Being a villain is hardly new territory for Jean-Claude Van Damme: He started his career as the bad guy in “No Retreat, No Surrender” and “Black Eagle.” Then, good fortune came his way and he was cast in a little movie called, “Bloodsport.” The rest is history.
A few days ago, we went round-for-round with the Muscles from Brussels himself, JCVD, to discuss his role as the rogue in Sylvester Stallone’s new male pattern badness adventure, "The Expendables 2."
Not only does JCVD talk about the upcoming “Bloodsport” remake, “Double Impact 2,” and the signature roundhouse kicks he performs in “The Expendables 2,” he gets up, moves furniture and shows with passionate detail how his kicks are done and why they work. Nothing ever prepares you for moments like this.
Welcome back to the big screen. We’ve missed you a lot.
Thank you sir. I don’t know if [“The Expendables 2”] is going to help me but what do you think?
I want it to. But I have “Bloodsport” framed at my house.
You never know in Hollywood. They’re going to do a remake of “Bloodsport.”
Yeah that’s the rumor.
The guy who wrote “Taken” is writing and the producer is [Ed] Pressman. I want to be in the film as a trainer and I don’t think the writer wants [me] to.
His loss, man.
Nah, he knows that “Bloodsport” is a big film so he wants to get credit with all of that, you know what I’m saying? Like Will Smith, for example, was smart to [cast] Jackie Chan [in “Karate Kid 2010”] — it’s kind of cool. When I did the first “Bloodsport,” it was an independent company and [they] didn’t want bankruptcy so they sold the title all over the place — 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 “Bloodsports” — the remake, I would love to be in. It’s kind of painful but maybe they’ll change their minds. That would be great because I can still kick better than anybody here today.
Let’s talk about that. In “The Expendables 2” you do your signature roundhouse kick. As you’re getting older, do you find it difficult or do you feel like you’ve still got it?
Here was the deal, because of the age and everything, they told me, “Don’t worry, we’re going to cover you well. You’re going to jump and we’ll do a cut.” And I told them, “But guys, let me do the full kick.” They were kind of surprised that I could still do it and I said, “Yeah, it’s the same as before. I’m going to try.”
I [have been] doing it at the gym so I warmed up with the Bengay and everything and I stretched before the kick. And then I did my full kick the first time … I wanted to go a little more snappy and then I did it [again] the second time and it was no problem. You know that roundhouse kick. And then I have another kick [in the film] and it was like one shot. And then I [needed to do] ADR in Belgium and I’ve got Stallone on the phone and I said, “Sly, I don’t get it … I spent all of that time to do that kick and I asked those guys to put one angle so you can see the full kick like in “Bloodsport.” All we see is like me going like this.” [At this point, Van Damme gets up to pantomime the kick he’s referring to].
From the foot touching the knife. It’s like “BOOM!” and me landing. So I said to Sly, “What are you doing?” And he said “Let me go check in the cutting room,” because he was busy doing another movie. Then he sent me an email saying, “It’s arranged.” I haven’t seen the movie but basically I throw a knife in the air, Scott [Adkins] catches the knife. As soon as the knife was in the air, I didn’t even wait and I did the famous roundhouse kick.
Technically “JVCD” was your big return, but “Expendables 2” is your big return to the action genre. Did you have any hesitations with playing a villain for your comeback or were you just like, “Let’s do it”?
I said, “Let’s do it.” I said to Sly, “What about me playing the villain?” … My father told me, “Be an Expendable, don’t try this and that,” and I said, “Dad, I want to be a villain again.” … Sly loved the idea of me being the villain. But I know it’s only one time, right? So, I don’t know the outcome. Hopefully the studio will like it but that’s what I wanted to do.
What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in the action genre since you first started?
The technical came in — the CGI, the cables, all of that stuff. … With action, you have to be physical because, if you’re not, how can you do it? … With “The Expendables,” we have those groups of people who build their career like that, with those physical moves, without CGI and this and this and that … One film like that every two years where the action stars are going [at it] like the old times — that’s what I believe makes “The Expendables 2” special.
"The Expendables" franchise is a play on older action stars, that they still got "it" and they’re not going anywhere. Do you think there is a time when an action star should throw in the towel and pass the torch?
You know, you have to keep on going. It’s what we have inside of us that’s how we became famous, and it will never die. Look at Clint Eastwood for an example — he keeps on moving the best that he can, it’s great. Don’t give up. Plus we need that to have a nice life, I need to train. Sometimes I did have my life of the Rock ‘n’ Roll life. I fell down, I crashed and came back. Because of training every day or every other day depending on the traveling, the jet lag and everything, we can be this way. If I didn’t have that, I would be very depressed. If I don’t train for a week, I build toxins in my body and I sweat easily. It’s strange.
You’ve been immortalized on screen as the hero and now you’re going to be immortalized as the villain. How does that feel?
It scares me. I directed a movie and that’s why I wasn’t able to be in “The Expendables.” We heard all types of [bogus gossip] stories - me and Jet Li fighting and all of that stuff; I’ve never even met Jet Li in my life. Hopefully we will meet in China because we might be doing a film together … But, I was cutting [the film I directed] and was responsible because I put my own money into that film and it’s a very strange movie. So [I didn’t do “The Expendables”] because I was busy cutting this film - we had to do additional shoots in Bulgaria and then I did a comedy called “Welcome to the Jungle” — you have to see it, I play so dumb.
And then I starred in a film with Peter Hyams, the director of “Timecop,” who made me play a villain. But really a villain, like villain. But I fight, you know when you fight you’re busy with your movement, so when you punch you go [shows how he punches] “BRUUUM!” and you go like “BAHM!” with grace. It was a great, great villain. So I’m doing three movies as a villain. Hopefully I will not be categorized as a villain for the rest of my life [laughs].
Picasso had his blue period - this is your villain period. Let’s go back to your “Double Impact” days. In an all-out brawl again, who would win in a fight Chad or Alex?
I was hoping you’d say Chad. He’s got the legs!
Yeah but Alex has the headbutt! “Mr. California, Mr. Silk underwear… BOOM!”
I have no franchise. I lost “Bloodsport,” “Lionheart,” I told you “Double Impact” [would be] a great franchise because today Chad would be like the guy in “JCVD” and Alex would be the guy like “The Expendables” and, with the experience with the acting, I came up with a great story set in Los Angeles. He’s playing a producer, making pictures with a big house behind him. Alex is gonna go on vacation and has some problems with the Triads. Why? Because Chad went to Hong Kong and to get some money using [Alex’s] face, all of that bulls**t. Alex comes [to Los Angeles] to see Chad and he’s full of s**t, has a girl pregnant and she’s the sister of the big boss from South Central. It’s like “Double Impact” in Los Angeles.
Yeah, I wrote the script with a friend of mine, Sheldon. He did “Bloodsport” and “Double Impact” with me. Hopefully, somebody smart enough, like an agent or a producer, can put that back together … I’m excited about it, you know?