Jean-Claude Van Damme talks about Replicant and The Monk

Translated by the Warriorman

Mad Movies: May, 2001. (Cannes Film Festival)

Held at the last Cannes Film Festival for the joint promotion of Replicant and The Monk, this interview, decently not usable, of the most aware hero of all times could only find its natural place on this site (MAD MOVIES). Not informative for a penny, hardly digestible if one is on an empty stomach, it however reveals, between the lines, the great projects of the energetic Belgian, his super-mega project of the "Net-approach", his sexualized vision of violence and a whole heap of other things which one could have only found in his furious remarks. Inimitable.

Introduction: At a time when the public could finally discover him in an excellent and authenticate B-movie, Van Damme, perceived as a violent grunt by a good part of the French public up to this point, changed tactic resolutely, and revealed himself beyond good taste. Two dazed appearances were enough (at Loft Story and at Ardisson), for the press to promptly stop the "strange" promotion from the Belgian, unchained and unverifiable.

Too bad for Replicant, as today, the name of Van Damme became synonymous with "television buffoon" for those who carefully like to label such things. For our part, we noticed that the apparently incoherent verbosity of the man reveals very explicit data as to his neural connections, his manner of glazing, of passing from one idea to the other while skipping certain stages. It even becomes possible to decipher the incomprehensible, as with an open book where words would have been erased, and analysis of it reveals, in one way or another, a completely unexpected Van Damme, at least as moving as the character whom he interprets in Replicant (no, seriously).

Admittedly, today, he makes France laugh. The merit, is that he will emerge with less enemies. But it is impossible not to note with pleasure that within these two programs, JCVD went, in the eyes of the general public, from a stupid and macho icon to an insane actor, certainly, but an actor nonetheless. As Van Damme, no doubt, is first and foremost pure show business.

This Cannes interview was conducted with a group, and essentially in English.

Present on Jean-Claude's yacht, our dashing reporters Stephane Monssakis and Cedric Delele, a journalist of "L'ucran Fantastique" with a strong Marseille accent, and finally a mysterious Danish journalist.

From the very start of the conversation, Jean-Claude appeared seriously preoccupied by the possible presence of photographers in the vincinity.

Warning: what follows requires a concentrated read.

Van Damme: (he finishes speaking with his agent) Paparazzis, understood? (then turns to the assembly) Okay let's go!

Stephane: Should we do the interview in English or in French?

L'ucran Fantastique: Huh... In English, if possible.

Van Damme: Yeah, that will be better. That way, we'll all be able to understand one another. I tried explaining that to the French journalists for ten years, but they don't understand. That's how you do big business, by speaking English.

L'ucran Fantastique: Huh... n...

Van Damme:(cutting him off) ...every school should have obligatory English classes. I don't care wether it's in the Moslem world, the Catholic world, English is business. Even the Saudis speak English and do big business. One language, one currency and no religion, and we will all be better off. But we're not here to talk about politics.

Danish journalist:You still have an accent...

Van Damme:And you too. A very pronounced one!

Danish journalist:Thank you.

Van Damme : No thank yous, you should do better than that. And me, I have an accent. Does that bother you?

Danish journalist : No, but I find it impressive that you still...

Van Damme :, not today, because today the world is complete. I can talk to you on the Net, I can make a film on the Net and you can see me instantly. It is possible with the new technologies. I believe that today we all understand each other. Thank God, thanks to this technology, to this "mediatized" world, people become less stupid and they start to understand what attrition is, and love and all that, you understand? Because people are badly informed in certain countries. They are kept compressed and they do not have anything other to look at. Then they visit other countries and they say "Whooa what Babel!" By Babel, I mean the culture of a country. I am lucky to be a movie star, because I can travel.

Stephane : What motivated you in the script of Replicant?

Van Damme : First of all the budget... Sorry, but I am honest. I am back, you see. So I must find a script that's not too expensive, which means to say, what is "expensive"? So I looked for a movie without CGI, where each scene is not expensive, and that is peanuts for the studio. We did this movie for a very low price, in 55 days, which was a very hard work, but I believe that it is one of my best films, as far as my acting performance is concerned. And of course, we didn't have Timecop's budget, for the special effects, but I believe I'll be (that depends on the public, the press) I believe that I'll receive 5 out of 5 as an actor. They will see me in good physical and mental condition, cured. And I just made a movie called The Order, which is very commercial, like old Van Damme, with the smil... Hey! Hey! Hey! (he throws three punches in the air) and then we make The Monk which will be very "scope". (he shows an early poster for the film) It is a beautiful poster, but we won't use this one when the movie comes out. In the poster, we will see tundra, snow, it will be like Akira Kurosawa's Shaolin.

