Jean-Claude Van Damme achieves something in The Expendables 2 that is astounding. The Belgian action star portrays a villain so fierce, we forget about the two dozen heroes he made a career of playing. It is a role he nails.
“I wanted to play the bad guy so that I had more dimension and I think more exposure because a villain can be so special, original,” Van Damme told Movie Fanatic.
“When I was locking with that type of character, being that very truthful villain, I felt good. Also, in Expendables, it's not comical. It's not cartoonish. I was very serious, even in making those faces when they were talking to me. I was really into the atmosphere of Expendables.”
Although he’s maintained fighting shape over the years, when he took the role, he knew a certain area needed some work to not have his character appear on The Expendables kill count poster for our heroes.
“I know how to kick today as good as Bloodsport,” Van Damme admitted. “But mass-wise I lost weight again for another movie.”
Stallone took one look at his arms and informed him he had to hit the gym. “Sly said, 'Your guns, they are too small!’ He was huge and he said, 'They look like toothpicks,'" Van Damme said and laughed. “I went to the gym every day.”
Van Damme had to appear to be able to not just drop kick Stallone in their final scene fight, but when he landed a punch and The Expendables 2 star’s head recoiled… it had to look real. As he said before, the world of The Expendables is not fluff. It’s pure seriousness.
“It's very important for the exit of the movie. If we are making the fight comical my character could re-enter Expendables 3 in a comical way. But, if we came out in that final fight in a very serious way, then it would fit in The Expendables world.”
And when it came time to film, arriving on the set, Van Damme reported being as much of a fan to these action heroes as he was a contemporary.
“I'll tell you what, those guys were like role models for me,” Van Damme said of Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I saw Rambo. I saw Rocky. I saw Conan. I saw Die Hard, and so to me, they were like heroes. I was back in Belgium watching them on the screen, buying tickets and dreaming of becoming like them. I wanted to be an actor since I was twelve years old, and now here I am and they're chasing me,” Van Damme said and smiled.
Even though he looked up to these actors, given the nature of his evil character, Van Damme wanted nothing to do with them socially before filming started.
“When I came on the set I didn't talk to nobody. I didn't want to see them because Arnold is talkative and I was talking more to Stallone about the part than anything else,” he added.
Instead, he saw them as the adversaries they were onscreen. “When I was looking at them, it was like, 'Who are you?' There’s nothing in my eyes. I felt like that I didn't like them. I took it very seriously. Of course, when the movie was finished I was like, 'Hey, guys, I really admire you.’ I didn't talk to them in the beginning because I wanted to have that type of atmosphere, that type of tension.”
There’s a scene when Van Damme first meets the Expendables gang and he has to treat them with the utmost of disdain. “In that scene, when I look at all of them… I'm like, 'Go down to the floor guys, all of you bark like dogs.' It's hard for me to say that to my heroes,” Van Damme said. “Sly understood that.”