10 Kick-Ass Facts About Bloodsport

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Kumite! Kumite! Kumite! Thirty years ago today, Jean-Claude Van Damme got his big break with the release of Bloodsport, the martial arts classic from Cannon Films, the fine purveyors of gloriously cheesy schlock. The company and the actor perhaps hit their collective peak with the movie, which introduced the world to the Muscles from Brussels. Read on to find out how well you know the stranger-than-fiction story behind Bloodsport.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY ... MAYBE.


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Bloodsport is allegedly inspired by the real-life exploits of martial artist Frank Dux (pronounced “dukes”). His story was originally told in a Black Belt Magazine article, which chronicled claims that Dux—who also supposedly took part in covert missions in Southeast Asia for the CIA in the 1980s—infiltrated a secretive, no-holds-barred martial arts tournament known as the “Kumite” to take down the criminal organization that oversaw the fight.

Dux became the first American champion of the tournament, which took place in cities around the world every five years and gathered the world’s top fighters in a variety of styles to determine who reigned supreme. Or not.

While the real-life Dux claims the Kumite and his record are fact, some say his backstory about the Kumite and the CIA is completely fabricated. (Even the Black Belt piece came with a warning: “Although there is no convenient way to verify each and every detail connected with this story, the editors have verified enough of the basic facts to feel confident in publishing it. But since we are not at liberty to share the corroborating evidence with the public, we acknowledge that each reader may have a different idea of what the facts permit him to believe.”) On May 1, 1988, more than two months after Bloodsport hit theaters, the Los Angeles Times published an exposé calling into question the majority of Dux’s claims.

2. THE WRITER KNEW IT WAS BASED ON A LIE, BUT WANTED TO MAKE A MOVIE ANYWAY.

Screenwriter Sheldon Lettich first met the real-life Dux when his agent needed help cutting down Dux’s unpublished Vietnam War novel, The Last Rainbow. Lettich recalled in an interview with /Film that “...we just kind of hit it off.” He later told website AsianMoviePulse.com, “Frank told me a lot of tall tales, most of which turned out to be bullshit,” yet “his stories about participating in this so-called ‘Kumite’ event sounded like a great idea for a movie."

Eventually Lettich’s own screenwriting credits on the Sylvester Stallone threequel Rambo III got him a meeting with producer Mark DiSalle, who pitched Lettich the idea for a movie called Kickboxer (another martial arts movie that would eventually also star Jean-Claude Van Damme). Lettich countered with a movie pitching Dux’s supposed life story, causing DiSalle to move forward with that film first.

3. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF STORIES ABOUT HOW JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME LANDED THE LEAD.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in 'Bloodsport' (1988)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Van Damme, who’s real name is Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg, moved to Los Angeles from his native Belgium in the early 1980s, only to hold a series of short-term, menial jobs—including driving a limo, delivering pizzas, and working in a carpet factory—with the hopes of using his martial arts talent to break into the movie business. The young Van Damme allegedly spotted Cannon Films head Menahem Golan outside a restaurant, and literally showed off his moves by doing his signature high kick in front of Golan’s face.

Golan reportedly hired Van Damme for Bloodsport on the spot for a $25,000 contract. Dux disputes the high-flying kick story, saying it was Lettich who first saw the potential of the Belgian’s high kicks in the 1986 low-budget karate film No Retreat, No Surrender. Van Damme was also an extra in previous Cannon films like Breakin’ and Missing in Action.

In a hilarious 1987 interview promoting Bloodsport, in which Van Damme insists the interviewer train with him while she conducts her questions, the Muscles from Brussels says he got the gig by calling Cannon Films and lying by saying he was a personal friend that had a meeting with Golan. The exec’s curiosity was piqued, and Van Damme said, “I did my split, I showed my muscles, I said ‘I’m the best, and I’m not too expensive right now,’” which got him the part.

Fun fact: Van Damme’s original big break was supposed to be as the title monster in the 1987 film Predator, but he ended up being fired from the movie because he complained about the original monster suit’s restrictive nature and the film’s lack of martial arts.

4. DUX CLAIMED HE WROTE THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

Dux said the idea for Bloodsport was taken from an original script he wrote called “Enter the Ninja” (not to be confused by the other Cannon Films, Menahem Golan-directed karate classic Enter the Ninja), written under the pseudonym “Benjamin Wolf.”

