Jean-Claude Van Damme, Heís Fine!
12 November, 2008 by Fernando Cwilich Gil
The Muscles from Brussels is back with a quirky new film, «JCVD», that deconstructs his chaotic, hard-partying persona. Is this Jean-Claude Van Dammeís public mea culpa, or is the Universal Soldier screwing with his fans? Van Damme phones in from Thailand to elaborate on his ongoing quest for the truth, discuss the subtleties of his meta biographical flick, and shoot the breeze in remarkably good Spanish.
JCVD: Fernando, Como Estas!
BlackBook: Muy Bien, Muy Bien! Que se cuenta?
Si. Hablo espanol. Iím from Argentina. Iíve actually seen you [in Argentina] a long time ago, in a beach resort called Pinamar.
I tell you what, I donít know if I remember you because I went there many years ago, but I became more handsome. Fernando, why is that? For my fansómy real fans in Argentinaóyou can tell them heís more ugly then before. His bodyís still good but he still kicks like a mule.
This is for BlackBook magazine in New York but people read it elsewhere. We are also online so it will go out to several other places. Where are you right now?
We are in Thailand shooting a movie called Full Love.
Whatís this movie about? Is it an action movie?
Itís a movie I wrote and Iím producing. I donít want to sound like a big mouth, but itís a film by «JCVD». Like producing, directing, acting, and I financed the movie, itís the only way for me to do something I completely wanted to do, and to present later to a studio with a very high quality of, in a way, lighting and set designing and we are very close, if not to the truth in this life. I think [in] Full Love we want to represent the persona, the people, into the movie as a real person. I donít want to say the actor because then they will be acting, so I donít want ourselves to ... go into another direction of thinking, from rich to poor, from dishonest to honest, or vice versa, which means from real life to not real life, which is a real movie so weíre trying that with Full Love.
Do you think that after having done the previous movie, JCVD, thatís very much about you, that itís harder to do a movie where thereís acting, where itís not so real?
Youíre totally correct. Iím not spitting on some of my movies like Time Cop, Universal Soldier, Blood Sport [which] were great movies at the time, but when you touch the truth of good wine in coming from plastic bottles to those types of bottles, to finally a wine of good quality, itís difficult to go back below. Not below in the sense of not being commercial, but below a certain truth. You see, you can make a movie for nothing in a way. If I take a taxi from LAX to, letís say, your place, but in New York I guess, in that taxi a full story can happen. A stop, a flashback, a simple story, and when the taxi stops and I pay my billówow what a great movie! So I like to do those types of movies, because I can express myself very well, and when you love lifeógood or badóyou can also love people on the screen and I love people. Truly I love people: They made me believe that without that I, just like the human species, that they should be careful.
How long was the «JCVD» movie in the works in your mind? Were you searching for this type of truth before?
In a way in was a hard thing. I was suffering about it in a way. So instead of telling it to a shrink, they made a movie about that, and I made my own therapy on a ą12 million type of movie, which is crazy. Itís a gift from God. I mean it.
Do you think itís sort of a mea culpa in a sense? Itís a therapeutic movie. Youíre saying, ďIíve done these things.Ē
Absolutely, I was talking to my fans, and in part I know some of those fans of mine are very strong, and they know like I said [that] samurai blades can cut two ways: on the very sensitive way and on the powerful way. But both of them are entering your flesh, in the second because I can go into the sensitive way, which will open faster like telling the truth and being completely honest about a persona which is exactly Full Love, and also on a partial way, which is Van Damme for the movie, with his muscles. They are for real, they are kicking for real. They are opening themselves in a way of being in fear. But with «JCVD» I was able to show they guy with the big muscles going under to become the shadow of the shadow. That way, the people will see me as a normal person, so I have got to be even more afraid than the others, and that way I was able to open to them, so I can relate to them in a more realistic way. I told my fans if Iím gonna die in a bank, please let me tell the people what I think about my life because maybe they have the wrong impression. From that kid from Belgium with the dream, that made it happen in his life, and he saw so many women in his life, and he saw all those toys, beautiful girls, and everything, and was unable to handle that life, training always, being truthful ways, telling the truth almost always.
