It’s one of the most fascinating tidbits in action movie lore: Shortly before becoming an “overnight sensation” with Bloodsport, the largely unknown Jean-Claude Van Damme played the man-hunting alien in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator.
The gig didn’t last long (only a couple days), and the “Muscles from Brussels” has been reticent to speak on it too much over the years, leaving the talking to co-star turned politician Jesse Ventura. “He got down there and did nothing but complain,” Ventura said.
Van Damme, now 58, did, however, reflect on the experience in Yahoo Entertainment’s latest Role Recall retrospective. He described winning over director John McTiernan at an audition at Fox Studios, where JCVD performed stunts like jumps and his signature split. And, according to a previous interview, he believed he would be ” in a tight leotard with half-[human], half-animal makeup on my face,” thus going “head to head” with the biggest movie star on the planet.
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“But then when the outfit came in, I was restrained of all those jumps. I was just a guy in a rubber suit. I thought at that time, ‘I’m gonna be The Predator,’” Van Damme said. “It was a nightmare, because the outfit was made of rubber and it was so hot in Mexico. People pass[ing] out without the outfit. And I was there sweating water. And then they put some sort of tube for air conditioning. It was too cold. Too hot, too cold.”
Though archive footage of Van Damme on set in the orangish-pink suit does indeed look ridiculous, the actor insisted the initial designs weren’t all that bad.
“People say the outfit looked like s***. No, it looked great. The first Predator [suit] looked very mean. But it was very difficult to be in.”
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Van Damme confirmed he fought with the film’s prominent producer: “Joel Silver and I did have ill discussion.” That’s when his co-star Carl Weathers (Rocky) stepped in with some advice for the newbie: “He said, ‘Don’t argue with Joel Silver because then you’ll be burned in town.’ I was like ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Just don’t say nothing, wait until he’s firing you. Wait until he fires your ass.’”
Van Damme didn’t have to wait long. He was soon fired and replaced by stuntman Kevin Peter Hall. He also didn’t have to wait long to become a star in his own right: Bloodsport was released a mere eight months after Predator.