Back in the mid-1980s, Jean-Claude Van Damme wasn’t quite the household name that he would become later in the decade with movies like Kickboxer and Bloodsport. Many of us knew that the Muscles from Brussels initially had a role in John McTiernan’s 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator, playing the original incarnation of the titular beast. When you think of the monster, what comes to mind? That creepy mask? Those otherworldly dreadlocks? That four-cornered snarl lurking under the mask? Whatever you think of first, it all adds up to a terrifying, seven-foot tall, armor-plated, alien killing machine. But that wasn’t always the case. If the Van Damme version had stuck, Predator would have been a very different movie, as this new video details.
Part of the debut episode of The Monster Show from the Stan Winston School, is spent detailing the whole situation. Effects specialist Steven Johnson (Ghostbusters, Species), who worked on Predator, stops by and recounts his experiences on the film, and talks about what exactly what went so very, very wrong.
Poor JCVD had no idea what he was getting himself into. A recent transplant from Belgium, the aspiring actor had this grand idea that he was going to be able to showcase his martial arts skills, duke it out with Schwarzenegger, maybe to the splits, and generally deliver a star-making performance. Boy was he in for an unpleasant surprise. His role was basically as a glorified stuntman, running around the jungles of Mexico in a rubber suit.
And what a suit it was. We all know that the final iteration of the Predator, worn eventually by actor Kevin Peter Hall, is one of the scariest, most intimidating movie monsters of all time. The Van Damme version, however, is something to behold, like a weird red lobster duck. Johnson’s retelling of the Universal Soldier actor’s reaction to the situation is not exactly flattering, but over time, stories of Van Damme’s ego and difficult working relationships on set have become pretty widely known, so this is not a surprise. Then again, it sounds like an all around shitty situation, and you can’t help but laugh thinking about Van Damme, muttering discouraging word out of the chest of the creature suit.
If you, for some reason, haven’t seen Predator, you should rectify that situation immediately. It follows a group of commandos, led by Schwarzenegger, on what they think is a rescue mission in Central America. Once their job is done, on the way to their extraction point, they run into the alien hunter we’ve been talking about, and have to fight their way out. Not always an easy task when you’re facing one of the most deadly predators in the universe.