Van Dammaged: The Trials of Jean Claude Van Damme

US magazine: October, 1998

Interview by Peter Wilkinson

Part 1: San Fernando Valley

"Chick-Chick-Chick-Chick." Holding my business card between his thumb and forefinger, Jean-Claude Van Damme makes a chopping motion in the air: "chick-chick-chick-chick." We are lingering in the driveway of his home in California's San Fernando Valley at two o'clock on a Sunday morning, under a full moon, our bellies heavy with filet mignon and an acceptable Italian red. The air smells of summer and mountains.

"What a great cutter!" Van Damme recalls wistfully, of a certain friend. "He did those freeways. He'd go, 'OK, what do you want today?' I'd say, 'I want L.A.-Mexico-Tijuana. And I want two lanes!'" Van Damme laughs. He can laugh now. Those are the bad old days we are talking about, the days of freeway-size lines of cocaine, fried weekends and depressions as deep as a man can know. "I was a maniac," he days. "I was doing 10 grams a day."

It is an improbable sight, the indestructible star of Timecop, Universal Soldier and Hard Target, an actor once well on his way to becoming one of the world's most bankable action heroes, telling war stories from the drug front. These stories, told lately by midlist actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Slater, have become so common, they almost bore us now: the public disintegration, followed by the equally public resurrection. For an action star, the sort of celebrity for whom maintaining an image of absolute strength and probity is as important as the right oil on the biceps, much more would seem to be at stake. The odds on forgiveness feel longer. The action audience, after all, does not like to be confused.

For three years, Van Damme snorted, picking up the pace after the birth of his third child, Nicholas, in 1995. "I did it out of lust," he says. "For sexual reasons. To go further and further." Later, as these things go, Van Damme used alone, every day, and wrote -- scripts, poetry, remembrances of his insecure childhood in Belgium. He failed to train. He lost weight. The famous Van Damme arms began to melt. "I did so much damage to myself, the body I created," he says. Rumors about him slithered around Hollywood. Was J.C. in a hotel room somewhere, tapping another gram onto a galss-topped desk? Was he spending all his cash on blow? Was Van Damme dead?

"Mentally, in the morning -- not the first day, the second, third day -- you become stupid, paranoid," Van Damme says. "You have everything to lose. You lose your friend, your wife, your family, your business. You will lose that wonderful you who can be wonderful to others. And fuck that, man! Fuck the coke!"

Asleep inside the house are the main members of Van Damme's support system: his devoted parents, Eugene and Eliana Van Varenberg, on one of their regular visits from Belgium; Gladys Portugues, Van Damme's third wife; and Van Damme's two children with Portugues, Kristopher, 11, and Bianca, 8. Van Damme took refuge here last year after an ugly split with his fourth wife, Darcy LaPier.

On a cul-de-sac in a scuffed-up neighborhood in Chatsworth, chez Van Damme is a fairly simple house, especially considered against the sort of outlandish movie star spreads one finds clogging the valley. Near the pool stands a separate building housing Van Damme's gym and emblems of his history: framed photographs of Van Damme, now 37, as a young bodybuilder and karate expert, a sexy picture of Portugues in a tiny white bathing suit, taken 10 years ago during the height of her bodybuilding career. Van Damme movie posters hang near two blinking video-game machines. The gym feels as much like a boy's playroom as an action star's office.

In a moment, Van Damme will stride from the driveway out back, across the lawn, to his gym. He will turn the air conditioning to a chilly 61 to 64 degrees, his preferred temperature range, put on a Beethoven CD and lie down on a couch by himself to sleep, something he does occasionally -- 61 to 64 degrees being too cold for the rest of the family. He will not doze for long; he usually requires only four or five hours. The phone might ring. "If a friend of mine calls me tonight and says, 'Jean-Claude, I want to do a line,'" he says, "I'll take my car right now to stop him. I'll have to."

"You must get the urge, still," I say.

"No. I would tell you. I don't. Right now, if I put a line, you will do it?"

"No. I'd think about it though."

"I will not do it. If you think about it, then you're still in."

