Jean-Claude Van Damme Explains Why He Exited Predator

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If someone told you that Jean-Claude Van Damme was briefly the star of 1987’s Predator before dropping out, you might assume that he was in the action hero role eventually handled by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The reality, however, is a fair bit more intriguing and ultimately kind of depressing.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Van Damme reflected on his time spent in the uncomfortable costume of the Predator himself. As it turns out, he found it to be a physically demanding experience, right from the first audition:

“I came to the studio and they made me run around and I jump, and they say, ‘This guy can jump very high so yes, he’s in.’”

Once the outfit went on, the star had trouble breathing, and the experience only got worse from there:

“I go to this place and they put me on sticks and woods and they start to melt all the cast on me, and it’s boiling hot. I like to breathe, you know? They’ve got to do my head and everything.”

It wasn’t long before Van Damme had his doubts that he could endure the whole ordeal of wearing this demanding costume:

“I’ve got my friend next to me and I said, ‘Man, I ain’t going to make it.’ They put in my mouth a tube, and at that time I was just a stand guy. I was covered in that cast for at least 20 minutes.”

After being put on stilts and asked to perform some hazardous actions, Van Damme finally decided that enough was enough, leaving the role open for an unfortunate stunt man to take his place.

“My feet were in these casts. When Joel [Silver] asked me to jump, I knew it was going to be a bad one. I said, ‘This is impossible, Joel. I think we’re going to have a problem.’ Then he replaced me,” Van Damme recalled. “The guy who did my stunts, something bad happened to him and then they did the more safe outfit.”

The actor ultimately concluded, “I was happy that I listened to my intuition.” Indeed, though his replacement Kevin Peter Hall would go on to play the Predator for both the 1987 original and 1990’s Predator 2, the actor has characterized his time on set as a grueling experience that involved wading through leech-filled waters in a mask he couldn’t see out of.

Since those first two entries, the Predator series has crossed over a couple of times with the Alien franchise before properly returning twice – once with 2010’s Predators, then again last year with The Predator – but after the underwhelming box office performance of Shane Black’s 2018 film, it could be a while before we see the extra-terrestrial hunter back on the big screen. Van Damme, on the other hand, remains prolific, with his new drama We Die Young receiving a limited release in theaters this week.

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