: Is it an epic film?

Van Damme : Oh yes, Ringo (Lam) will take care of that. He likes realism.

L'ucran Fantastique: (with heavy accent) So, artistically, your collaboration...

Van Damme : (making fun of the accent) Artitiscally! Ha ha ha!

L'ucran Fantastique : ...with Ringo Lam was very profitable...

Van Damme : You wanted to speak English earlier and now you speak French?

L'ucran Fantastique : My English is very bad.

Van Damme : But you wanted us all to speak English.

L'ucran Fantastique : Okay, I will try.

Van Damme : No, no, I want to make you happy. What do you want? You want me to speak French and then repeat in English?

L'ucran Fantastique : I prefer in French.

Van Damme: You changed your mind then. OK. Are you bipolar?

L'ucran Fantastique : Huh... sorry?

Van Damme: I'm kidding.

L'ucran Fantastique : Oh OK! So, I was saying, artistically, your collaboration with Ringo Lam was very profitable... <

Van Damme : (a guy throws him a candy) Thanks Mister.

L'ucran Fantastique : Is this what made you continue this collaboration, and what do you think of this director?

Van Damme : Hey, you're walking at the Carlton. Then this tall girl named Dolan brings out a guy named Ringo Lam, it's the same guy. He doesn't have a brother. So I'm making another movie with him, next year. I can't lose him because I already lost John Woo. I made John Woo come to America. Hard Target was a good movie but he wasn't with, huh... with his people. He came alone, and he did not bring his Chinese team. He was a little lost, and spoke half-English, half-Chinese. It was hard for him.

Stephane : What do you think of the films that he makes today in Hollywood, like MI:2, Face/Off?

Van Damme : It's very "extravagant". Different from Ringo. Ringo is more realistic. Ringo likes reality. Making a movie with John Woo, it's easy... well, easy... it's many camera movements, many takes because he wants to be able to test various things. But Ringo, he wants all in front of the camera. Wether it's a master, a rookie, he wants me to be there. He wants realism in the combat scenes. If you look at my hands, I injured them in this scene with the mirror. For him, it was the best way to do it, and he wanted the take, so we did it several times. He wanted power, he wanted me to be wild, so then I became a wild Van Damme, you see?

Danish journalist : Did you like that, to play the bad guy?

Van Damme : What's the problem? You have to play a bad guy, you play a bad guy. You lower your eyebrows like that... Rhhhh... like in Black Eagle.

Danish journalist :You consider to have lost John Woo?

Van Damme : I did not lose John Woo. He makes his movies. I do mine. Nothing is lost in life. You bring joy and happiness to people. So I didn't lose him. We're not married... Ha ha... so I didn't lose him. You lose someone when they die, you see? John Woo is there, in the place. I would go back to him, he will come back to me. Anything is possible and all depends on what you have in mind (he stops)... This guy is filming me, goddammit! (he has just seen a couple with a videocamera) Excuse me Mister! You have an authorization to film me? (he stares at them for a few seconds while the guy puts the videocamera away)... Now, I'm with you in private (laughter).

Stephane : It is not the first time that...

Van Damme: (to the Danish journalist) Where are you from?

Danish journalist: Denmark.

Van Damme: Denmark. A beautiful country. Never seen it. I heard it's very clean. (to Stephane) And you?

Stephane : France... This is not the first time that you play your double in a movie. What influences you to use this idea?

Van Damme : The script.

Stephane : Yes but what else?

Van Damme : The script.

Stephane : Just the script?

Van Damme : Just the script. It's hard to find a good one these days, that's all. And it's not about ego.

Stephane : But I wasn't talking about ego!

Van Damme : Well, I hope because the answer is either that, or it's about ego.

Stephane : I rather wondered if this was not a way to play roles with more nuances in a basic action film, like in Face/Off. Even in Double Impact, you...

Van Damme : Yes, but that has nothing to do with ego, because these films mean nothing. With all due respect for the money they made off of it, Replicant is a better film than Face/Off, I really believe it. It's deeper and I'm proud of it because it only cost X million dollars. It's unbelievable. But please don't publish the amount of the budget, it's private, and has nothing to do with the film. But I am proud of Ringo, he has worked so hard. And his movie, it means something. Like Gladiator means something. The big movies have a direction, the small movies have a direction. Sometimes, a big film has no meaning. Today, I love the realistic look, or the epic look. These are the kind of movies that I want to do now in my career. I love action, but I want the action to have a direction, or action for a mission, or action for something very deep. A man or a woman will not hit someone without reason. They need to be pushed to the limit for them to become primitive and physical. At first, he will try to save his ass with his mind, his lawyer or something else. And after that, when you push the limits, you become primitive, you see, like in ancient times. It becomes almost like a sexual act. You look at your wife, you look in her eyes and it's her soul, it's a relationship. But when I met her, it wasn't there. In Replicant, it's the opposite. The guy is pushed, pushed, pushed, and at the end he becomes mad. So there's a message. And with DNA, the Creator has created something that has in turn created something better than the Creator was originally looking for... in a way. We should be proud of that. I don't believe in cloning. We have enough people on Earth, but that's what the movie is about.