Part 2: Darcy LaPier

In the early 1990's, the success of Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), and Timecop, which grossed $150 million worldwide in 1995, had granted Van Damme admittance to the exclusive club that includes Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Seagal. This was a startling achievement for a man who'd arrived in Los Angeles from Belgium just a few years earlier with some karate and kick-boxing laurels, $3,000 in cash and shards of English. For five years, Van Damme delivered pizza, cleaned carpets, drove limos, held velvet ropes, dropped off glossies and hoped in vain. For a while he slept in a rented car, showering at a gym. Once a week he called his parents, discouraged. "I'm gonna make it," he reported. "I"m gonna have an appointment soon."

Then came the moment Hollywood biographies are made of: Van Damme button-holed the producer Menahem Golan one night in 1986 outside a restaurant in Beverly Hills. Leaving the ground, Van Damme spun 360 degrees, and in a balletic micro-second, sent a kick inches above the film executive's head. Impressed, Golan cast Van Damme in the martial arts cult classic Bloodsport in 1988, a $1.5 million movie that earned $35 million at the box office.

A true action star, one who can consistently draw teenage boys and young women, and do so internationally, comes around only once or twice a decade. Van Damme embodied a new, sensitive archetype. He took torrents of punches and seemed more vulnerable than Arnold, more cultured than Sly, more approachable than Steven. And beyond that signature kick, Van Damme could do a split, usually wearing close to nothing. There was also the matter of Van Damme's large, muscular butt. He bared it regularly.

Van Damme films hewed to a simple formula. A conflicted veteran of some burned out Special Ops unit, Van Damme would years later encounter a vile foe, become bloody and dirty by the second reel, then gain his revenge, accompanied by a perplexed, B-list pretty woman in a miniskirt. As comedian Chris Rock has said, an action movie isn't a true action movie without a climactic fight scene in a warehouse. Van Damme patented warehouse fight scenes. Overseas, his movies put up astounding grosses. "We generally do about anywhere from five to seven times the business overseas than is done domestically on his pictures," says Mark Damon, whose firm has distributed Van Damme's movies outside the United States for the past eight years. The Muscles From Brussels, as Van Damme became known, commanded up to $6 million a picture.

One problem persisted. Though his English improved vastly, the language still felt, to Van Damme, like driving on the opposite side of the road. From time to time, his delivery bordered on the comical. As much as fans found themselves rooting for him to prevail against five ponytailed thugs, they hoped they'd be able to decipher most of the words in his next four-line speech.

Hints of impending difficulty, the first legal seedlings, began to surface: a lawsuit against Van Damme for seriously injuring the eye of another actor in 1988 during a Cyborg fight scene; a 1993 suit by a woman who charged that Van Damme forced her to perform the "full Monica" on him in a hotel room in New Orleans. Both suits were fairly typical of movie-star litigation and perhaps representative of an action star's sense of entitlement. A court awarded the injured man $487,000. The other matter, Van Damme settled out of court.

After Timecop, Van Damme hit a fallow patch with the films Sudden Death and Maximum Risk. His amateurish directorial debut, The Quest, tanked in 1996. Was the public tired of him? Had Van Damme run out of ideas? Or was he himself simply tired? The star never took much of a break between projects: Since 1986, over a period of 12 years, he has made 19 films.

Even as his box-office power ebbed, Van Damme let it be known he was growing weary of the genre. Van Damme knew that his loyal fan base worldwide would pay to see his every kick and chop. Now, like every action star, he craved the chance to make the virtually impossible crossover to dramatic, romantic leading man, to capture a new audience without alienating the old.

Far funnier in person than he appears on the screen, Van Damme also considered doing a comedy. "Jean-Claude's personal charm has never transferred itself to the screen," says one industry executive who has known the star for years. "he's a little tighter on-screen than he is in person. I don't think he's ever relaxed into his own personality enough to make him a movie star, as far as U.S. audiences are concerned." Meanwhile, the action-hero profile was changing in fundamental ways. No longer were big bodies required. Witness Nicolas Cage in Con Air and Keanu Reeves in Speed.

"Ten, 15 years ago, Sly, Arnold, those guys, were well-built," says Van Damme. "Of course, they had to act and find good scripts, but today action heroes don't have to be Mr. Muscles. What really helps a guy to become an action hero today is the directing of the movie. All those fast cuts..."

