Jean-Claude Van Damme Première Interview
Première magazine: June, 1999
Interview by Jean-Yves Katelan
His last film, "Legionnaire", did not have a great deal of depth to it, and at 38 years, JCVD does not have any of the reservations or decencies which makes the majority of us "civilized" beings. One can choose to make fun about it. One can also choose not to. And if he sometimes happens to mix French, English and some brushes, it digs furrows which are not so often plowed... To such a degree we have made three episodes of them for our readers.
Q: What is your worst physical pain?
Well, a physical pain is not so much a pain. It's a pain you forget. I believe that mental pains are much harder; and if you include spiritual pain... there's none. Therefore, there is the physical pain (primary), the mental pain (which we remember, the memories of life): and then there is the spirit, which has no pain, since the final conclusion of the spirit is perfection.
Q: Very well. Van Damme, is that your real name?
No. It is Jean-Claude Van Varenberg.
Q: And your second first names?
François. And Camille. It's a beautiful first name Camille, it's old fashioned, isn't it? It sounds like a piece of furniture from Provence.
Q: That's true. Other than Van Damme, any other nickname you dream of?
Well, dreams have no relevance on words... or on names. For me, dreams - and for everyone, even if people don't know it (and even if they don't know, they know) - a dream is a feeling, a real feeling that occurs if you want it to.
Q: Your last dream became a reality?
I don't want to get into dimensional things, but: I dreamed of being an actor, I became an actor... And it's great! Mankind's greatest dream is the dream of creation. We are in life to recreate better than ourselves.
Q: Do you have an official religion?
[Nicely ironic] What a beautiful question! There, we see that we have a lot of work to do on ourselves! An official religion... [He stops then speaks up] IS THERE A LAW FOR LOVE?
That shows how much we still have to learn about life! The most beautiful religion one can have, is to return within ourselves, and to absorb the essence of life, to absorb ourselves, and to then produce from your own religion: instinct. And the culmination of instinct, is love! It is important to learn how to love. To first love ourselves to be able to love others.
Q: How would you be defined in two words?
To define what?
Q: You, your personality...
In two words... "I am"
Q: Not bad. How much do you have on you?
How much money? Nothing for now, I am wearing shorts and running shoes. It's the morning. [It is 9 am in L.A.]
Q: What do you do when you're alone in an elevator?
Alone with people, or all alone? Because we're always...
Q: No, alone-alone...
Physically, then, as spiritually, we're all together, right?
Because in an elevator... when you go up in a elevator... you think. About a lot of things; about creations, people, souvenirs... So we're never alone spiritually! But physically, "in the envelope", if I am alone... well... I am there. And I stay there. Until the doors open... And I start to walk. I move my envelope. Towards the everyday mission... There.
Q: What do you have nostalgia about?
I have nostalgia about childhood. I find that childhood is very, very beautiful. And the way we raise a child - whether they are male or female - we can delay his or her process of creation, which I call his or her "good side". Because we give children many rules; there are good rules but there are some that are a little... - we'll get back to the word - "official". And those official rules can really delay what should become... But it's not that bad, he or she will just have to fight harder! Not only against himself, against life, but also against life's official rules, religions and all that... But to get back to the question and to nostalgia, I had a very beautiful childhood despite all that... I was raised in the countryside, outside of Brussels. And I always grew up amongst dogs.
I played a lot with dogs. I always liked the contact of animals. Why? Because there was a lot of feelings... Animals don't talk a lot. They "speak" with feeling, but they don't have a language for our fears. On the other hand, there is a lot of touching and eye contact, the really sincere things; and that really helped me grow with animals around me. I have a dog next to me right now and I stroke it.
Q: What is he called?
Q: Do you have a role model?
Yes! Myself! I am my own role model because I know my errors, my qualities, my victories and my defeats. If I spent my time taking another person as a role model, how do you know that this person can model you along the right lines? Okay: children (or parents, or whatever), when they see me on the screen, they can copy! So the best model you can have in life is yourself! And that is one very, very large work. But a very beautiful one! We call it "creation anew", "re-creation". Physical and mental. It is very, very beautiful to have your own self.
