Fun fact (for those of you who don’t scour through IMDB or DVD/Blu-ray special features): Originally, Jean-Claude Van Damme was cast as the titular alien killing machine in the now-classic Predator (1987). Of course, if “the Muscles from Brussels” had stayed with the production, you wouldn’t recognize him, anyway, since he would’ve just worn the suit to capture the monster’s movements and physicality. But it’s still a cool little “What if?” Hollywood anecdote, one that even spawned a wonderful on-set photo back when Fox Home Entertainment released its first Special Edition Predator DVD.
Because the movie gods are oh so generous, we now know more about Van-Damme’s time on director John McTiernan’s Predator set, and it’s truly magical. In the Stan Winston School interview clip seen above, the film’s makeup effects supervisor, Steve Johnson, shares an amazing memory from when JCVD was on the job, before he bailed to make Bloodsport. And do a whole lot of face-acting.
Accompanied by tons of never-before-seen photos, Johnson discusses how, at first, McTiernan presented the entire team with a bunch of possible Predator creature designs, all of which were, per Johnson, “terrible.” “What they needed was a character with backward-bent, reptilian legs, extended arms, and a head that [pointed outward],” Johnson elaborates. But shooting such a creation in the muddy jungles of Mexico would’ve been too hard.
The solution: go extra cheap and simply make a red suit that looks like praying-mantis-shaped pajamas. The redness helped McTiernan shoot against the jungle’s largely color scheme, though the suit’s unintentional comedic effects seem much more practical.
Van Damme, who had just gotten off “a boat from Brussels,” showed up and expected to have the chance to flex his martial arts muscles in a major Hollywood motion picture. Instead, he was required to look like this:
The best part? Van Damme thought that was the Predator’s actual look for the film.
Johnson’s exaggerated JCVD accent is priceless, as are the on-set shots of Van Damme prancing around the jungle in a cheesy red suit and hating every second of it. Yes, Van Damme objected to looking silly alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in ways nobody except for Predator’s crew would ever see, yet he didn’t see any problem with this, two years later in Kickboxer:
Sidenote takeaway: Steve Johnson needs to write a Hollywood memoir but only release it as an audio book—recited entirely in that JCVD impersonation.
[via Bloody Disgusting]
[GIFs via Giphy and What Talking]