While he pondered his next move, Van Damme lived well. In addition to a $12,000 a month rental in Mandeville Canyon, California, Van Damme maintained a luxurious place in Monaco. He also helped out his parents, visited the family in Europe as often as he could (his older sister, Veronique, owns a hair salon in Belgium) and flew them to his various movie sets around the world. "Jean-Claude is a very family man," says his mother, a vital, statuesque woman who used to run a flower shop in Brussels. Since coming to America in 1982, Van Damme, besides wanting to prove to himself that he could be a major star, has also striven to convince his parents that leaving behind the gym he ran in Brussels for Hollywood was a good idea.

Over the years, Van Damme married often and briefly. In his movies, he fights for or alongside the girl and saves her. In his life a different pattern emerged. Van Damme would meet a woman, marry her, argue with her and lose her. Van Damme and his first wife, Maria Rodriguez, divorced in 1984. Two years later, Van Damme arrived in court again, to sever ties with Cynthia Derdian, of Newport Beach, California, after only seven months of marriage. Van Damme then quickly married Gladys Portugues, the author of two Hard Bodies workout books.

Portugues saw Van Damme through his first burst of fame. Tanned and muscular specimens both, the Van Dammes made the Hollywood scene, and Portugues pretty much gave up bodybuilding to be a mom. For Van Damme, she became a "safe harbor." She was sweet -- and strong, "a woman with cajones," he tells me. In 1992, Van Damme went to Hong Kong on business. Darcy LaPier was waiting.

A native of Portland, Oregon, an aspiring actress and a former Hawaiian Tropic model unafraid of the plastic surgeon's knife, LaPier was married at the time to company founder Ron Rice. The story of Van Damme and LaPier's first night together has entered adultery legend: she checks in to the Regent Hotel, where he is staying, phones his room and invites him up to her penthouse suite. Music from Bugsy plays and a champagne cork pops. "Jean-Claude," she breathes. "Make love to me." Later, Van Damme reports, "I ate something, but not food. You know what I'm saying."

Portugues and Van Damme soon divorced; it was 1993, the year Hard Target, Van Damme's somewhat disappointing collaboration with the acclaimed Hong Kong director John Woo, was released. As Hollywood breakups go, the split was fairly civilized. Though Portugues and Van Damme did not have a prenuptial agreement, they settled financial matters without protracted litigation. Portugues walked away with $250,000 in cash, $5,000 a month in spousal support for three years, $10,000 a month in child support for Kristopher and Bianca, an apartment in Santa Monica, a Toyota 4-Runner and half of Van Damme's Screen Actors Guild residuals from eight of his films, including Double Impact and Universal Soldier. Van Damme kept his Chinese incense burner and carpet wall hanging from Burma.

The union with LaPier, celebrated in Thailand in 1994 in a Buddhist ceremony complete with singing monks, bred turmoil almost from the start. Van Damme provided LaPier with expensive clothes and jewels, among them a flawless $88,000 sapphire, and a full staff of servants; she spent thousands on masseurs, therapists and specialists to retighten her hair extensions every six weeks. LaPier estimated her manicures, pedicures, waxings and miscellaneous beauty expenses alone at $2,000 a month, the same amount she calculated her monthly phone bill to be.

From wealth and comfort did not spring happiness. Once, in Bali, Van Damme claims, LaPier attacked him with an end table. In Sun Valley, Idaho, three years ago, she called 911 after an argument with him. No charges were filed. Last August, she phoned Santa Monica police after another fight. That time, Van Damme filled out a report on his wife.

"She was a tomboy" as a child, Van Damme says. "She was looking for a father figure, a very stable guy." Van Damme was not that sort of man. "If she raise her voice," he says, "I will raise my voice, because I'm like that." A few months after their marriage, and again in 1996, LaPier filed divorce papers, only to reconcile with Van Damme.

"It seemed to be a passionate relationship," I venture.

"Yeah, but it's not too good. It's good for like one day a week."

A question about the happy times with LaPier requires some thought. He finally says, "Darcy teach me how to fish, and she teach me how to drive a motorcycle."

Van Damme's parents did not approve of LaPier. "We told him, marriage, don't do it," says his father, a retired accountant. "Not a good woman for you," his mother warned him.

Eugene: [With disgust] "I wish that she disappear."

At some point, cocaine entered the picture.

Eliana: [Plaintively] "I never understood my son doing that crazy stuff. He say no, no, no, 99 times, and one time he say yes, and it was one time too late."