According to Dux, Lettich didn’t like the script—which also allegedly came with programs from the ‘real’ Kumite and actual fight footage provided by Dux—though Lettich claimed “there was no script prior to the Bloodsport script.”

5. THE STUDIO’S FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY FRANK DUX WAS TOO TALL.

The character of Frank Dux was originally supposed to be played by actor Michael Dudikoff, who previously appeared in Cannon schlock like American Ninja, Avenging Force, and Platoon Leader. The filmmakers behind Bloodsport apparently passed on Dudikoff because the 6’2” actor was too tall.

6. THE COSTUMES WERE ALL WRONG.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in 'Bloodsport' (1988)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Van Damme’s character was originally outfitted for his fight scenes in silk pajamas the filmmakers bought locally in Hong Kong, where the movie was shot, but the real-life Dux found them to be unrealistic, based on his alleged experience in the Kumite. There was no extra money in the budget to revamp the uniforms, so Dux made himself the de-facto costume designer and paid out of pocket to have his wife buy uniforms in the United States to send to China for the fighters in the film.

“The costumes were all wrong at first,” Dux told BuzzFeed in 2013, recounting how he modified his onscreen persona’s look for his final fight. “So finally, I just decided to make my own damn uniform by essentially modifying bicycle shorts.”

7. THERE WERE NO STUNT PEOPLE.

While the movie is predominantly made up of actors like Van Damme and actress Leah Ayres, the production wanted the Kumite to be as authentic as possible. So they hired real-life martial artists to fight alongside Van Damme. For instance, Paulo Tocha, who plays the Muay Thai fighter Paco, is a real-life Muay Thai champion, and one of the first westerners to train in the martial art.

Michel Qissi, who played kickboxer Suan Paredes, was a fellow martial artist and friend of Van Damme’s who trained at the same Shotokan Karate dojo with him in Belgium. Qissi followed Van Damme to Los Angeles and found himself in a bit part in Bloodsport and eventually played the villain, Tong Po, in Kickboxer.

8. JCVD RE-EDITED THE MOVIE HIMSELF TO GET IT RELEASED.

The movie was shelved for two years after filming was completed because Golan didn’t like it. Lettich told /Film that the first cut of the film was “really bad,” and that Golan told him, “I’m not gonna release it in theaters. That movie’s terrible; I’m putting it straight to video.” But instead of letting it languish further, Golan let in-house editor Michael J. Duthie edit the movie around the fights, which were then edited by Van Damme himself.

9. THE MOVIE IS ALMOST SINGLE-HANDEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATION OF THE MORTAL KOMBAT VIDEO GAME.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in 'Bloodsport' (1988)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

The bloody fighting game Mortal Kombat, first released in 1992, took more than a few cues from Bloodsport beyond the winner-take-all martial arts tournament conceit.

Developers were initially asked to create a game based on the Van Damme movie Universal Soldier, but the deal fell through, forcing the developers to scramble to not lose their work. Instead, they capitalized on the Van Damme persona by creating the character Johnny Cage (note the same initials), a conceited Hollywood actor-type whose signature move was a split and whose spandex and sash costume is exactly the same as Van Damme’s in Bloodsport.

Fun fact: The arcade game Frank and Ray Jackson (Donald GIbb) play in the lobby of the hotel is the 1984 pioneering fighting game “Karate Champ.” You can now download the game and play it on your iPhone.

10. VAN DAMME REPORTEDLY LIKED THE MUSIC MORE THAN HE LIKED THE MOVIE.

Musician Stan Bush—the guy behind memorably cheesy 1980s movie soundtrack tunes like “The Touch” from 1986’s Transformers: The Movie—created two songs for the Bloodsport soundtrack: “Fight to Survive” and “On My Own—Alone.” (He’d also go on to write three songs for Van Damme’s Kickboxer: "Never Surrender," "Streets of Siam," and "Fight for Love.")

Years after the movie was released, Bush convinced bouncers to let the then-super-famous Van Damme and his entourage into a packed venue where the musician was playing. When Van Damme recognized the musician from his work on Bloodsport, he allegedly said, “The music was better than the movie!"

