Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


May 6, 2007

He Lives to Run

Sébastien Foucan, the Frenchman responsible for the most-exhilarating moments of the latest James Bond film, expounds on his art of Freerunning.

Monya De

In the latest James Bond film, a blend of sport and art created by Frenchman Sébastien Foucan upstaged the MI6. The opening sequence of Casino Royale was its most gripping, featuring Daniel Craig's death-defying pursuit of Foucan as he leapt like a jaguar between buildings, danced across scaffolding, and consistently eluded the buff-but-less-agile 007, hundreds of feet in the air.

S├ębastien Foucan in 'Casino Royale'
"The art of Freerunning is about how to move with your environment. Respect your level and your rhythm, and your body. Freerunning is not about a show, it's about how to live."

S├ębastien Foucan in 'Casino Royale'

It was the ultimate showcase for Foucan, who practices Freerunning, the ironically distinguished-sounding sport of turning yourself into Spider-Man. The outdoor gymnastics of Freerunning morphed into a more aggressive cousin, Parkour, in the hands of Foucan's fellow Parisian David Belle. The difference lies in Parkour's aims for bigger, faster leaps, while Freerunning emphasizes artistic technique, which Foucan is refining as time goes on. Foucan is passionate about the distinction. "The art of Freerunning is about [how] to move with your environment," he tells Gelf. "Respect your level and your rhythm, and your body. Freerunning is not about [a] show, it's about how to live." As for obstacles, he goes for "whatever feels connected" to his path.

Foucan jumps out of trees with a graceful somersault as coda, illustrating an important component of Freerunning—the flowing momentum.

He enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect with Craig, giving praise to the blond Brit's athleticism and quick learning of the difficult moves required to make the scenes look good.

Military personnel, Foucan admits, pioneered a sort of Freerunning precursor in their training and now are focusing on it even more. But while that and the violent scenes in Casino Royale might lead one to associate might with flight, Foucan has faith that freerunning won't be sullied by brutish associations. "People are not stupid, I think," he says. "[It's] acting in a movie and playing a character."

Foucan is a lithe man of 33, of African heritage. He began practicing his art after a childhood of playing soccer and training in track and field and gymnastics. Foucan's demanding training regimen extends over four to seven hours a day. He analyzes jumps before doing them, deferring some leaps in treacherous weather or otherwise unsafe conditions. While this may sound like the conditioning routine of a sportsman, Foucan doesn't envision his invention becoming a recognized, competitive sport. "I don't care," he tells Gelf when asked about the possibility. "My practicing will never be Olympic or whatever. It's not what I'm looking for." He doesn't crave an audience, enjoying Freerunning whether he's alone or with a crowd below.

Foucan demonstrates his craft as part of Madonna's tour.

Since the release of the film, Foucan says his life has been pretty much the same. However, he's been pleased to note a growing interest in Freerunning and Parkour internationally (fed in part by the Bond film, in part by Foucan's Nike ads), and reminds beginners to practice the basics before trying anything crazier. Some of the basic Freerunning moves are: saut de bras (cat leap), roulade (roll), petit saut de fond dans l'herbe ou sable (low high jump in sand or grass), and grimper (climbing).

As one might expect, Foucan's got an insurance policy on himself, and its terms necessitated the use of a stunt double, Marvin Campbell, to perform the crane jump in "Casino Royale." If Foucan got hurt during that stunt, insurance wouldn't cover it. Most of the rest of the jumps, stunts, and other gravity-defying leaps, though, were all him. Amazingly, he has only endured an ankle injury, which was from cross-training, not Freerunning. But he doesn't feel immortal. "Of course, to injure myself would be the worst thing, because I couldn't express myself," he says. But he adds, "Freerunning is a lifestyle…I will do it forever."

Monya De

Monya De is a freelance writer in San Francisco.

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- Film
- posted on Oct 24, 07

This article has Free Running and Parkour completely confused.

Article by Monya De

Monya De is a freelance writer in San Francisco.

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