clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Interview: JCVD discusses the pain of 'fading away' and how he still gets 'the butterfly'

New, 55 comments

Bloody Elbow's Stephanie Daniels secured an interview with martial arts/action movie legend, Jean-Claude Van Damme who gives his thoughts on the emotional strain of having his star 'fade away,' as well as juggling multiple projects at once.

Jean-Claude Van Damme
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Wikipedia

I've interviewed a lot of combat sports athletes over the last 10 years, and during the course of those many, many interviews, a common thread began to materialize. Most of these athletes decided to take up fighting for a living after seeing a martial arts movie of some sort. The most mentioned film across the board was Bloodsport, and by a very wide margin.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is one of the greatest action movie stars of all time and continues lending his expertise in the martial arts/action genre to many films, both in front of the lens and behind it. His commercial for Volvo, where he does "the most epic of splits" while positioned between two of the automotive giant's trucks while moving backwards was legendary, and that video went viral, racking up 11 million views in just three days, 35 million inside a week, and close to 80 million to date.

Recently, Van Damme's PR group reached out to me with some promotional materials about his upcoming projects, namely the Pound of Flesh movie that was released two weeks ago. Immediately, I began formulating a plan to secure an interview with Jean-Claude.

I made my move and put in the request. To my surprise and delight, I was granted an e-mail interview. I began putting my questions together, and when word came a few days later that it was time to submit them, I had put together a list of 25 questions. Sent.

I was contacted a few hours later with the news that I had to revise my questions because there was a limit; eight questions only. So, I reviewed carefully, whittled down the list to eight and was able to sneak in a few extras in my own, crafty way. Sent.

Let's face it. We all want to be loved.

A few days later, I received an e-mail with his answers. Apparently, somebody gave him the original set and that was what he worked from. I knew as soon as I started reading, that he'd actually put fingers to keyboard and answered himself (in addition to his PR rep telling me, ‘Below is what we got back from JCVD'). Only a couple of the questions were answered, and he may have been quite crafty himself, seeming to combine a few of the questions into one and answering thusly. The only thing we need to focus on though, is the fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme, my own martial arts muse, had answered some of my questions.

In order for this feature to work correctly, I will be laying out the three components of it. The first set of questions, the revision, and finally, JCVD's answers, which I will be copy/pasting as they were sent to me, but before all that, I've taken a screencap of the answers he sent. It was the only way I could get his text color choice to be viewable in our digital editor.

JCVD's interview answers

JCVD's interview answers

JCVD Questions (Original Version)

  1. Pound of Flesh is about to hit its international release on May 15th and is your 3rd collaboration with Ernie Barbarash. What were the high points of filming this movie and conversely, were there any low points (injuries, bad weather, etc)?

  2. Where do you feel the film's biggest selling point lies, outside the fact that you are in the starring role?

  3. You frequently have several movie projects going on at once. What are some tricks of the trade to maintaining a schedule like yours?

  4. Do you find more satisfaction in the films where you serve multiple roles (acting, producing and directing)?

  5. I've noticed that a several of your movies are filmed in New Orleans. Is there some personal connection with the city for you, or does it revolve more around it fulfilling the various needs of the film (budget, location being essential to plotline)?

  6. Your reality series provided fans with the opportunity to get a rare glimpse into your personal life, and a lot of raw emotion was on display. Was doing that show a bit of a cathartic experience for you?

  7. The show was very popular but didn't come back for a second season. Was that a personal choice for you to not go forward with more seasons?

  8. Are there any plans for a similar venture in the future?

  9. You've achieved success on the highest level in show business. How much has your motivation changed from when you first started out to now?

  10. How is the remake of Kickboxer going and are you also serving as a consultant as well as one of the main stars?

  11. What are your thoughts on the current crop of kickboxers?

  12. When you were first getting started in martial arts, it had nowhere near the high profile it has today. Did it ever occur to you that you would play a huge part in the combat sports revolution and that you would serve as inspiration for several generations of professional and amateur fighters?

  13. You have been through various highs and lows in the course of your life but in recent years, things seem to have been really on the up for you. How is life these days; are you in a happy place?

  14. You have traveled the world extensively. Which two or three places really stand out to you as the best places on earth, and for what reason?

  15. I don't know if you follow GLORY kickboxing at all, but there is a Belgian by the name of Filip Verlinden who is doing very well and is quite close to a title shot; do you two know each other at all? He says you were an inspiration in his teenage years.

  16. What ever happened to the fight with Somluck that was being discussed a few years back?

  17. Any chance you will indeed step in the ring at some point?

  18. Being a master in several different martial arts disciplines, what are your thoughts on the evolution of MMA?

  19. How do you think you would have fared in MMA?

  20. Did you have any idea that the Volvo commercial would go viral as fast as it did?

  21. After that spot, I heard that a lot of companies sought you out for similar spots. What made you say yes to Volvo, but not to the others?

