Van Damme in Cannes

May 14, 2000

Fading stars, dishevelled directors and countless pretty faces - this year's Cannes film festival covers the whole cinema spectrum.

Among the more intriguing of the "stars" who have arrived for the prestigious festival is Jean Claude 'the muscles from Brussels' Van Damme. Teeth shimmering white and biceps bulging, Van Damme arrived at Cannes to promote his next two films The Order and The Replicant.

Upon his arrival at the festival, Van Damme announced that he had cleaned up his act and had decided to focus more on his work than on the alcohol and drugs which had threatened to seriously disrupt his career.

"I'm back in shape, I want to tell you that, mental and physical, all that good stuff. God gave me a great body. My duty is to take care of my physical temple." commented Van Damme, "When I became a star, I travelled all over the world and saw people who didn't have the same treatment as me, I felt guilty. Why am I so young, so rich, so successful when this kid doesn't have food to eat? That disturbed me and I hurt myself."

While Van Damme contemplated life as the film world's Mother Teresa, another star out of the limelight in recent years, Gene Hackman, braved the Cannes crowds for the first time. Having declined three previous invites, Hackman finally made his debut at the festival.

"I'm not good with all the crowds", explained Hackman, "I like the idea of the festival; it's the old Hollywood-French film axis. I like the excitement of it. But the actual partaking of it is difficult. But I'm happy to be here."

When asked what continues to drive his colourful career, Hackman commented, "I like doing it. When I'm actually acting, that for me is the best thing there is. The business part of it and these kind of [interview] things, I'm not into it. I'm not always comfortable with that but that's what you pay to do the other thing."

Joining Hackman and Van Damme at Cannes were the likes of Calista Flockhart (promoting Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her), French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and, somewhat bizarrely, American boy band N'Sync who, it seems, have been allowed to further cash in on their phenomenal success by making a Spiceworldesque film.

On more serious matters, the race for the Golden Palm appears to be headed by Chinese director Jian Wen's Devil's On The Doorstep, a frank and brutal film concerning Japan's World War Two occupation of China. The film, which runs for almost three hours, has met with critical acclaim at the festival and looks as though it could dash the Coen brothers hopes of a second Golden Palm with their slapstick comedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou.

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