L'ucran Fantastique : Huh... In Replicant, there is again the theme of a double, as in Double Impact and Maximum Risk. Is it a subject that fascinates you, that you are particularly interested in? It is, err, somewhat like the good versus evil issue in each and everyone of us.

Van Damme : Yeah... Yeah yeah... (he addresses him as if speaking to a child) there is the good one... there is the bad one... a contrast... (long silence while Van Damme stares at him).

(With a certain bravery, Cudric decides to break the painful silence)

Cudric : Will you move on to filming The Monk right away?

Van Damme : The Monk will be filmed around January, because I've got something big with the internet world. I do a thing... I will be the first to do it by the way... it will be a movie and I'll reach 250 million people in a single day. Same hour, different places. This will be done with telephone companies and all that. It's a big, big deal. It's also necessary to calculate the filming time for framing (frame rate) because on the Net, you see, all the companies try to put over their own publicities, their own films, all they have, in this small box. The problem is that when you have smoked, you cannot get the taste of the cigarette out of your mind. So, when the genie is out of the lamp, it's much too big to go back in the lamp. And that's their problem, they can't go back in this box that is the Net. So if you do a movie on the Net, you must film it inside the Net, and understand the principles of the Net. And the Net is stupid... but intelligent, because it has more capacities now, with higher definition, because even if you translate you have to encrypt it. Thus, you must design it for the Net, in a net-approach, a Web-approach, to be able to reach the world. We did it two days ago on the boat, so that's gonna make a lot of noise in the "cash" category. I love films and I want to do one every year or every other year, but I have finally found something... (pauses)... we all have different levels of intelligence in life. I will do more than just movies because I have jumped for too many years like a monkey. For years they nicknamed me, The Muscles from Brussels. And all these years, you take the blows. You have to be crafty to succeed in films. It's necessary be a diplomatic guy, which I am now. I've had enough. I want to do good movies. I have a good director, money, my private account and I'll do all by myself, like the studios do, but I won't do ten films per year, only one film per year. But I guarantee that... (he takes Cudric by the shoulder)... my brother!... I guarantee that I will do movies picture by picture. And after that there will be the Net and the clothing business. And with the net, I'll be able to have publicity bills of 500 per second, in the entire world.

L'ucran Fantastique : Was the collaboration with Nu Image satisfactory and...

Van Damme : ...what the fuck do we care about Nu Image! (Laughter) I'm talking about the internet and the entire world, and you go back to this film. It is just a film. (he raises his voice) This film, I took the script, the director. I said, "give me the money, make the pre-sales and I'll do the movie." Luckily, they put money on the table in advance, so I guess I should say thank you to Nu Image, but no one was there! That's why we pay them with these two films, with which they will make a fortune. They spent money to raise their company, and now it's working! You need to spend in life, and you need to give to receive. You need to like to give to receive! With the heart! And one day you get some back. Are we done?

Danish journalist : How are you today in your life?

Van Damme : Fantastic.

Danish journalist : Will you become a monk?

Van Damme : Not yet. First I have to finish some business deals before becoming a monk. Training for The Monk will begin in two months. Ringo wants to bring me to China in a Shaolin temple, that's why I'm losing weight. He thinks I have long legs. Jacky (Chan?) likes the gestures that stop right in the middle and he wants me to do those large movements, and that PAAAAOOOW!!! (he sends his leg in the air and stops some centimeters from the face of the brave Cudric, who didn't even blink and smiles, admiringly). He wants this power. He wants me to explode with big screams. And of course, when he's done removing the fat, possessing my power, my mind, he'll be able to elevate my technique, make me surpass myself and transform me into something that will look like CGI, with jumps, sequences... Aah! It will be fantastic. Therefore I will go three months to China to discover new techniques because... (he is interrupted)... and after that I will go to Birmania to make me humble, which will be very cool for the promotion, because to see a star walk barefoot, that will be cool. But I will do it for real. Because Ringo does not want a monk that comes from a villa in Marina del Ray... (he spots the couple from earlier, with their videocamera)... Ooh! You're tourists? Ooh, I am sorry. You not from the press, right? Heeeyy (he gives them a big warm gesture).

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