8 Sequels That Received Oscar Nominations for Best Picture

Jasin Boland, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Jasin Boland, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It’s rare when a movie sequel manages to stand up to the original entry in a film series. Even rarer? When a sequel is so good that it nabs an Oscars nomination for Best Picture. Here are eight movies that did just that.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

When Mad Max: Fury Road was released in theaters in 2015, no one thought that it would be a critical darling—or an awards contender . But when the Academy Award nominations were announced in 2016, the latest entry in George Miller’s Mad Max franchise earned a whopping 10 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Fury Road is the fourth installment in the series and was the first to hit theaters in 30 years (since the release of 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). It’s also the first movie in the franchise to receive any recognition from the Academy.

2. Toy Story 3 (2010)

A still from 'Toy Story 3' (2010)
Disney/Pixar

In 2011, Toy Story 3 was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Animated Feature. Though The King’s Speech ended up taking the night’s top prize, Toy Story 3 (which was named Best Animated Feature) made history that night, as it was the third ever animated movie to score a Best Picture nod; 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and 2009’s Up are the other two films to earn the same accolade.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Although the first two installments in The Lord of the Rings trilogy—2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring and 2002’s The Two Towers—were each nominated for Best Picture, it was the final movie that ended up winning the Academy Award in 2004. In fact, The Return of the King won 11 Oscars that year, sweeping every category in which it was nominated, and tying Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most awards received in one night.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

In 2003, The Two Towers won two of the six Oscars for which it was nominated, for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects. Rob Marshall’s musical Chicago beat it out for Best Picture.  

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In 1992, The Silence of the Lambs made a clean sweep of the “Big Five” categories: Best Picture, Best Director for Jonathan Demme, Best Actor for Sir Anthony Hopkins, Best Actress for Jodie Foster, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Ted Tally. Although The Silence of the Lambs isn’t a direct sequel to Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter, it’s based on the sequel novel to author Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, on which Manhunter was based. It also features the character Hannibal Lecter in a major role, who was played by Brian Cox in Manhunter—before Hopkins made the role his own. Got that?

6. The Godfather: Part III (1990)

Though it’s often considered the far inferior film in The Godfather trilogy, The Godfather: Part III received seven Academy Award nominations in 1991, including Best Picture and Best Director for Francis Ford Coppola. Ultimately, it lost to Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves, making it the only installment in The Godfather Saga not to win a Best Picture Oscar.

7. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Al Pacino in 'The Godfather: Part II' (1974)
Paramount Pictures

In 1975, The Godfather: Part II became the first sequel in Oscar history to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It won the coveted award two years after the original film was named Best Picture. The sequel was nominated for a total of 11 Oscars, with three separate nominations in the Best Supporting Actor category alone: one for Michael Vincenzo Gazzo (who played Frankie Pentangeli) and Lee Strasberg (as Hyman Roth), and one for Robert De Niro, who took home the statuette for playing the younger version of Vito Corleone.

8. The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)

Though it lost Best Picture to Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend at the 1946 Oscars, The Bells of St. Mary’s is the first movie sequel to be nominated for the Academy’s biggest prize. The film is a sequel to Leo McCarey’s previous film, 1944’s Going My Way, which won the Oscar for Best Picture a year earlier. While Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s feature different stories and casts, Bing Crosby stars in both movies as Father Chuck O'Malley.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2016.

James Cameron Directed Entourage's Aquaman, But He Could Never Direct the Real One

Tommaso Boddi, Getty Images for AMC
Tommaso Boddi, Getty Images for AMC

Oscar-winning director James Cameron is no stranger to CGI. With movies like Avatar under his belt, you’d expect Cameron to find a particular sort of enjoyment in special effects-heavy movies like James Wan's Aquaman. But Cameron—who directed the fictional version of Aquaman featuring fictional movie star Vinnie Chase in the very real HBO series Entourage—has a little trouble with suspension of disbelief.

In a recent interview with Yahoo!, Cameron said that while he did enjoy Aquaman, he would never have been able to direct the movie itself because of its lack of realism.

"I think it’s great fun,” Cameron said. “I never could have made that film, because it requires this kind of total dreamlike disconnection from any sense of physics or reality. People just kind of zoom around underwater, because they propel themselves mentally, I guess, I don’t know. But it’s cool! You buy it on its own terms.”

"I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater," the Titanic director went on to say. "While I can enjoy that film, I don’t resonate with it because it doesn’t look real.”

While Aquaman was shot on a soundstage, Cameron will be employing state-of-the-art technology that will allow him to actually be underwater while shooting underwater scenes for his upcoming Avatar sequels.

[h/t Yahoo!]

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