Jean-Claude Van Damme almost made his acting debut as one of the most iconic sci-fi monsters in movie history. Before Kevin Peter Hall was chosen, the “muscles from Brussels” was cast virtually the instant he arrived in the US. He eventually turned down the role.
The infamous martial arts actor with the French accent, and a love for doing the splits, came along at a very early period in the making of the original Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator. When he arrived, he had been expecting to show the world his martial arts mastery against one of the biggest action stars in film history. Instead, he was given a red suit that wasn’t even the final version of the monster (it looked a bit too goofy).
It turns out that Jean-Claude Van Damme hadn’t even been told what the role was about, and he thought it would just end up being one of his many attempts to grab the spotlight in the movie industry.
When JCVD put on the original Predator suit, his reaction was a maelstrom of anger. Special effects specialist Steve Johnson revealed the moment in an interview:
“He was just off the boat from Brussels, he thought he was going to show his martial arts abilities to the world … He thought this was actually the real look of the monster in the movie and he [said] ‘I hate this. I hate this. I hate it. I look like a superhero.’ He was so angry.”
Johnson explains that when he told the fresh Brussels import what the suit was ultimately for, that it would eventually be edited out for a cloaking effect, this made JCVD “even angrier because he thought he could do his martial arts, he could fight Arnold Schwarzenegger. Impossible. Absolutely impossible.”
The suit itself looked a bit like an all red version of Star Wars: Episode One‘s JarJar Binks with a bit more of a buffed body and no ears or eye stalks, almost a humanoid lobster.
— MovieWeb (@MovieWeb) April 9, 2014
Anyone familiar with Jean-Claude Van Damme movies knows that he’s the kind of actor who prefers to show off his fighting abilities. His unique style is derived from a combination of a lifetime of Karate training and ballet, hence his almost painful-to-watch tendency to do the splits, even in midair as he’s delivering a kick. When he learned that he wasn’t going to be doing any of that, he gave up the role and went on to star in Bloodsport.
Eventually, the Predator monster was played by the much taller Kevin Peter Hall, giving it more of an imposing presence than the relatively short Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yes, decades before The Expendables 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger was almost set to go one on one with the “muscles from Brussels.”
Next time you watch Predator, keep in mind that the movie could have starred a very different monster if Van Damme had his way.