take place as well as possible.
Was Cyril Raffaelli the director of the fight scenes?
He was his own choreographer. Cyril suggested various choreographies and highly different fight sequences to us, and we did our utmost to adapt them into the script. They were prepared far ahead of time. They were surrounded by stuntmen, genuine martial arts fighters, specialists in kung-fu, ultimate fighters and top-level boxers. In the small world of fighters, they all more or less know each other. Cyril has a special background: he started in circus school before moving on to martial arts. Only after that did he become first a professional stuntman, then an actor. So he brought to the film a large number of people from many different fields.
The great precision of the scenes is really striking. Is it important to be rigorous?
Given the blows they exchange, if they're improvised, they'd really hurt each other. So, each blow was calibrated to the very fraction of an inch, both for the jumps and David's Parkour. We wanted to make these actions as realistic as possible, and tried not to fall back on the usual stunts that have been already seen a hundred times over.
In all the action scenes, was there one which was the most impressive or delicate?
The casino scene was a truly great moment: a non-stop series of fights for a full three or four minutes. Result: thirty-give corpses on the ground! It was a highly complicated sequence for it to hold up and not look like some MTV video. It was especially long as, to shoot that scene, we took six full days.
The rapper, MC Jean Gab'1, has a small part, his first screen appearance. What was the mood like working with him?
He's an adorable fellow, bursting with kindness. We wanted him to play the part of a bad guy. Even he didn't have a stand-in, and the two or three blows he took, he really took!
Do you think it's really a new trend for action films when the stuntman turns actor?
It's more than just a trend. The audience needs true heroes, not just actors who pretend. Action films are less and less based on special effects. Sportsmen and stuntmen are gradually becoming real stars. The realistic side pleases more and more audiences out for extreme sensations. Young Europeans are rather fascinated by what can be seen in the Chinese, Thai and Korean schools, where guys play their real roles.
Does the expression "suburban film" suit you?
I don't know what it means. DISTRICT B13 is first and foremost a pure action film which takes place in a suburb, set a few years into the future. The initial screenplay pitch was a "political fiction" about what the suburbs might be in a few years if we don't change things and make the wrong decisions.
Was there an enormous amount of post-production work on DISTRICT B13?
There were things in the script that don't exist in real life: the walls, barbed wire, surrounding bunkers… everything that we don't see for real. And, as well, a little masking out of everything that concerned safety: a small number of cables, a few mattresses, a handful of nets… In fact, there wasn't much post-production at all.
At what moment was the French release date decided on?
Halfway through the shoot. We start to film as of April and were handed the release date in June. The trailer's have been screened in theaters since August 15th and the film's slated for French release on November 10th. During the Cannes Film Market, there were huge posters everywhere when we hadn't even been shooting for more than a week!
How would you sum up the shoot of DISTRICT B13?
It was a marathon. We knew it was going to be complex, as there were lots of action scenes. It was a rather long shoot but with such energy we didn't even notice the time pass.
Provided anc copyright by Magnolia Pictures