Jean Claude Damme Interview Transcript May 14

by Lorraine Hahn

Part # 1

LH: His fans know him and love him as a Time Cop, a kick-boxer and a Universal Soldier. Jean Claude Van Damme has had his fair share of nicknames, including The Muscles from Brussels. This week we go behind the biceps and explore this European film hero's Asian connections. This is TalkAsia.

Welcome to TalkAsia, I'm Lorraine Hahn. This week I'm sitting next to one of Belgium's best-known exports. When you talk about Hollywood's "Men of Action" his name rolls as easily off the tongue as Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Jean Claude Van Damme is here with me in the studio. Welcome to Hong Kong, thank you so much for coming in. You are not new in Hong Kong tell us about your stories here in Hong Kong from a long time ago.

JCVD: I came to Hong Kong at the age of 19 for the first time and I was insured to do, of-course, action movies in Hong Kong and I didn't succeed so well at that time, so I left from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, where I was trying for 5 years and finally my first movie starred in Hong Kong again called Bloodsport. But a company signed me in LA and the shooting was done in Hong Kong as a coincidence. So my first movie was made in Hong Kong called Bloodsport.

LH: Released in Malaysia, am I correct?

JCVD: The first time they release the movie was in Malaysia and France, it opened in those two countries and then of-course the U.S domestically.

LH: So would you say you famous here in Asia among the Asians first versus lets say the Americans?

JCVD: More than that it was my good luck because my first movie was made in Hong Kong called Bloodsport and with all different types of fighting styles, and all those people came from all over Asia with different disciplines in the movie, different martial art types of discipline. And it was well done by my friend producer Charles Wong, who helped me to put all those elements together, he owns Salon Films in Hong Kong and it was my first successful movie.

LH: And you have kept in touch with him as well as a number of other friends here in Hong Kong, one in particular that I believe you have taken your name from.

JCVD: Yeah Alex. Alex Van Damme. I took his name in fact from his father because his father sent me for the first time in Hong Kong to be a picture model. I'm not enough tall to be a catwalk model, plus too big for that, and we became very good friends and I took his name as an honor. Because my name, by the way, is too complicated, it's Van Veren Berg, so in America it sounds like "Van Varen Berg" (said with American accent). So Van Damme it's punchy, short, and clear.

LH: You're also the Hong Kong Ambassador for Hong Kong tourism I read today, what role do you fit in that?

JCVD: This is a great honor for me, I will be the first one to be nominated, and why not? I mean for an action star it's kind of unusual because normally in our business action stars are not, if I can say so, not well respected as actors. We're more considered like physical people and I feel great to be nominated as an Ambassador because maybe I can do something to help this area.

LH: Let's get back to your movies. John Woo is one of the directors you've worked with on Hard Target. Are you guys friends, do you keep in close contact?

JCVD: Yes and no, because John is now very, very successful, but John did his first movie with me and I came all the way from LA to meet with him and he met with me, and we talked about a film called Hard Target and that was his first movie made in the U.S.

LH: Is it true that you actually brought him to the U.S? You were the one to give him that first shot?

JCVD: To "give him" (ahhhh). He is a very gifted director, so he helped me too. We both helped each other, but I was the first one to bring John Woo to the U.S, yes.

LH: What is it like now that you have obviously made your fame and fortune in Hollywood working with Asian directors compared with Western directors, or North American directors?

JCVD: In my business for action movies they have a great sense of tempo, and their shooting and montage of how they put the film together, it's moving very fast with lots of different angles, it's almost like a ballet of pieces together and it makes, of-course, an action move or an action sequence. In plus of that they're thinking very fast the way Asian directors are shooting, they are very economical so they can do lots of takes in one day. But also, of-course, they have great dramatic directors, people like the Red Lantern for example. I mean I love Ju-Doh. Those movies, to me, are superb.

LH: You paused a bit when you talked to me about moving from Hong Kong to the United States. I assume that pause suggested that it was a tough life the first few years in the US for you?

JCVD: Yeah, it was very hard, but I cameЕ..I knew I was going to succeed, and I have got a trick in life. If you can say thank you in advance for something, if you really believe in something then you've got to accept it's done. We have a say like "I have to be an actor", or let's say "I have to be an anchor", "I've got to be an architect" "have to be" is no good, because "have" is as though I'm forced to do so, but if we reverse the verb - Be To Have - I am an actor, becoming an actor is just a work, and two: it's already gone, I'm on my way there so Be To Have, we have to think we are that person before becoming successful and saying thank you, in advance, to the Gods of life (if I can say that). So when I came to America and Hong Kong I knew I was an actor and a movie star, even if no one knew me. But I put this in myself and I was acting like I was the biggest star I knew and by doing that you present yourself to people with conviction and slowly it will happen to you.

LH: Like the confidence in you.

JCVD: Then you project to people that type of feeling, and we're all about feeling on this earth.

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