Q: For what would you fight?
Aaah! Of course. I have a really big mission! But I do not want to make any mistake explaning it. Wait... Well, I would fight for a thing which is very, very significant in the world... in the universe... And it is very simple! It's the truth! Because even if we lie to ourselves - if we brag like you say in France, we come to the screen, and we put on make-up, and the hair, the suit, etc. That's all good, we have a nice image. "Oh he's so beautiful! He even smells like a movie-star..."
Truthfully, between what I say and what I do, there are always underlying thoughts, good or bad thoughts. But the truth? You cannot escape from it! For ourselves. And there, I really tried with all my heart to give the best answer I could!
Q: Incidentally, is there a truth you would like to restore about yourself?
No! [very rapidly] Because in truth, the truth, does not have a truth! Ha! Gotta get it...
Q: Yes, Yes...
The cycle... The cycle of cosmos in life... it is a big wheel. Which is comprised of things, moments, and feelings... and the truth; is that we must find our own truth. My own truth? How do you want me to tell you like that? If you would have spoken to me five years ago, or three years ago, or six months ago! Or yesterday... or tomorrow... If you would have spoken to me like that then, I could not have answered you like this. And thanks to my own truth (of which I do not yet have the answer), I can speak to you in a more sophisticated way. One year ago, I would have spoken to you about my muscles. Of how much I eat in the morning, how beautiful I am, and how strong I am, that I am the best... But in truth, there is no best! In truth, there is for each their own.
Q: What has happened during this last year?
A lot of things! We call it "the cycle of life". But wait! There are two kinds of lives... I hope that's not too strong, but what I'm about to say is is very deep: there are two lives. The first one is ours: between you and me, the telephone, the conversation, Première magazine, the movie "Legionnaire" - which is very beautiful, I respect it, but that's a reality we created, we live in a reality that we created and that I call "illusion". And then, there is death; and death does not exist. Death is the second dimension; the true dimension of life, it is the universe! And that's where we return, either in the same envelope, or in something other in which we want to come back and [calms down suddenly]... we progress. Progress on the truth. And I know that even if you don't understand what I say, you understand it.
You see what I mean? There is a feeling there...
There is a kind of "I see what he means, I am there, but..." Because we seek! I seek, you seek! And when you're done talking with me, when you put down the phone - and I'm not trying to end it here - you will say to yourself: "I would never have thought that the karate guy could speak like that." Why? That's a miracle of life: we're all sensitive, we're all capable to give warmth, one another, because of the truth. And a lot of this has to do with love! Because we're all looking for love and friendship. Love, friendship, that's a great thing. There are no borders. Right now, I'm working on a huge script with... That will take me, I don't know, one, two, three, four, five years, six years...
Q: Oh yeah!
And I work on a guy who... But I don't want to talk about that now... I still have many things to do. But it's going to be great.
Q: Without going into details, are you writing this script yourself?
Yes, yes. I MUST write it myself because I'm discovering myself in it! It's fantastic.
Q: Do you have a devise?
What's a devise? Sorry, I'm a little illiterate for that.
Q: A motto, a phrase that you'd like on your tomb...
Not at all. Besides, I am eternal! Ha! As I told you: we all come back! So, to write on my tomb... It's okay! Because I can return to visit with another body, another envelope, or myself, pff... It's okay! To write on a tomb or to leave memories, that shows that human beings can be... sad. And sadness; that's a quality! If we lose someone close to us, we cry! We show them that we really had feelings for him or her, which is okay! But in truth, he or she is always there! Because if my father dies, and if your father died, or if he did not die yet - let God protect him! - or if people close to you died: every time you think of them, they're there! In your heart. So if you really want to remember... your parrot, your dog, your chick.... [he gets excited] even a car [he calms down], it is there. You can remember everything. When you want, where you want. Then, my motto is always: "recreate ourselves." We need to recreate ourselves... to recreate... a better you. And that's very hard! And, and, and, and... it's very easy at the same time.
Q: What made you laugh recently?
