Jean-Claude Van Damme was infamously fired from his role as the killer alien in the first Predator movie, but the reason why sounds like a Hollywood nightmare.
For those unfamiliar, stuntman Kevin Peter Hall was the dreadlocked alien creature who went toe-to-toe with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the jungles of Mexico in the 1987 action film. The premise was simple, a bunch of tough-as-nails soldiers played by bodybuilders and action stars form a commando unit that’s dispatched to the jungle where they finally meet their match in the form of an extraterrestrial hunter. However, with so much bonkers Hollywood lore surrounding the ego of the cast, a footnote to the story happens to be that Jean-Claude Van Damme was briefly cast as the first version of the Predator monster.
Fortunately for both him and the movie, Jean-Claude Van Damme was fired and quickly replaced with Hall, who adopted a brand new look after initial footage of the Muscles from Brussels in costume looked, frankly, ridiculous. Speaking in a new interview with The Murder Master Music Show, Predator actor Bill Duke noted that the early costume was one of the key reasons that Jean-Claude Van Damme was fired in the first place.
It turns out that the rubber suit Jean-Claude Van Damme had to wear for the movie not only looked bad and restricted his movement, it was also a rubber freaking suit in the 100-degree humidity of Mexico. The heat was so intense that the actor passed out several times, which slowed production down. Eventually, Duke says, a producer threatened Jean-Claude Van Damme with firing if he passed out again. Since that threat didn’t make the suit less rubber or Mexico less humid, he passed out again and was allegedly fired on the spot.
While Duke’s account comes from a person who was actually on the set with Jean-Claude Van Damme, there may have been more at play behind his firing.
The initial draft of the Predator creature was much more in line with the Xenomorph from Alien in that it was not meant to be a physically imposing humanoid that could reasonably square off with the monster of a man that is Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was originally conceived as being nimble, stealthy and capable of moving through the jungle with horrifying agility. That’s why the body-type of Jean Claude Van Damme was brought in. However, the actor previously explained to Yahoo Entertainment that he was dismayed to get to set and find that, although he was hired for his agility and athletics, he was stuffed into a heavy, movement-restricting getup that looked more like a rejected Power Rangers villain. On top of that, the costume covered his face, meaning the role wasn’t exactly his entry into the action movie world he thought it would be.
Bloody Disgusting reports that there are reports that Jean-Claude Van Damme actually became difficult to work with on set on purpose because he realized Predator was going to be a torturous experience for very limited exposure. Meanwhile, his movie Bloodsport was greenlit, offering him a starring role that would show his face without subjecting his body to literal torture. After he left, he went straight to the set of Blood Sport, which hit theaters a mere 8 months after Predator.
As with everything, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The Hollywood Reporter wrote in 2019 that the real crux of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s firing had to do with the suit looking bad. It was eventually decided that the monster needed to be completely redone and that the approach of making it an agile alien rather than a physically imposing one wasn’t going to work. So, Jean-Claude Van Damme was given the boot along with his bad costume.