I saw the 1994 movie Street Fighter in cinemas as an excited 10-year-old and had a complete blast. Sure, it didn’t make a lick of sense and didn’t have much in common with the game, but there were a bunch of explosions, a cool invisible boat and Jean-Claude Van Damme as Colonel Guile doing some high kicks. I know it’s objectively a pretty crappy film, but it’s remained a guilty pleasure to this day.
Of course, I’ve read rumors in the past about its troubled production and Van Damme being a prima donna on set, but today The Guardian published an excellent article entitled ”I punched him so hard he cried’: inside the Street Fighter movie‘ that goes behind the scenes to find out what on earth was going through the head of Van Damme during the shoot. As it turns out, we can actually narrow that down to what was going through his nose – namely gram after gram of the finest cocaine available on the streets of Thailand.
Let’s hear it from director Steven de Souza himself:
I couldn’t talk about it at the time, but I can now: Jean-Claude was coked out of his mind. The studio had hired a wrangler to take care of him, but unfortunately the wrangler himself was a bad influence. Jean-Claude was calling in sick so much I had to keep looking through the script to find something else to film; I couldn’t just sit around for hours waiting for him. On two occasions, the producers allowed him to go to Hong Kong, and both occasions he came back late — on Mondays he just wasn’t there at all.
Of course, this could just have been Van Damme trying to get into character – after all, Guile is best friends with Charlie…
Other highlights were Capcom continually trying to fit more and more characters from the game into the plot of the movie, with the director saying:
“Every time I turned in a draft they kept pressing me to add just more character. I would slide somebody in with a couple of lines. Then they’d say: ‘Can’t so-and-so have another scene, he’s very popular in Japan? And by the way what about this character?’”
Not to mention interfering with casting, with Capcom deciding they wanted the Japanese actor Kenya Sawada to play Ryu – slightly complicated by the fact that De Souza had already cast Byron Mann in the role. To placate the video game company, De Souza cast Sawada in a tiny, extraneous part – as Captain Sawada. Incidentally, this also finally explains why Sawada was a character in the dreadful Street Fighter: The Movie – The Game.
On top of all that, there’s the tragic fact that Raul Julia was battling what would prove to be fatal stomach cancer while filming, a fight director who didn’t understand the Street Fighter II fighting styles, a possible coup in Thailand and a suspiciously bullet-riddled and incredibly noisy set.
It all turned out okay in the end, though. Despite dreadful reviews, the movie made a healthy profit, becoming one of two Van Damme films to crack the $100m mark. If you haven’t checked out Street Fighter yet, please do – but my advice is to get a load of booze and watch it with friends. It’s absolutely a camp classic, especially if you’re a fan of the games.