[He laughs, then becomes serious] What made me laugh recently is myself! How I have taken life so seriously! When we become irritated and we yell, it's ridiculous! But I believe it's all good, it's a good laugh! It's a laughter of health, a laughter of progression.
Q: Now, I have two very concrete questions, it's...
Very concrete! [He laughs frankly] You're a cool dude! By the way, there's nothing concrete. You know why they're concrete? I'll tell you why they're concrete even before you tell me your questions! Because we created a reality and, in our reality, we invented time: the 24 hours, the 365 days per year...
Which is good! That way, we know that when I go across my living room and I walk from my chimney to the window, it will take ten seconds. But in truth, for a bird, it will take a second! And for oxygen, it takes zero seconds!
So we create a time for ourselves, which is good! That way, we know what goes on. We create concrete things to protect ourselves. A house is concrete, the bricks are concrete. If I'm married to this woman for life, I'll have a concrete life. If my friend tells me he'll never betray me, it's a concrete friendship. But in truth, what right... do we have to put ourselves in another envelope, and make it obey laws that we would like to be the way we want? You see? But in truth, the concrete things, yes, they're concrete if we believe them to be concrete! Go ahead, ask me the question!
Q: What do you always have in your refrigerator?
Ha, ha, ha! That's concrete for my stomach! I always have non-fat milk; very, very cold milk, frozen because when I'm hungry, I like to eat cereals. What else do I have... Lots of things... Oh yeah: I always have ground meat, but turkey...
Turkey, because I like to cook it with onions at night; I cook it with tomatoes, onions, garlic and that gives good bologna pasta.
Q: Yeah! That sounds good!
So you want something from my refrigerator that's concrete and not concrete at the same time?
Water. Water, that's something concrete but not concrete. [On a melodious tone] Because water... can nourish me, but water... can also carry me. Because water... has magic laws. Water can hold cargo ships in the sea, thousands of tons of steel... Water has many dimensions.
Q: What car do you have?
Mercedes. And why? I'll tell you... First, I like solid cars; second, it's very beautiful, and third, it never dies on me. That, you're right, it's concrete; I take it to the garage every six months.
Q: What would you like to be said about you?
Listen well... [A little hesitant] I can't put myself in others and force them to say what I would like them to say! What I would like people to say about me... That's a very very good question... It's the best! It's very simple but very complicated. And in truth... it's simple if it's simple... That's the secret! Listen, listen to your question! It's one of most important to find out what an actor wants. There are many actors - and I'm getting to the answer - ninety percent of them are actors because they have an insecurity or self-love problem. I was in there too. And I tell you honestly, you know what?
[Calm and focus] I really don't give a fuck what people say about me anymore... BUT NOT what people think of me... Because to "say" something is very easy. Good, OK, this question is great, I'll take a little to answer it, if I'm boring you, go ahead and tell me.
Q: Not at all.
OK. [Very quickly] Between saying and thinking... OK, here's what happens. [Calming down] You have a wife, children, and you know that you have a right to be with her because... she was faithful to you in the best and worst moments of your life, OK?
You walk in the street, and a woman comes out, another woman. Who's great, who's beautiful, who's great. And you want, you WANT to tell to the whole world, including yourself. "She's so beautiful! I feel something very very beautiful with her!"... [Silence, then sorry] But you can't say it. If you say it, it'll raise hell in your household. So, between what we say and what we think, there's a great difference. So, what I would like is for people to think about what they're gonna say. I don't want them to say things about me. Between thinking and saying, there's a world of difference. And they are very near. [He hums] A person is called "God", and the other is called "human being". And we're are both equal at the same level... but "God" would like us to THINK the truth about us and not what we say... You know what I mean? It's a paradigm... Well, I've never done an interview like this! I don't know why...
Q: I hope it wasn't unpleasant?
It was great! You felt a sincerity in me - I feel it, you can tell me what you want - I felt that there was a very very beautiful connection and that you are a great guy! It was a moment. There was no time during the interview, I don't know how long it lasted, but there was a moment between us and to put it to paper... it's excellent!! You know why? We will help a lot of people, OK?