Part 3: Scores Bar

On the morning of Feb. 5, 1998, Van Damme woke up in New York City with a sore head. It wasn't a woman attacking him this time or a movie bad guy. It was a Hell's Angel-actor, in a topless bar. Life for Van Damme had spiraled down to this: from drugs, career skid and household turmoil to a straight-to-video scene too chessy to film.

The assailant, one Chuck Zito, claims he was Van Damme's bodyguard; Van Damme maintains Zito only did some stunt work on one of his movies. The two crossed paths at Scores, the celebrity-choked gentleman's club on Manhattan's East Side. Zito was eating dinner when Van Damme came in with Mickey Rourke and a couple of other men and ordered champagne. Van Damme went to the men's room; he knew that Zito had, at some point, been dating LaPier, and it upset him that Zito hadn't come clean about the relationship.

The washroom attendant, a guy named Frankie, indicated that he knew Zito. Van Damme was unimpressed. "Chuck Zito, he has no heart," Van Damme spat.

Back at the table, Frankie tattled to Zito.

"Jean-Claude, did you say I had no heart?" Zito said.

Van Damme removed his glasses and folded them: "Yeah, I said that."

"Well, why did you say that?"

Van Damme brought his face closer to the biker's: "Because you're full of shit."

Zito popped Van Damme as they both sat there in their lap-dance positions. Chairs flew. Van Damme ended up on the floor, covering his face. After Van Damme left Scores, Zito nursed the two broken bones in his hand.

The next day, as Van Damme flew home to Los Angeles the Scores dispute naturally occupied a prime position in The New York Post. A New Jersey paper, Steppin' Out, anointed Zito "The Van Damminator."

Part 4: Mojave Desert

"You've been on lots of sets before?" Van Damme asks. "Big movies?"

His tone stikes me as less curious than worried -- worried that I will somehow deem a Van Damme movie set subpar. This is the first extensive interview that Van Damme has given in several years, and he seems nervous, gun-shy, fretting that the shooting schedule leaves him little time to talk. So I get the run of his trailor, parked at the side of a dusty road in the Mojave Desert near Edwards Air Force Base. One evening, after he jokes, "How much does it cost for a good story?" we listen to Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel. Van Damme drops to one knee and translates for me from the French, touching my leg giddily once every couple of verses. "I've got nothing against Frank," Van Damme says of Sinatra, "But that is music for Las Vegas, for casinos."

Some Van Damme idiosyncrasies: He eats fast. If capers arrive by mistake on the carpaccio, he will order them removed. He bums cigarette after cigarette in a restaurant rather than buy a pack. If a stray dog crosses Van Damme's path on a movie set, chance are good he will feed it, name it and take it to the vet for deworming. When alone behind the wheel of his Mercedes 600 SL V-12, a living-room size vehicle, he drives very fast, scary fast. Given the choice between a Brazilian woman and an Israeli woman, he will take the Israeli woman. He will whistle saying so. He is famously moody: joking, flirting one day; pensive the next -- coke or no coke. "I'm cyclomanic-depressive," he tells me. "I get highs and lows in one day, and now I'm on a treatment.

"Lots of people have it," he adds. "It's a great fucking disease. It can give you lots of life. If you want to write, you want to write. If you're an actor, you want to act.

"I have too much dopamine and not enough serotonin, or vice versa. When it goes really down, after the cocaine abuse, then you're very low when you're low. And if you're high, very high."

The movie being shot in the desert, Inferno, is being directed by John Avildsen of Rocky and The Karate Kid fame. It is the story of Eddie Lomax, a boozy, borken-down vet who comes to the town of Inferno to ask his former Army buddy, Charlie Sixtoes, for permission to commit suicide. The Lomax-Van Damme parallels are unavoidable. This being a Van Damme picture, Lomax ends up saving the town from gangs of meth-dealing bikers. Both star and director could use a hit. Van Damme's production company, Long Road, is behind the $22 million film as well as Legionnaire, a desert epic that Van Damme made in Morocco last year and that is still in need of a distributor. Legionnaire presents Van Damme as a mercenary soldier, reaching for the complexity of Daniel Day-Lewis performance in The Last of the Mohicans.

A scene in a run-down diner is lit and ready to be shot. The star lingers in a corner.

"Where's Romeo?" Avildsen asks good-naturedly.

