Jean-Claude Van Damme talks about Replicant and The Monk
Translated by the Warriorman
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
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
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
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.
Damme: (he finishes speaking with his agent)
...no Paparazzis, understood? (then turns to the assembly) Okay
Stephane: Should we do the
interview in English or in French?
L'ucran Fantastique: Huh... In
English, if possible.
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.
Fantastique: Huh... n...
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.
journalist:You still have an accent...
Van Damme:And you too. A very pronounced
Damme : No thank yous, you should do better than
that. And me, I have an accent. Does that bother you?
journalist : No, but I find it impressive that you
Damme : ...no, 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
Stephane : What motivated you in
the script of Replicant?
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
: Is it an epic film?
Damme : Oh yes, Ringo (Lam) will take care of that.
He likes realism.
Fantastique: (with heavy accent) So, artistically,
Damme : (making fun of the accent) Artitiscally! Ha
Fantastique : ...with Ringo Lam was very
Damme : You wanted to speak English earlier and now
you speak French?
Fantastique : My English is very bad.
Damme : But you wanted us all to speak
Fantastique : Okay, I will try.
Damme : No, no, I want to make you happy. What do
you want? You want me to speak French and then repeat in
Fantastique : I prefer in French.
Damme: You changed your mind then. OK. Are you
Fantastique : Huh... sorry?
Damme: I'm kidding.
Fantastique : Oh OK! So, I was saying,
artistically, your collaboration with Ringo Lam was very
Damme : (a guy throws him a candy) Thanks
Fantastique : Is this what made you continue this
collaboration, and what do you think of this director?
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,
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
journalist : Did you like that, to play the bad
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.
journalist :You consider to have lost John
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
Stephane : It is not the first
Damme: (to the Danish journalist) Where are you
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?
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
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...
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.
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.
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
(With a certain bravery, Cudric
decides to break the painful silence)
Cudric : Will you move on to filming The
Monk right away?
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.
Fantastique : Was the collaboration with Nu Image
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
journalist : How are you today in your life?
Damme : Fantastic.
journalist : Will you become a monk?
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
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