the existential questions of Jean-Claude Van Damme

By Jean-Pierre Stroobants

Posted on July 16, 2021 at 4:15 p.m., updated yesterday at 5:28 a.m.

Jean-Claude Van Damme, at home, in California, in 2017.

Orange cap on his head and black tracksuit both branded “JCVD”, one of the most famous fighters on the planet is leaning on the balustrade of his terrace at La Réserve, his gaze lost in the waters of the lake bordering this hotel very chic in Knokke-le-Zoute. Lola, the dwarf Doberman, growls on the unmade bed. In one corner of the room, an elliptical trainer, in the other, a weight board.

The window is wide open despite the gray weather and the wind which sweeps over the Belgian seaside resort that day, a refuge for wealthy retirees, golfers, casino players and the nouveau riche who show off their sedans there. The city’s central square is known to Belgians as the “M’as-tu-vu” square.

If Jean-Claude Van Damme is here, like two or three times a year, it is to do a little promotion, but it is above all, he says, to get closer to his parents and his family, the Vans. Varenberg. Van Damme, his nickname, was the name of a chocolate maker who gave him a boost when he was just an anonymous youngster from Berchem-Sainte-Agathe – one of the municipalities in the Brussels region – tempted by Hollywood.

Far from clichés

“A word on the last of your 78 films, Mr. Van Damme. The Last Mercenary, directed by David Charhon, broadcast on Netflix on July 30, is it time for your reunion with France and Europe? ” With JCVD, 60 years old, no way to apply the usual interview techniques. It is necessary to follow, without intervening too much, the meanders of the thought, the words which collide, the attitudes. By renouncing all logic? Perhaps.

But eighty minutes face to face with the person on a balcony make you forget some clichés that he himself helped to forge. He sometimes thinks with good sense, sometimes with flashes that lead you astray. But his enthusiasm, which can turn to elation, does not make you forget that this type is above all spontaneous, warm. From this Last Mercenarye, a comedy which sees a former glory of the secret services return to France to save his son – whom he does not know – from the clutches of the bureaucracy and the Mafia, he will not say much. Except his pleasure to have crossed Miou-Miou there. “Ah, The Valseuses, I was a little in love with her… ”

“Always look at yourself in a mirror before opening your safe”, says Jean-Claude Van Damme

Brought back on the rails of the interview after a lot of detours, he sums up the three phases of his life (youth, stardom, wisdom) by talking about “Little whipper” he was when he practiced classical dance, before turning to karate to assert himself. “Little whipper” : the expression, obsolete, proves that, contrary to what he often asserts, he has not lost mastery of his mother tongue, French.

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