Why Jean-Claude Van Damme Was Really Fired From 'Predator'

Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally set to play the Predator alien in the 1987 science fiction action classic with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he was fired during production.

Van Damme finally cleared the air surrounding his mysterious exit, revealing he confronted producer Joel Silver about how hard it would be to perform in the cumbersome costume.

"I've got my friend next to me and I said, 'Man, I ain't going to make it,'" Van Damme recalled in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter Friday.

Van Damme, 58, said it was difficult to breathe in the costume, and was becoming overheated. The final costume also required Van Damme to walk on stilts, which made it almost impossible for him to perform the crazy stunts the film required. Even though this was a year before his star-making film Bloodsport would open in 1988, Van Damme told Silver about the issues.

"When Joel 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 said.

Before Van Damme's interview, there were plenty of conflicting stories about how he was fired from Predator. In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter's oral history on the making of Predator included six different accounts. Bill Duke, who played Mac, had what was probably the closest story to the truth, revealing that Van Damme once passed out from dehydration.

"They were going to, I think, superimpose all of the special effects on the body in post-production. But in order to do that, the actor had to wear a felt suit that covered his whole body, and with 90 and 100 degree temperatures, [Jean-Claude] had passed out twice from dehydration," Duke explained. "And Joel came over and said, 'Jean, I know it's hot, but we're losing time, man. If you pass out one more time, we gotta fire you.' So Jean says, 'I'm not doing it on purpose!' Joel says, 'Man, this is production. Don't take it personally.'"

Duke continued, "So two weeks went by, and he's flying on these wires in trees and everything and he passes out, and Joel comes and tells him, 'You're fired.'"

Visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek added that Van Damme hoped he could highlight his kickboxing skills in the film, but Silver refused.

"Van Damme was like [Van Damme voice], 'I must do that; that's how I see the Predator,'" Hynek recalled. "And Joel said, 'Well, you're fired. Get out of here.' And Van Damme says, 'Kiss my balls!' and walks out, and that was the end of that."

Of course, missing out on Predator did not derail Van Damme's career. In 1988, Bloodsport became a cult hit, and JCVD has been a mainstay of action movies ever since.

His most recent film, We Die Young, was released on VOD and in select theaters this weekend. He plays a veteran who helps a young boy avoid joining a gang in Washington D.C.

"I'm not afraid to make a boo-boo with my mouth," Van Damme said of his new outlook on acting. "In We Die Young, I'm real. I tell the truth."

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