What is it about pronounced European accents and tough-guy actors? Trevor Johnston eyes up
Jean Claude Van Damme as he attempts to soften the image in Nowhere To Run.
ou’d probably have walked past him yourself. There we journos were expecting Jean-Claude to punch his way through a wall, at the very least, and in he walks looking like a soft furnishings salesman in his holiday gear. Yellow jacket. Loud shirt. Blow-dried big hair. And little steel-rimmed glasses. A collective ‘huh’ went round the room, until the action star opened his mouth and suddenly we all knew where we were again.
It has to be said. the one they call The Muscles from Brussels has a very, erm, Belgian way with the English language. Listening to Jean-Claude you need to set yourself on double-take alert. because if the grammar doesn’t catch you out, the accent surely will. They still haven’t managed to find a way round it in any of his movies — the ‘so where you from, kid‘.” question is still a first reel ﬁxture in a Van Damme flick — and on this evidence I’m not surprised. On his new movie Nowhere To Run, he’s masquerading as a French Canadian.
What has been the keystone of his success to date is that he’s very. very good at beating people to a pate’ and — unlike Arnie or Sly or Steven Seagal — he still looks tangentially like a member of the human race. After working his way up through cartloads of video-grade action pics with titles like Bloodsport. Kickboxer, Deth Warrant. he proved with last year’s jaunty sci-f1 romp Universal Soldier that audiences would actually sit in a cinema and watch one of his movies if it looked like an A- list piece of work. Now poised on the cusp of genuine movie-stardom, he knows and we know that if he picks the right scripts, acquires some acting ability and becomes a little bit less Belgian, he would be superhuge in a VERY megatastic sense.
‘Everyone in every country in every part of the world can understand a kick, a gun, a bullet. an explosion,’ he reckons and pcrceptively so. ‘lt’s very visual. There are no boundaries like there are with comedy or serious drama.’
Time is certainly on his side. Jean-Claude’s still only 30, while the Schwarzeneggers and Stallones of this world have long passed the point where they’ll get another sniff at 40. Unfortunately though, he’s gone one step
10 The List 2| May—3 June