  22. You still perform almost all of your own stunts and maintain peak physical condition. What's your secret to staying in great physical form well past the point of your similarly aged peers?

  23. You are well known for your animal rescue efforts, even turning one of your homes into a sanctuary for rescues. How has that been going and do you still have your drivers stop in the streets so you can rescue animals?

  24. If you could share one fact about yourself with your fans, what would it be?

  25. Are there any circumstances in which wearing a denim jacket with jeans is ever really acceptable in today's fashion landscape?

It's very hard to be a movie star in terms of like when your success is going down. Because everybody loves love. I love people. And people love to be loved. So when the movie star is going away like a champion, and fading away, it's so much suffering for them. -Jean-Claude Van Damme

JCVD Questions (Revision)

  1. Pound of Flesh is about to hit its international release on May 15th and is your 3rd collaboration with Ernie Barbarash. What were the high points of filming this movie and conversely, were there any low points (injuries, bad weather, etc)?

  2. Where do you feel the film's biggest selling point lies, outside the fact that you are in the starring role?

  3. Your reality series provided fans with the opportunity to get a rare glimpse into your personal life, and a lot of raw emotion was on display. Was doing that show a bit of a cathartic experience for you and are there any plans for a similar venture in the future?

  4. You have been through various highs and lows in the course of your life but in recent years, things seem to have been really on the up for you. How is life these days; are you in a happy place currently?

  5. You've achieved success on the highest level in show business. How much has your motivation changed from when you first started out to now?

  6. When you were first getting started in martial arts, it had nowhere near the high profile it has today. Did it ever occur to you that you would play a huge part in the combat sports revolution, and that you would serve as inspiration for several generations of professional and amateur fighters?

  7. Being a master in several different martial arts disciplines, what are your thoughts on the evolution of MMA and how do you think you would have fared in the sport?

  8. If you could share one little-known fact about yourself with your fans, what would it be?

JCVD Answers

9. You frequently have several movie projects going on at once.  What are some of the tricks of the trade to maintaining a schedule like yours?

Before I train, I get butterfly like it's the first time I train. And before every shot, it's like I've got a butterfly. What excitement to know that it's action and nobody exists!

I'm too intense.  Every time I make a movie with somebody, because I've got so much to say  and I like to be involved in everything, some people don't like that.  But I think it's cool.  That's me.  I cannot change.

(IN BALANCING A LOT OF PROJECTS)

If I don't so that, I don't think I will be in good health.  I mean, every time I leave and I go somewhere, that's where I start to train and be happy with people.  And life is so short, and it's good to go around the world.  It's a phenomenon to me.

The guy I love is Depardieu...He cannot stop working.  Basically, the body is falling down, really the body is falling down.  And being surprised that the head is still standing. So  this is Depardieu.  And it's the same with guys like Stallone and it's the same with the big movie stars.  They're hungry.  They've got that specific idea of wanting to do something so they have that tunnel vision and that's why you have so many successful people.

So to be successful in life, you've got to ask yourself first what do you want to do.  It's going to take some time because you don't know yourself.  You need a couple of years to know how you walk, how you think, how you this, how you that...At the same time, ask, ask yourself.  "What do I want to do?"  Because school will give you the rules and good advice.  But school will not develop your instinct.  And the instinct is inside you.   So more you ask yourself what I want to do, more that seed will become like almost like a lemon and you will start to kind of have like a voice inside of you...like a feeling of knowing yourself.  And then you'll target your dream.  When you feel that your dream will be come a reality, it's out there.  You know when you're going to reach it.  When you talk and you walk like the dream,  you're representing the dream, then you become a star.

10. Do you find more satisfaction in films where you serve multiple roles (acting, producing, directing)?

Acting is cool.  Directing is killing yourself.  Acting is cool.  Acting is good for me.  And before every shot I've got,  I got the butterfly.  Do you believe that?  Before I train, I get butterfly like it's the first time I train.  And before every shot, it's like I've got a butterfly.   What excitement to know that it's action and nobody exists!

Let's face it.  We all want to be loved.

It's very hard to be a movie star in terms of like when your success is going down.  Because everybody loves love.  I love people.  And people love to be loved.  So when the movie star is going away like a champion, and fading away, it's so much suffering for them.  So you have to surround yourself with good family....meet dogs and friends so when you go down, you still have some activities with your family...painting and maybe directing.  Movie star, you have to pay a price for sure.

Here's an awesome video of Jean-Claude's recent appearance on Conan. Incidentally, it's racked up an impressive 12.7 million views in three weeks, and is one of the highest viewed video clips from that show.