The Predator was almost going to be very fond of doing splits. Originally a then-unknown, Jean-Claude Van Damme was hired to play the lethal alien hunter in 1987’s Predator. However, Van Damme was fired early in production and was replaced by Kevin Peter Hall. Why exactly Van Damme was fired is something of a cinema urban legend, as no one can quite agree on what happened. Of the different stories for why Van Damme was let go, this one might be the best: Van Damme was fired as Predator because he refused to stop kickboxing. According to visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek:
I was in Joel Silver’s trailer, and he had called for Jean-Claude to come see him. And he comes in the trailer and Joel starts saying, ‘You gotta stop kickboxing!’ — because [Jean-Claude] wanted to kickbox — and he was telling him, ‘Look, the Predator is not a kickboxer.’ And Van Damme was like (Van Damme voice), ‘I must do that; that’s how I see the Predator.’ And Joel said, ‘Well, you’re fired. Get out of here.’ And Van Damme says, “Kiss my balls!” and walks out, and that was the end of that.
It’s the 30-year anniversary of Predator, and The Hollywood Reporter has assembled a massive oral history of the behind-the-scenes story of how the popular sci-fi thriller was made. If you’re a Predator superfan, it’s absolutely worth the read, as it details the many number of struggles the production went through. It also attempts to solve the mystery behind Jean-Claude Van Damme’s firing, and the answer is that no one really knows why. Several different versions of the story exist, including this one from Joel Hynek.
The visual effects supervisor was with producer Joel Silver when it all went down, and according to him, Van Damme was let go because he kept trying to make the Predator do kickboxing. The Predator isn’t really a mixed martial arts kind of alien, so Silver told Van Damme to knock it off. When Van Damme said no, Silver did what you do with any actor who won’t cooperate and fired him. Kudos, though, to Van Damme for telling Silver to kiss his balls even though it was mostly his fault. That took…well, you know.
If one thing is clear about Van Damme’s firing, it’s that no one is clear about what happened. THR collected six different stories on what went down, three of which are first-person accounts. Everyone is in agreement that Van Damme didn’t like the suit (a feeling shared by everyone else involved) and that he clashed with Joel Silver. The stories diverge from there and the reasons include: Van Damme was too short to play the Predator, he kept passing out due to the heat, Fox executives didn’t like the suit and Van Damme was collateral damage, he complained too often about the filming conditions and he shattered the $20,000 head for the costume. All are really distinct, detailed reasons, so why no one is on the same page is a mystery in of itself.
An all-new Predator movie is on the way, with The Predator scheduled to hit theaters on August 3, 2018. To learn everything about director Shane Black’s version, check out what we know so far.