David Belle (born 29 April 1973) is a French actor, film choreographer and stunt coordinator. He is deemed the founder and leading pioneer of the physical discipline Parkour, coining it based on his training and the teachings from his father Raymond Belle.
Belle came to fame via his parkour videos and film appearances, such as District 13, District 13: Ultimatum, which were written and produced by Luc Besson, and the American remake Brick Mansions. Belle has also consulted on the making of Babylon A.D., Prince of Persia, Colombiana and The Family. He is the chair of the Parkour Committee of the International Federation of Gymnastics.
Belle was born and raised in Fécamp, the son of Monique and Raymond Belle, in a modest family in the suburbs of Paris. His grandfather Gilbert Kitten, father Raymond, and brother Jean-François Belle were highly skilled rescuers in the Military Paris Fire Brigade. His father Raymond Belle was from Vietnam, and was of French-Vietnamese descent, while his mother Monique Belle was French.
In 1984, at the age of 11, Belle moved to Lisses, France. He made close friends with a group of teenagers with similar physical passions who began training with him. Some of the friends that trained with David would later become known as the Yamakasi. Later in life, Belle spent time in the military and fire brigade with aspirations of following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. He left soon after for personal reasons in order to dedicate himself to parkour.
Belle later joined the Troupes de marine in Vannes, where he received a promotion, a gymnastic agility certificate of honour, and champion records for regimental rope-climbing (which his father had once held) and the Essonne obstacle course. He has however said that his taste and love for adventure and freedom did not go well with the regimented life of the military.
Upon completing his national service, he worked in various professions including a warehouse worker, security guard and furniture salesman. He also spent 3 months in India studying kung fu. After his return he continued his training in parkour and filmed footage of his capabilities which he later turned into the famous Speed Air Man video. In 1997 the Stade 2 team (Francis Marroto, Pierre Sled and Pierre Salviac) were shown a video of Belle and decided to film a news feature about parkour.
In filming this news feature, the term Yamakasi was used for the first time in connection with the team. Belle did not approve of the name and felt like it did not give credit to his father, so he split from the group after the feature. Later Belle would go on to train other students who gave themselves the name 'tracer.' The spelling was later adapted to 'traceur', and has since been used to define a practitioner of parkour. However more recently, Belle claimed that "A traceur is not a practitioner of parkour, a traceur is someone who is trying to understand parkour."
Belle was first introduced to his acting career in a meeting with Hubert Koundé (La Haine), in order to discuss the success of parkour in cinema. He then began developing his acting ability with the play Pygmalion, and has since been successful in obtaining a number of roles mostly in French films and promotions. Belle has been featured in promotional videos for Tina Turner, and Iam. He has starred in "Les gens du voyages" and "Un monde meilleur", followed by "L'Engrenages" and "Femme Fatale", as well as "Les rivières pourpres 2", starring Jean Reno. After filming several more advertisements and promotions for the BBC, Nissan, Canon, and Nike, Belle was contacted by Luc Besson (director of Nikita, and The Fifth Element) regarding co-starring as lead actor with Cyril Raffaelli in the action movie District 13, followed by the sequel District 13: Ultimatum. Belle co-starred with Paul Walker in Brick Mansions (2014), a remake of District 13.