By: Sarah McWilliams
When you’re watching the movie Brick Mansions, starring RZA and the late Paul Walker – who tragically died in a car accident last November — pay special attention to the athleticism of Walker. It’s not a camera trick, the fight scenes are not faked, the moves are real, and they are compliments to Walker’s 10-plus years of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, not to mention the elements of the holistic training discipline Parkour that are also incorporated into the movie.
As Walker exploded into an international, A-list movie star, he became perfect, if not altogether synonymous with the role of the police officer in action movies, and the authenticity he displayed during the gritty fight scenes was always apparent. That authenticity didn’t come from practicing unending scripted fight sequences; it stemmed from studying under Ricardo Miller for 10 years and becoming a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
“(Walker) came to my academy back in 1994 or 95. He came to get involved in the sport. He fell in love with this sport; he wanted to learn more and more moves, and it was something that he wanted to bring to the public,” said Miller, who trained Walker for his role in Brick Mansions.
Miller truly understands the passion for the sport. It’s been a major part of his life since he discovered it, and he was excited to have someone in Hollywood advocating it as well.
“I started doing Jiu Jitsu when I was 19 in Brazil because a friend of mine brought me to an academy,” Miller said. “I saw how it could make (your) life better. It helps with self-confidence. It helps people lose weight. After seeing that, I really fell in love with the sport and decided to do it professionally.“
Although not a professional like his trainer, Jiu Jitsu created opportunities for Walker as well. He was better prepared for the fight scenes common in the types of roles he played in the movies.
“All martial arts are very intense. Jiu Jitsu is very intense. There are a lot of takedowns. For stunts, you need to be in good shape and that helps with those moves,” said Miller, who believes Walker had an opportunity to outshine other actors on the big screen because of his capabilities with Jiu Jitsu.
“With anything, he out-trained the average person. He was a very fit guy. Jiu Jitsu made the fight scenes (easier and easier) to do,” Miller said.
Those skills were necessary especially for Brick Mansion, a movie based on a police officer (Walker) having to enter a walled-in, dystopian Detroit to bring the man who killed his father to justice. The movie incorporates plenty of action, fight scenes, and even Parkour, a sport Walker told Miller might be his next venture.
“(Walker) is one of the biggest ambassadors of our sport, and through Brick Mansions he also fell in love with Parkour,” Miller said. “When he was shooting (the film) he mentioned to me that his goal was not only to be recognized for the fast cars, but also for Jiu Jitsu and now Parkour, too.”
Parkour and Jiu Jitsu do have similarities.
“I can see a lot of moves that are similar between Jiu Jitsu and Parkour,” Miller said. “There are a lot of rolls. Everything is balance. They require a lot of balance and strength. (Parkour) is a really hard sport. I tried to do a couple of moves there, and it’s really hard. It’s really intense. There’s a lot of leverage and power.”
Unfortunately, Walker was never able to continue his pursuit of Parkour. He also ended his career in Jiu Jitsu just short of a black belt when he was killed in the aforementioned car accident last November. But since his trainer, Miller, knew that he would have eventually accomplished that goal someday, he presented Walker’s father with an honorary Brazillian Jiu Jitsu black belt.
“He didn’t just train one year with me, you know? He put a lot of time into his Jiu Jitsu. After 10 years of friendship, I felt that I could present that to his dad because (Walker) wanted to be a black belt one day. He was going for that. And, I really felt at that moment that was something right to do. Like my homage to him. To honor him,” Miller said. “He loved this sport. He wanted to be the ambassador of this sport in Hollywood … so I felt that was the right thing to do.“
Although Fast and the Furious 7 resumed production, Brick Mansions will be Walker’s last full onscreen appearance. And although Miller has only seen the trailers, he thinks that all of Walker’s training paid off.
“I saw a few of the trailers. For sure I’m very proud of him and just wish he had had more time to work more toward his goal, “ Miller said. “I’m very proud of him for sure.“
Check out Brick Mansions starring RZA and Paul Walker in theaters opening Friday, April 25th.