Six Degrees of Schwarzenegger Podcast – Predator Ep. 10


Highlights from this section of PREDATOR

  • Predator inspects Dutch
  • The Predator unmasked
  • Hand-to-hand battle
  • Dutch’s trap works
  • Predator’s last resort
  • The last man standing

Jean-Claude Van Damme – the original man in the suit

It’s hard to imagine the Predator as anything other than the 7.5-foot, fishnet-clad behemoth that we know and love today, but it was not always so.  When the original insect-like Predator was designed, the filmmakers thought casting an acrobatic martial artist seemed like the natural choice.  The filmmakers cast a unknown Belgian martial artist by the name of Jean-Claude Van Damme to play adversary to Arnold Schwarzenegger.  JCVD was previously most well-known for being a background dancer in BREAKIN’ (which gave us one of the greatest GIFs of all time) and for playing the Russian heavy in a horrendous THE KARATE KID knockoff called NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER, his first credit under his professional name.

By all accounts, Van Damme was a nightmare on set.  Some say he was either unwilling or physically unable to deal with acting in a full-body suit in the stifling jungle heat of Mexico.  Others say Van Damme was dismayed with the look of the original Predator suit and that he was devastated when he realized that his face would not be seen in the film.

One common theme that keeps resurfacing time and time again is that Jean-Claude Van Damme and producer Joel Silver mixed like oil and water in seemingly every respect.  One story says that Silver fired Van Damme after JCVD smashed a $20K prototype of the creature head.  The film’s second unit director says Silver was annoyed when an overzealous Van Damme stopped him in their hotel to show him his trademark aerial splits.  The best story of the bunch says that when Silver insisted that Van Damme must stop trying to make the Predator a kickboxer, Van Damme told Silver to “kiss my balls!” and stormed off the film.  Bridges were eventually mended and Silver would later produce a pair of Van Damme movies, DRAGON EYES and ENEMIES CLOSER.

Remembering Kevin Peter Hall

Kevin Peter Hall, a 7’2″ giant of a man, was a tremendously skilled physical actor who brought to life several iconic characters during his all-too-brief career.  Besides playing the titular character in PREDATOR and PREDATOR 2, Hall portrayed the title character in HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS (which amazingly came out just one week before the original PREDATOR), and he also appeared in BIG TOP PEE-WEE.

After realizing that he had no interest in a basketball career, Hall, who was insecure about his stature, found comfort in the anonymity of disappearing into a character.  Acting proved to be Hall’s true calling, and after a string of film and television appearances, Hall was selected as a last minute replacement to try to salvage PREDATOR, which was mired in problems stemming from the film’s disastrous original creature design.  The combination of Stan Winston’s incredible updated Predator design and Hall’s physical size provided the film with a villain that turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into the underdog.

Hall would go on to further success and portray the Predator again in 1990’s PREDATOR 2.  In 1990 Hall was involved in a serious car crash that sent Hall to the hospital in need of a blood transfusion.  Hall was infected by a contaminated needle and contracted the AIDS virus.  Less than a year later Hall, 35, was dead, leaving behind a wife, 2 children, and an amazing screen legacy.  Read more about Kevin Peter Hall from The Telegraph here.

Further reading: Why exactly was Van Damme fired?