Jean Claude Van Damme: I need success to win back my son
6 Febrary, 2009
HE is best known as the all-action hero in hit movies Timecop, Street Fighter and Universal Soldier.
But since his heyday more than 15 years ago, JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME has appeared in a series of duds.
He has also gone through one of the most bitter divorces in Hollywood, which resulted in him losing access to his youngest son, Nicholas, 13.
Now, though, The Muscles From Brussels is back with a vengeance in JCVD — which is getting rave reviews and being compared with Mickey Rourke’s triumphant return in The Wrestler.
And Jean-Claude has a bigger incentive than most stars to make it back to the top.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, he says: “The only way I can bring my son back is to be successful again as they were saying to him, ‘Your father is a loser’. ”
It is clear from the semi-autobiographical JCVD — the actor’s initials — that he partially blames his fading fame for his failed custody battle.
JCVD is like no other film.
In it Jean-Claude plays himself in a fictional tale where he gets caught up in a post office robbery.
Real elements from his life are weaved into the story, including his custody battle.
For legal reasons he cannot use a boy in the film so the case involves a fictional daughter.
The 48-year-old actor, who also has a son Kristopher, 21, and daughter Bianca, 18, says: “The custody case is very painful. The legal system in California is crazy.
“For me not to see my kid is a disaster. You cannot do that to nobody. It has got to the point where Nicholas cannot communicate with my other children on Facebook.
“My other son is making a movie and wants my youngest son to be in the film because he is thinking about him. So they were communicating about the script. Someone found out and he was cut off.”
It is fair to say that his marriage to his fourth wife, Darcy LaPier, did not end well back in November 1997.
Jean-Claude says: “Legally, if I tell you everything, I will be in trouble. It hurts a guy like me. I don’t want to confuse my son, so I say nothing. He will find out for himself what I am really like.”
So what IS Jean-Claude like?
Watch JCVD and you will witness the kind of self-parody and searing honesty unheard of in Hollywood.
Characters joke that he isn’t “as tall” in real life or accuse him of being a prima donna.
And in a seven-minute monologue he admits to drug abuse and a failed personal life.
In our interview he goes even further and admits that his past was so wild he should be dead.
Class act ... Jean-Claude Van Damme with cast in the acclaimed JCVD
He said: “I have been touching, as a metaphor, the devil, that craziness in life. I can see places where I was ****ed up. I was doing this, I was doing that. I did life. The good and the bad.
“I don’t regret anything. Some people are not adjusted well. When I do something I do it fully, when I go to a gym I train three hours non-stop. I do it without talking to anybody.
“When I was doing my rock ’n’ roll life I was doing that to the fullest. Thank God I trained for so many years and was in the best shape physically. If not, I would have been six feet under. I promise you.
“Something was holding me there. Maybe it was because I am a good person. Truly, I am a good person. I love people.
“I love to communicate, I love animals, I love life, I love, I love, I love.”
This interview is like no other I have done.
The karate king peppers his answers with weird metaphors that make ERIC CANTONA’s seagulls seem understandable.
This is one of the simpler ones: “You have to put out a pavement one by one, you have to take a step back. That way, when you walk forward you know those pavements are in front of you and you are able to walk forward.
“All my life I was trying to go forward. I wasn’t waiting for those pavements to be built and I landed in the mud.”
Basically, Jean-Claude is saying that since he took a more relaxed attitude to his career more opportunities are coming his way.
He is also no longer living life in the fast lane.
He says: “I go to the gym. I don’t do pot any more. I don’t do coke any more. I am very down to earth.”
Down to earth is not the phrase I would use to describe someone who says things like: “I asked for a boat, but first I ask for the wind. I received a beautiful boat, but the wind came later.”
Jean Claude, though, insists: “I am not Dolce & Gabbana, I am Levi’s. I am a people man. The blue collar love me.”
I am not sure they will love his views on the environment, though.
He says: “I want to help save this wonderful planet. In 20 or 40 years from now it is over. I truly believe that.
“Only my family and friends understand me. I don’t care about my career. I just want a better place. I say to people, ‘Don’t make a kid’ and they say, ‘Excuse me?’ — but if you have a kid today they have a 50 per cent chance of being asthmatic. Adopt. Too much population, not enough employment, too much pollution.”
It is the kind of stream of consciousness that I got used to during the interview.
And the kind of rambling which inevitably produces contradictions.
Jean-Claude told me he had three children because: “My father gave me a philosophy. He said if you have children, don’t make just one kid — because, God forbid, if you lose one of them and you put all of your love into one of them, you will be left alone.”
He adds: “I am not a movie star, I am not a great actor like Anthony Hopkins, who is looking for an award. I am not GEORGE CLOONEY, who is looking to be the most famous and sexiest — or Arnold Schwarzenegger, to be a powerful self-made man.”
It is difficult not to like Jean-Claude, because he is so different from modern actors. Very few of them are outspoken these days.
He politely calls me “Sir” throughout the interview and asks after my children with genuine interest.
And the intense actor is very self-aware, saying: “If you don’t know me, you are going to think this person is weird.”
Jean-Claude also throws in numerous honest revelations throughout the conversation, adding, “I was a very anxious child” and that film companies were just hiring him “to kick ass and that’s it”.
He also admits: “My eldest son doesn’t know how to deal with society because I over-protect him because of my last life of being on the street and sleeping on the street and starving in LA. I didn’t want him to have that.”
Jean-Claude’s life is much more settled these days. He remarried his third wife, Gladys Portugues, the mother of his elder children, in 1999 and they are still together.
He said: “I love the woman. I came back.”
Now it is Van Damme who is coming back into the affections of movie fans.
Jean-Claude Van Damme