Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Running free: Sebastien Foucan - the Bond villain who 'Lived Another Day'

By James Masters and Olivia Yasukawa, CNN
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
HIDE CAPTION
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sebastien Foucan is one of the most successful free runners in the world
  • He moved from Parkour to free running after becoming disillusioned
  • Frenchman appeared in James Bond movie and toured with Madonna
  • He has his own academy in London where he shares his skills and expertise

CNN's Human to Hero series celebrates inspiration and achievement in sport. Click here for times, videos and features.

(CNN) -- There are not many Bond villains who survive to tell the tale of their encounter with 007.

Sebastien Foucan is neither shaken nor stirred, although that's more than can be said for his character "Mollaka" -- who was blown to smithereens by Daniel Craig in the 2006 epic "Casino Royale."

Foucan has proved even more elusive than the acrobatic bomb-maker he portrayed in the villages of Madagascar, where he vaulted through jungle and a construction site, leaping perilously off buildings and cranes.

Rather than "Die Another Day," the career of Foucan -- known as the founder of free running and a developer of its close relative Parkour -- has taken off in a way he never dreamed of.

"Being in the James Bond movie was just amazing," the Frenchman tells CNN's Human to Hero series. "It was fantastic working on a big stage, fighting James Bond and having the helicopter shoot everything.

"Knowing that I've never done any acting, I didn't plan to be in a movie like this. It was just fantastic.

"For the discipline, I think it was a big platform and I think it just made free running bigger and bigger.

"It keeps growing. I worked with Madonna on her 'Confession' tour and my life changed at this point because I went from being a free runner, an ambassador, to something even bigger."

Foucan has come a long way since running around Paris as a teenager with the likes of Parkour founder David Belle.

Parkour -- which is taken from the French word "parcours" meaning "route" or "course" -- consists of being able to "move freely over and through any terrain using only the abilities of the body, principally through running, jumping, climbing and quadrupedal movement."

Foucan, while a keen student of Parkour in his teens, believed that the discipline was far too narrow and lacked a spiritual aspect.

Instead, he created a fusion of the art -- taking Parkour and a new philosophical approach to bring about free running.

"It's a lifestyle," he says. "There is no beginning, no middle and no end. It is part of my life.

"It's like a bird. When a bird wakes up, it's a bird, it's flying, and for me it's exactly the same thing.

"It's when I wake up, I am free running; when I'm sitting, I'm still free running. When I talk to you, I'm thinking about free running. It's part of me now, it's like walking."

Visually impaired skier's Sochi mission
Preparing for Sochi with shopping carts?
Soviet soldier's Sochi comeback

In 2003, Foucan finally decided to break away from Parkour after performing in London, where he now resides.

His belief that "all the world is a playground" gives him a feeling of freedom which he treasures.

"Parkour at the beginning was very one-dimensional," he says.

"It was very A to B, 'we shouldn't do this, we shouldn't do that,' which doesn't work for me as an artist.

"I really feel like I want to express myself. I don't want to have any limitations.

"Free running is known as using the environment and expressing yourself -- which means you can do anything you feel. It's part of you.

"You can do flips, tricks, swing, anything which is creative and feels beautiful -- it's more my way. It's freedom of expression for me."

While most of us would simply walk around our city or neighborhood by using the sidewalk, such an idea is almost alien to Foucan.

If there is a slope to slide down or a wall to run up, then he needs no invitation to perform some of the moves witnessed in that breathless sequence where he runs from Bond.

"As soon as I get outside, my mindset turns to free running," he explains.

"I use the whole environment and instead of just following a straight path, I do my own way of going outside.

"If it's just to jump, to perform, you have to be really focused on what you're going to do, where you're going to put your step, on your technique also because the surface is completely different.

"It can be metal, it can be concrete and there are so many elements -- sometimes you can have also people coming and walking past.

"You need to pay attention and that's what you're thinking about before you do a single move."

The expertise to be able to pull off the stunts which Foucan does comes after 20 years of training -- five to seven hours a day.