Yes, because sometimes you donít tell the truth because people are lying out of fear, or people lie to not disappoint others. And nobodyís perfect.
Do you think somebody like Steven Seagal or other action stars will eventually come to a point where they must undergo a bold transformation like you?
Well, Iím not there to help them or not. They are doing their own decisions. Me, I just wanted to jump to something different, to show something else, and itís difficult when youíre very bankable in a certain sense in America. Why do you change that guy that was making so much money for us with a lot of entities, when the other entities were doing a love story movie. So I left the States in a way, [but] I never left with my heart. Believe me when I say that because I donít want that to be mentioned, but I love America more than American people [do] in a way. I came late. We all came from somewhere to that beautiful island, but what Iím saying to you is I left that big, that confidence, that big piece of ... to come in France to be able to get something to be able to show something different. And also the coincidence is that [JCVDdirector Mabrouk El Mechri] was a guy who grew up with my movies and all that stuff happened. So I truly believe destiny doesnít exist to be honest with you. Because if I didnít have my crazy life and my beautiful sports life, if I didnít train and if I didnít party enough, today I wasnít able to tell you through that dialogue, that monologue about «JCVD» which is like half fiction. Not too many fiction to be honest with you. It was the truth if I say it was completely truthful, as you know the system sometimes you can be sued for words you were not suppose to say.
Is there anything you left out of «JCVD»? You pretty much bare your soul in the movie. Is there anything that was sacred, that you said, ďOK we canít go here.Ē
I was just on my way to go, but then the camera shut off because the reel was finished. You can only have certain footage. I was going for a 20-minute monologue, no problem, but the problem is that I was having that red light every 30 seconds. I saw that blurry little red figure who told me not to talk anymore. So I became even more powerful in my message.
How would [the monologue] have continued if that red light didnít go off?
The continuation, to be honest with you, and itís not on a sales point motive, is this movie Full Love.
Full Love is going to be a two-hour continuation of something I would like to tell people, and I know itís the only thing to do. And the movie will have lots of critics in a bad way I guess, but thatís the way it is.
Why do you think the movie will have lots of critics in a bad way?
Because whatís good sometimes is bad, and whatís bad sometimes is good. We will try to tell what is bad, and if we can do this, maybe the movie will become better, but we are taking the audience into the movie to believe itís a great film, and it becomes more and more into reality. Wow, we never expected that from ďOh yes, we know.Ē Because Iím gonna put that in the script, ďOh yes, we know.Ē Itís a script, itís a quotation. The people saying it. ďOh yes, we know.Ē He says in the beginning of the movie, ďBased on the true story from another reality.Ē So I can take the audience from one zone which is yours and mine right now talking, and they can go to a room and watch a big screen because we showed scope. And they can, if we are doing a good, truthful job, they can go mentally, thoughtfully to that movie, that story, and then suddenly I betray them. I take them out! I surprise them. [Itís] something youíll see.
You give them a zen slap.
And then of course I will put them back in that film to pay for it because they want to see Van Damme, because they want to pay for it. But at the end of the day they are going to be very ... they are going to say why he did that? Why did he do that? He didnít have to do that.
But you wanted to do it?
So youíre playing with the publicís reaction. Why?
This is the way I want to make movies. I donít need to make a point. So many people make the point, they even have the magazine in France called Le Point. I donít make a point; all I say is that I have the luxury today, maybe not tomorrow, to express myself via the audiovisual. But not be a messengerójust to make a movie Iíd like to do. Because I wonít be good and strong enough to be a messenger, but sometimes a movie can be a messenger. Not the person behind the strength.
Jean-Claude Van Damme