Hero perfect in a sweaty tank top, torn jeans, cowboy boots and a straw hat, Van Damme rises, looking hurt. "You're always making fun of me," he says.

Before Van Damme left for Morocco, he and LaPier separated for good, and soon she took up with another unsubtle man of wealth, Mark Hughes, the 42-year old founder of Herbalife, maker of controversial weight-loss products and nutritional supplements. Thrice married and once investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, Hughes lives Van Damme style; he owns a $20 million mansion in Beverly Hills. Hughes' most recent wife, Suzan, is a former Miss Petite USA.

Van Varenberg vs. Van Varenberg, Los Angeles Superior Court Case #BD 250 079, numbers four volumes, more than 1500 pages of documents that tell two quite different stories. LaPier charges that Van Damme, saddled with a "voracious" cocaine habit, used his martial-arts techniques on her and, on one occasion, tried to strangle her while she held baby Nicholas. Denying these allegations, Van Damme accuses LaPier of having an "uncontrollable temper" and a cocaine habit of her own. In January 1998, the judge in the case entered one of the largest child and spousal support awards in California divorce court history: Van Damme, at least for now, must pay $112,000 a month to LaPier and Nicholas.

LaPier: [From court papers concerning a 1993 dust-up] "Petitioner kicked me in the chest, rupturing implants which then required a four-hour surgical procedure to remove the implant fragments."

"I swear to myself and God and the eyes of my son, my two sons and my daughter, I never hit her breast," Van Damme tells me. "I never made any injury on Darcy. Never touched the woman. Perhaps some pushing: She came at me, and I push her back. When you make allegations, you need medical bills. You need pictures. You need to go see a doctor with a cut, with a bruise, with everything. And it's not there, because I didn't do it.

"I mean, if I kick somebody, not even a woman, a man, I will kill somebody."

"Did you, as Darcy charges," I ask, "ask your mother-in-law, Wilma Harrington, for her urine so you could provide a clean sample for testing?"

"You have blood tests for drugs," Van Damme says, looking surprised. "I believe in none of those charges. That's a new one."

"She also said, 'Nicholas does not know his father; Nicholas has no relationship with his father.'"

Anger darkens Van Damme's eyes. "No comment," he says, before commenting: "When I want him sometimes, she doesn't bring him to me. Nick's always with the nanny."

I ask why LaPier would say such things about him.

Van Damme shrugs. "She should think about her life," he says. "She should not talk about me. She should talk about her. Darcy is very emotional, and when she's fierce, you don't want to be around. When she's fierce, she's fierce. She can be very dangerous."

"For example?"

"You have an argument, she can be very violent physically."

"She attacked you?"

"Yeah. Tables and mattress."

In Hong Kong last year during the filming of Knock Off, the legal fisticuffs continued. "There were some workdays where he had gotten no sleep because he was on the phone talking to America with attorneys," says Van Damme's co-star Lela Rochon. "The one thing he talked about was how beautiful his wedding was. He reminisced about how beautiful it was and how much he hated her now."

Part 5: New York

My time in Van Damme's world follows the typical Van Damme interview script. One Thursday after our meetings in Los Angeles, Van Damme is to call me at 4 pm, in New York. I wait two hours. The phone is silent. Van Damme had a bad day, meeting with divorce lawyers, I learn later. The good news is that he and LaPier are trying to settle. For her, formally dissolving the marriage would seem to be a matter of some urgency, since she has announced that she intends to marry Hughes, Mr. Herbalife, next Valentine's Day. "She goes from husband to husband," Van Damme sighs. "I don't know what she wants. Money doesn't make you happy. Of course, you need money to eat, to have a good glass of wine; but you can do life with oatmeal and water, too, believe me."

The next day, Van Damme calls at 11:30 pm, only half an hour behind schedule. We talk for 20 minutes, and then he must get dressed to go to the movies. We talk while he drives to see The Mask of Zorro -- the Knock Off trailor will be shown, and Van Damme is eager to gauge audience reaction. The battery on his portable runs low after a couple of minutes. "I call you in the daytime," he says. "I'll find you. If I don't find you, I'll call you every two or three hours. In the morning, when I have my coffee and you'll be having your afternoon coffee, we'll talk." I hang up. When I pick up the phone a minute later, the connection is still there. I hear Van Damme belch, then dial a new call. "Allo? Allo!"

