The following interview was conducted via email, which is my least favorite way to talk to someone. I tend to fall on my worst instincts in emails, over-punctuating(!!!) and dropping in emojis to make my intentions as clear as humanly possible. That’s fine for interoffice work-email, but when you’re trying to ask semi-complex questions of Jean-Claude Van Damme, it doesn’t quite cut it.
None of this is any of JCVD’s problem, obviously. Despite skipping over a few questions—which contextualized the piece—he answered with more candor than I expected and I’m seriously humbled that he took the time to “speak” with me. I’ll be reviewing his new movie, Pound of Flesh later this week, but suffice it to say that whatever problems it may have are not the fault of its star.
Pound of Flesh opens in select theaters, on iTunes and VOD on May 15th. And now, here’s my brief interview with Jean-Claude Van Damme…
Miles: First, you’re still incredibly physical more than 30 years into your career. Is your drive to stay in shape different now than it was in your 20s? Meaning, is any of the work you do now an effort to maintain a public image of yourself that was cemented by a much younger man?
JCVD: I’m not such a good boy. I’m a normal guy with his ups and down. I was kind of lucky to come at the right time, the right time for this movie BLOODSPORT because lots of actors and actresses are gifted and they’re waiting at the door. It’s not easy so I was lucky.
Great public image. I’m not a guy you should look up to. You can listen to me because sometimes a good teacher is supposed to do what he’s supposed to teaching. So to give good advice, in terms of health and fitness, and philosophy. Because I’ve done a lot in my life, I can try to make the best out of it to try to help people.
Training is very important because…Sometimes I smoke a stogie. I don’t drink anymore because there’s nothing to gain in drinking. It’s pure sugar and it makes you think differently.
Everybody can go to the gym. Everybody can lose weight. You have to eat 6-7 times a day. You’re only going to retain only 30 percent of fat and the body will eliminate about 70 percent of fat. If you eat 2-3 meals a day, you eat a lot and the body knows that you will not eat the next hour, so the body will retain 70 percent of fat and will let go 30 percent of fat.
I just want to tell the audience that everything is possible with knowledge.
Miles: What was the most physically demanding scene for you to shoot in Pound of Flesh?
JCVD: To always look like you’re sick. To always look like you’re weak…that you’re missing an organ and like you are on morphine. So you have to walk painfully. You have to bend painfully. Maybe I missed one or two shots where I was a little active physically. But it goes with the flow. I put it in my head so much that I was kind of sick on the set. I was not myself. So it was me. It was the set. But I put myself into a mode of sweating profusely and it was cool. It was a good experience. It was painful.
Miles: How effectively do you think you could kick someone’s ass with only one kidney?
JCVD: My kicking were not high kicks. I did maybe one or two kicks I did (awww….) you know. I felt the burn because I was on morphine. Normally on morphine, I can go all the way. And by the way, it’s so many hours. It’s not like a two or three-day length of day shoots. So the guy is going down day-by-day and he’s shooting more hours by hours.