Those who want to apply need only a high level of flexibility, excellent spacial awareness, unparalleled sense of balance and the ability of Spiderman when it comes to jumping and climbing.

Yes, even those who suffer from acrophobia -- a fear of heights -- can have a go, says Foucan, who has coped with the problem since his childhood.

While his background is in track and field, Foucan is a keen rock climber, plays football and ice skates -- even appearing in a British TV show, "Dancing on Ice."

All these skills garnered from different sports help to provide new inspiration and ideas for his free running.

"Each time I look at the city, I start to see how functional it can be," he said.

Snowboarder survives avalanche
Sochi skier smiles through the pain
'Jumping Jen' spins on ice

"It's normal to walk down the stairs, to go to a different place, but for a practitioner from Parkour to free running, it is important for us to see how functional the environment is

"For example, a slope can be something you can slide down and feel your balance. Stairs -- you can see how many times you can bounce down them.

"We have also got a technique that we call 'tick tack' where you use the wall to the side.

"The environment is like a computer game where you see a ghost of yourself. You picture a line or a route and you think to yourself, 'Can I do this path?' That is how I see the environment."

Free running has become more and more popular in recent years, with Fourcan setting up his own academy.

His expertise and advice is invaluable to those fellow thrillseekers who fuel their escapism through adrenaline.

But as Fourcan confirms, free running does come with a health warning.

"It is a very risky discipline," he says. "If you don't know what you are doing then you can hurt yourself and even die.

"Fear and risk is a perception and if you do something without knowing what you're doing, you're going to be in trouble, you're going to hurt yourself.

"There is danger everywhere. Whether you're taking the car, the plane, whether you are Olympic athlete, there is risk and you can hurt yourself.

"People need to know everything required -- dedication and a lot of practice."

Now 39, you might expect Foucan to be contemplating retirement from such an extreme sport.

That option is not even a consideration at this moment in time -- if ever.

"I see myself even more than an athlete," he says. "I would see myself as an ultimate athlete.

"In a sense, I'm closer to an animal, to my inner nature. There is no end of my career; you don't have a point where you go, 'Oh, now you're 29 or 30 years old and now you're finished.'

"It doesn't work like this for me. It will be forever, I will practice this forever until I die."

Read: Two skiers become one

Read: 'Icebird' chases Olympic dream

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT)
Her surname means "fighter" or "warrior" -- and Christine Ohuruogu has done her best to fulfill that prophecy throughout a stellar running career.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0905 GMT (1705 HKT)
Christine Ohuruogu is Britain's most successful 400-meter runner, with two world titles plus Olympic gold and silver.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
Diving is predictably a sport of highs and lows, but for Matthew Mitcham it goes so much deeper than that.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
Standing on the winner's podium, she gave hope to millions who suffer from a condition that can crush self-confidence.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Lionel Messi often moves so fast his opponents struggle to keep up, so spare a thought for the photographers who have to capture his magic moments.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
He mesmerized as a player and, as millions saw at the 2010 World Cup, Diego Maradona the coach was equally entertaining.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
You don't need special access to get great World Cup photos -- but it helps. Leading sports snapper Shaun Botterill reveals how he has made the most of his insider privileges.
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
It's a World Cup photograph taken over 40 years ago. Shot on film, and after the game, but it still ranks as one of the most memorable football images.
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
CNN's director of photography Simon Barnett gives tips for amateur snappers hoping to catch a great sporting image.
June 4, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
National heroes don't always belong to one country. Ask France's World Cup hero Patrick Vieira, who is rediscovering his roots.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
By the age of just 29, he was recognized by many as the greatest footballer Japan had ever produced. But he was also among the most secretive.
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
Former German goalkeeper, Bodo Illgner, communicates with his defence at the European Championships of 1992.
His first act as a pro goalkeeper was to pick the ball out of the back of the net. But before long the football world was in the palm of his hands.
June 6, 2014 -- Updated 1651 GMT (0051 HKT)
He wasn't built to be the world's greatest center back, and he certainly never expected to be named the world's best player.
ADVERTISEMENT