Part 6: Chatsworth

One night in California, I meet Van Damme at the house in Chatsworth to watch the Knock Off trailer before dinner. Kristopher and Bianca -- beautiful, olive-skinned children -- are frolicking in the yard, and Portugues, lithe and smiling in a sundress, is spooning out canned dog food for the four family dogs. An exhausted Van Damme slumps on a sofa in his gym. The trailer plays. Van Damme turns up his palms. "It will not do big numbers," he says. "But I am prepared." The path back, Van Damme believes, will take several years, more than one movie. Later, while we eat steak and drink a couple of bottles of wine, I give Van Damme a pad and ask him to illustrate his current emotional state -- he is known to be a talented caricaturist. He thinks for a while and then draws, pushing pen to paper with such force that the paper tears in two places. What he draws might strike some as maudlin, as they read this now; but that night, when he drew it, it didn't seem so: a muscled, acrobatlike figure with ropes attached to his wrists and ankles, being pulled in four different directions. The acrobat's face is incomplete: he has no frame or ears, only a nose, a sad curl of a mouth and two large tears.

Van Damme, who prides himself on being able to foretell the future, announces he won't live a long life. Part of the reason is his very high cholesterol. He tells me the number and swears me to secrecy. Dead by 50, he estimates. "Heart attack," predicts Van Damme. "Massive."

Given the four marriages and the LaPier situation, it seems reasonable to ask Van Damme what he has learned about women over the years. He thinks this question over and for far longer than any of the others. Then:

"I don't like women."

"Why?"

"They're players. I have more respect for friendship. Maybe that's why Darcy's accusing me of being homosexual, which is not fair.

"Women -- the games they play. I know who wants to fuck with me, left and right. They're standing there, I'm looking at them, and they're standing like this, they're standing like that, and they think that woman stuff is going to excite me. I want to see a woman like a female tiger. A woman who can protect the family, the kids. For now, that's Gladys. When I come back from the set and I'm tired, that house to me feel like a church. I come home, it's clean. She's nice. She's optimistic." For five years, Portugues was out of Van Damme's life; during two of those years she lived in Belgium with the children. "Thank God I didn't lose her," he says, "because if I came back home and she was not there, I will be in deep shit. Gladys has the shoulder to hold me."

Van Damme mulls this over. "Maybe Gladys is the tiger," he says.

I tell Van Damme he seems sad.

"Very sad," he says, and his eyes say the same. "Very, very, very sad. Very sad. Very sad. Every day I'm sad. And movies are therapy. Movies are therapy -- to just be somebody else who can be in a story, find a love story. I'm sad. People are mean. And me too; sometimes I'm mean."

Self-made men will always be bound by guilt and tilt toward self-destruction; it is the ones who learn to grow up who survive. This finally, Van Damme realizes. He feels more mature now; though, looking back on his cocaine days, he takes what might be described as the perspective of an action-star addict: "I don't regret I touched drugs. I'm not happy I did it, but I don't regret it because I know what it is. If my son do it, or a friend of my son, or your son, or you, I can do something about it. And I'll go further. Some people can handle [drugs] more than other people." Van Damme lasted only six days in rehab, at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, in Marina del Rey, California, in December 1996. "I was bored," he says. "I mean, I believe it's nice, people talking together. But to me, my best medicine is the gym."

"Right now, lots of people in the studio world, they don't know where is Van Damme. Maybe Van Damme is in a room somewhere, snorting coke. That's what they think, maybe. But I just finished this film, I'm nice on the set. I shake hands. I'm all together and happy. Let's face it, the studios, they're like banks; and if I'm successful again, they'll come to me."

Van Damme also knows he cannot leave the action genre behind quite yet, and his hope now is that Hollywood and the action audience -- the adolescent boys and twenty-something women who pay to see him -- will look past his flaws, maybe even feel sympathy for him. "An action hero has to be always in shape mentally and physically," he says. "He's the straight guy. People, sometimes they believe Sly, Arnold, myself, we're athletes, you cannot make mistakes. But Hollywood forgives, I guess."

If Van Damme has proved nothing else to his audience over the past few years, he has proved that he's human. "The audience will forgive more than Hollywood," he says, "depending on the circumstances. Sometimes you make some mistakes in your life. People understand that."


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