Jean-Claude Van Damme Played One Of Sci-Fi’s Most Iconic Monsters
Jean-Claude Van Damme was the original Predator before he was fired from the role.
An interesting piece of Hollywood trivia is that action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the Predator in John McTiernan’s sci-fi horror classic. A handful of photos appeared on the web showing Van Damme in a costume that looks very different from what the Predator ended up being. While it’s known that the actor wasn’t part of the actual movie, for a long time it was unclear why he was fired in the first place.
Jean-Claude Van Damme addressed his experiences on the Predator set in 2019 and revealed that his trouble breathing in the actual suit became a huge problem. Actor Bill Duke spoke about Van Damme’s terrible experience becoming the Predator and mentioned that the action star was set up for failure. Duke said during an interview on The Murder Master Music Show that the original creature in McTiernan’s film was initially supposed to be smaller and visual effects would be added during post-production.
Additionally, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Predator costume included a stealth suit, and the actor had to contend with wires on his back that made him look as if he flew amongst the trees. However, Van Damme passed out twice due to hydration, which elicited a warning from the producer, who told Van Damme that if he were to pass out again, he’d be fired. Unfortunately, Van Damme would pass out again, and the producer went ahead and fired him.
Oddly enough, McTiernan told an entirely different version of the story on the film’s 30th anniversary. The director claimed he never worked with Jean-Claude Van Damme on the set of Predator. He also claimed that the actor didn’t understand the visual effects elements of the costume and had issues with the film’s star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Many stories have been told regarding Jean-Claude Van Damme’s exit from the Predator movie. Some suggested that Van Damme left the project after discovering his Bloodsport movie was financed. Others believe Van Damme purposely sabotaged his role because the production refused to let him out of his contract.
Whatever the case, the story ended up being that Jean-Claude Van Damme no longer became the Predator. Instead, the role was given to Kevin Peter, who previously worked as a sasquatch in Harry and the Hendersons. There was also talk that the production wanted to find someone more visually imposing than Van Damme.
Regardless of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s exit from Predator, the film still went on to become a sci-fi horror classic. While initial reviews for it were mixed, the Schwarzenegger-led actioner later became a hallmark of the 80s. The first film’s success led 20th Century Fox to develop four sequels and a crossover project with the Alien franchise.
It’s interesting to know that a star like Jean-Claude Van Damme would’ve been involved in a movie like Predator with Schwarzenegger, especially considering how The Expendables franchise included a lot of older 80’s action stars. In fact, Van Damme and Schwarzenegger both appeared in The Expendables 2. Schwarzenegger also visited the set of Van Damme’s 1991 military sci-fi action film Universal Soldier.