Action Star Van Damme Wants to Keep Shirt On


Just when filmmakers and moviegoers seem to be turning away from violent action pictures, along comes Jean-Claude Van Damme, a tough cookie bent on inheriting the collective mantle of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Norris.

The handsome, muscular native of Belgium is starring in “Death Warrant,” not to be confused with “Driving Miss Daisy” or “Ghost.”

Although Van Damme is steering his career to less-bloody fare, his following is primarily hard-core martial arts fans and youthful females smitten with his biceps, trapezius muscles and pectorals.

He looks great with a shirt on. He looks better with it off.


In addition to “Death Warrant,” Van Damme’s pictures include “Kickboxer,” “Bloodsport” and “Cyborg,” all of which prospered at the box office.

Awaiting release is “Lionheart.” He is off soon to star in “Double Impact,” in which he plays twins. Thereafter he will head the cast of “Universal Soldier.”

Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Eurohunk, Van Damme has set his sights on becoming a mainstream star in nonviolent films.

Also, like Schwarzenegger, Van Damme plans to become a tycoon. “I have a long way to go,” he said. “To build an empire you need more than muscle. You need strong mental powers, like Arnold has and I am trying to develop.”


Van Damme says violence in his pictures is different from the body counts in Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone films.

“My violence is more emotional than physical,” he said. “I see that lots of passion is included in the script. I want my character to fight more with his heart than his hands.

“That way people can accept more violence from me. I think that is why my pictures do so well in other parts of the world. My characters fight for principle, not for country or money.

“I am already changing my image in ‘Double Impact’ by playing twins. One of them is violent and the other is not, so audiences can see the contrast in my work.


“This picture has comedy, romance, a love story. So it is not all action and fighting. I was a dancer for years. When I fight on screen, I blend karate with dancing. Grace plus power is very nice.

“If I stay in martial arts pictures people will get tired of my films. . . . If I want a long career in motion pictures, then I have to break away from physical roles. Wait and see, I will do exactly that.”