Mention the name Jean-Claude Van Damme and it makes one think of Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. The image of a spinning 360 degree head kick also springs to mind. The “muscles from Brussels” has been proving that you are never too old for a comeback. To take it one step further, he has also shown that you are never too old to have a viral video.
Van Damme is Belgian by birth and it was when he started martial arts that the young man started dreaming of becoming the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, the 53 year-old action film star was a huge fan of the weightlifter turned movie star when he was younger. It was Jean-Claude’s (also known as J C) dream to be the next Schwarzenegger, not just as box office hero, but an astute business man which Arnold definitely was.
One of Van Damme’s favorite stories about his initial trek to Hollywood involved his doing what would become his trademark splits between two chairs for a Hollywood producer. The stunt took place after said producer asked why he should hire the karate/kickboxer from Belgium. The split was Jean-Claude’s answer and it apparently got him work.
Like many of the action star’s anecdotes it seems to be couched in enough truth to have a ring of truth. Later in his career, Van Damme would recount the menial jobs he did while learning better English and going to auditions. Chuck Norris was actually the man who got J C a job as a bouncer. One of his first “acting” jobs was to be the antagonist in the Schwarzenegger film The Predator.
Accounts vary, but is seems that initially Van Damme complained about safety issues with the predator suit. Schwarzenegger talks about the incident in his autobiography entitled Total Recall. The former governor of California pulled no punches in his recounting of the story. According to him Van Damme was too lazy to work in the suit.
Van Damme maintained that in between his donning of the outfit and his replacement Kevin Peter Hall, another stunt performer was injured wearing the predator suit. After it was redesigned by monster builder Stan “the man” Winston, the safety issues were corrected. J C has always claimed that he was right to back out of the film. There is no record of what transpired between Schwarzenegger and Van Damme on the set of Expendables 2.
It was Expendables 2 that put Jean-Claude Van Damme back on the road to a comeback of sorts. It could have occurred sooner had he taken Sylvester Stallone up on his original offer of a starring part in the first Expendables film. Van Damme proved that you are never too old for a comeback when he agreed to play the villain in the movies sequel.
Van Damme did pretty well in his action films, where he was a sort of “short man’s” Schwarzenegger. When the Belgian first started, his acting needed as much help as possible from his unique physical prowess. Later, his acting got better, but, by that time his films were not grossing big returns at the box office.
After several marriages and divorces; a problem with substance misuse and a career that has been mostly on the downswing until recently, Van Damme has never stopped trying to give his fans their money’s worth in his films. He has often been compared to Steven Seagal and the two have a similar theme to most of their films.
Playing the villain in Stallone’s second Expendables film, the Universal Soldier star has enjoyed a resurgence in his career. Now with his latest project garnering over 12 million views in just two days Jean-Claude Van Damme has proven that you are never too old to stage a comeback. His recent role was as himself in a Volvo truck commercial that has gone viral. Rather fittingly, his increased popularity shadows his beginning in Hollywood. Instead of doing the splits on a chair as a youngster wanting to break into the business, he is between two semis at the age of 53. Comebacks and viral videos; all in a days work for J C.
By Michael Smith