Though it seems hard to fathom now, there was a time when John McTiernan’s 80s action sci-fi classic was set to pit Arnold Schwarzenegger and a young Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The Muscles from Brussels was originally casted at the titular alien only to suddenly depart the production with Kevin Peter Hall brought in in his place.
So, what exactly happened on the set of Predator? There are plenty of contrasting accounts, all of which have been summarised here on Van Damme’s short-lived stint as the Predator.
Some suggested Van Damme was unhappy at the fact his face would be concealed for much of the filming, meaning little in the way of exposure for the up-and-coming action star.
Others indicated the decision was taken after the Predator costume underwent major revisions with director John McTiernan and producer Joel Silver deciding a larger actor was required for the role of the fearsome alien.
Now, speaking in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Van Damme revealed his side of the story, which appears to suggest both of the above may have been true.
The problems began when he first tried on the original Predator suit and struggled to breathe.
“I like to breathe — and they’re gonna do my head and everything,” Van Damme said.
“They put in my mouth like a tube [to breathe through]. I was covered in that cast for at least 20 minutes. It was boiling hot. My friend told me, ‘If you cannot breathe, just [wiggle] your finger and I’ll pull that stuff away from you.’ And I did it. I started to panic. And they go, ‘No! Five more minutes!'”
Despite getting through the initial casting process, which required him to wear the suit, Van Damme hated
“My head was in the neck. My hands were in the forearms, and there were cables [attached to my fingers to move the creature’s head and jaws]. My feet were in his calves, so I was on [stilts]. It was a disgusting outfit,” he says.
The fact Van Damme was unable to deliver any of his signature high kicks was also an issue, given that was what had got him hired in the first place.
Deeming the suit unsafe and lacking the agility needed to effectively pull off the character effectively, Van Damme even recalls having to operate in the suit on stilts and that, because it was rubber, he ended up sweating profusely when wearing it.
According to JCVD, things came to a head when Silver asked him to complete one stunt.
“When Joel asked me to jump, I knew it was gonna be a bad one. I said, ‘This is impossible, Joel. I think we’re gonna have a problem.,'” he said.
“The guy who did my stunt, something bad happened to him. Crack [makes snapping motion]. And then they stopped the film, and they did a new, more safe, outfit.”
At this point, Hall came in in place of Van Damme though there are holes in the Belgian’s account – namely that no one else can recall a stuntman getting injured on set.
Beau Marks, first assistant director on the film, even told THR: “Nobody broke their fucking leg.”
“When I was trying to explain what had happened [with the studio] and why we were not going to need him, he kept saying ‘But I am the Predator!’ I said, ‘Well, let’s go talk to Joel.’ Joel has a philosophy: Beg to begin with, and then you kill the person,” Marks added.
“Well, he got through begging real quickly. He started off as nice as anybody could possibly start off, and then he just ended where he told Claude that he wanted to take his fucking head, go out there, put it on the concrete and have one of those big fucking trucks run over his head 50-fucking-thousand times. That’s how it ended.” Cool.
This one looks set to rumble on. For the full story, check out our feature on Van Damme’s ill-fated spell as the Predator here.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.