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Caffeinated Clint : Oh, Van Damme!

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Whick, Whick, Whick…. That’s me scratching my head!

I just can’t figure this one out…

90s action icon Jean Claude Van Damme had a Brendan Fraser-esque chance to make a comeback this year but, for some reason or another, isn’t interested. Does he have all the money he needs? Does he feel his best work is behind him? Does it hurt too much to do the splits like he did in “Time Cop” these days?

Why on earth would the forgotten fist-fighter pass on a role in a rather-expensive big-screen action romp starring Sylvester Stallone!?

Fuck, and they said William H.Bonney was crazy!

Yep, Van Dammage turned down a role in Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables”. And that’s why you’re now hearing Dolph Lundgren’s name associated with the project.

Received an email overnight suggesting Arnold Schwarzenegger had been asked to join the production. Seemed unlikely, since the Oak’s way-too-busy governing the Black Friday specials across L.A at the moment, but nevertheless thought I’d check in with a source on the film – or at the same production company anyway; those directly working on the film wouldn’t return my emails – and see whether there was any truth to it.

“No. Not that I’m aware of. They wouldn’t even be able to find it in the budget to bring Arnold in”, my contact said. “They have got Lundgren though. They offered the role to a couple of other actors, like JCVD, before they went to Dolph – its possible one of those actors was Arnie, but doubtful”.

Fuck the Arnold rumour…

“Van Damme was asked to play the part!!?” I hurriedly typed back.

The response was as unsightly and baffling as anything you’d find in Alice Cooper’s gas-fueled grill.

‘’Yes. Seems as soon as Van Damme nixed Sly’s offer”, our Nu-Image contact tells us, “Sly went to the other Universal Soldier and offered him the part. Ha. I think it’s already out there, so I guess there’s no harm in running with it”.

Deals had to be made quickly, says our contact, before this “inevitable SAG strike commences, so Sly wasn’t going to wait for Van Damme to change his mind”.

And what’s this mean for the thought-ready-to-roll ‘’Universal Soldier 3”? Apparently the contract’s have been rolled up, dipped in clag and thrown towards the office roof.

“Lundgren’s no longer available to be in the film, I guess”, we’re told. (He was in talks, but was resisting joining the production until he and Van Damme got more screen time) and though Van Damme is legally bound to the flick (he owns the production company the sequel because he dropped out of an earlier project of theirs – this’ll save him from having to spend the Winter painting the producers house as compensation). “Depends on filming dates, but I wouldn’t think so.

But back to Van Damme, what was… what IS he thinking!?

He’s winning good reviews for his performance in the loosely-autobiographical-but-not-really “J.C.V.D” – which looks absolutely brilliant, and I’m just waiting for the production company to send me a screener before I can cream over it a little bit more – and has been in publication after publication promoting it. His face has been everywhere. And it seems people are actually interested in what he’s got to say. I might go so far as saying the world’s ready for a but of decent martial-arts tomfluffery again – hell, they’re ready for Van Damme again.

A role in the superstar-led “The Expendables” would’ve been a great way to go. Not only would it reintroduce Van Damme to cinema audiences, it’d get him back into the big leagues – where he might possibly manage to stay for a couple more years.

But it’s not the first time the Brussels-born movie star – whose spent the last decade doing a bunch of forgettable direct-to-video movies – has knocked back an offer to feature in a rather-expensive and fairly exciting studio picture in recent times. Brett Ratner apparently asked him to come on board “Rush Hour 3″ – but he immediately turned it down.

So, let’s look at the facts – Van Damme turns down a plum role in a big-screen Jackie Chan movie, and now, nixes a role in a sure-thing hit that stars Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham.

Sounds to me like someone doesn’t like sharing the screen – let alone a day-bill.

There’s worse things, surely!? (Like, er, having to headline uber-cheap action movies that’ll have you spending six months of the year in Romania).

Note to Jean Claude : you’re going to have to do the two-hander or three-hander or eight-hander (which is how “Expendables” is shaping up) if you want to make your way back to the top again. John Travolta had to do it; Burt Reynolds too; and even Tom Cruise had to do it – shit, just that small role in “Tropic Thunder” has done wonders for him!

I remember talking to Paul Walker, of “Fast and the Furious” fame, a couple of years ago about Vin Diesel. Walker said that the reason Diesel didn’t want to do the rev-head sequel, “2 Fast 2 Furious” isn’t because he felt it’d flop, or that he didn’t like the script, its that he didn’t want to have to share the screen with anyone. He wanted to be the star. He wanted the poster to say ‘Vin Diesel in’ not ‘Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in’.

Its taken the big guy half a decade, and a handful of flops later, to realize he’s not bigger than the movies he stars in. Now, Diesel’s back starring with Walker in a fourth ‘’Fast and the Furious” movie – something he swore in interviews he’d probably never do. But when you can’t get the money from anyone to make your passion projects –  like this ‘’Hannibal the Conqueror” thing he’s been trying to get up for years – then it’s pretty clear that you’ve got to cave in and ‘do some more time’ for a while – even if that means sharing a marquee with Paul Walker.

And Diesel will be laughing all the way to the bank when “Fast and Furious” opens to $100 million next Summer!

I like Van Damme. I think he’s one of the more charismatic of the action stars out there. I’m also a huge fan of the Universal films he did in the early 90s, like ‘’Hard Target”, ‘’TimeCop” and ‘’Sudden Death” – but can’t say much for his stuff of late. I think there’s still potential for him to come back… but not if he’s going to be turning down people like Sylvester Stallone.

Drago Wins in this case.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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