EXCLUSIVE: Paul Walker is in talks to star in Brick Mansions, the Americanized remake of the Paris-set Banlieue 13. The film has a script by Luc Besson (who co-wrote the original) and Robert Mark Kamen, Besson’s collaborator on Taken. The idea is for Walker to star with David Belle. Belle starred in the original and the sequel District 13: Ultimatum and he is also credited with creating Parkour, a sport that involves agility and leaping and climbing around obstacles. There is a lot of that in these films.
The film will be set in American city, most likely Chicago. Walker will play an undercover detective chasing a weapon of mass destruction that was stolen by a drug dealer in the ghetto known as Brick Mansions. He seeks help from the incredibly agile Lino (Belle), who knows Brick Mansions better than anyone and is the only person not cowering in fear of the drug dealers. Besson’s Europa Corp is producing, and while a number of Hollywood actors wanted the Lino role, Besson would not make the movie unless Belle was in it.
The original Banlieue 13 was directed by Pierre Morel, who went on to direct Besson’s Taken and From Paris With Love. Besson is giving this directing job to another protégé, but the company would not reveal who he is. Europa Corp will soon make a domestic distribution deal, which never seems to be a problem with the modestly budgeted smart action thrillers that Besson hatches. I’m sure there will be AFM action on Brick Mansions, though Besson is preoccupied with the Oscar season launch of The Lady, the film he directed with Michelle Yeoh starring as Burmese democracy reformist Aung San Suu Kyi and David Thewlis playing her husband Michael Aris, who kept their family together while she was placed under house arrest for more than a decade. Both are expected to be in the awards season mix after the film bowed at 2011 Toronto Film Festival and was acquired for domestic distribution by Cohen Media Group.
Walker will make the film before reprising his role in The Fast and the Furious 6. He’s repped by UTA and Luber Rocklin. Here is a trailer from the sequel that captures the acrobatics and action that distinguished both films: