Kicking it with Van Damme

It was no surprise when action film icon Jean-Claude Van Damme was spotted last weekend in Bangkok at the birthday party of celebrity hairstylist Somsak Chalachol. With his upcoming Fashion TV project, fans are going to see more of the Belgian hunk who seems to have gone deep under the radar during the past few years.

Jean-Claude Van Damme has a new Fashion TV project.

During an interview with the Bangkok Post earlier this week, the former bodybuilding champion _ or Mr Belgium _ revealed his slate of new projects and reminisced about his numerous previous visits to Bangkok.

"I made several movies here in Thailand," said the 52-year-old actor. "The first time I was here was in 1988 when we made Kickboxer. Now I want to do something very big one more time with kickboxing, you know, with muay Thai."

Van Damme is stopping by the City of Angels to promote his new film, Full Love, and television series, Luxury Meets Justice, produced by Fashion TV. The Belgian star is hoping to make a comeback with this vehicle which combines martial arts with glitz and glamour.

In Luxury Meets Justice, Van Damme plays a fighter hired by the Dubai Police Force to train and motivate their special investigation unit. He battles cybercriminals and stock market manipulation masterminded by tycoons whose addiction to luxury oversteps the rules of justice. Each episode starts in a big city around the world with the focus on financial capitals such as Dubai, New York or Shanghai. One of the highlights of this James Bond-esque series is that professional models who appear in the show will be trained in martial arts by Van Damme himself.

"It will be premiered in Cannes next year," Van Damme said _ he obviously wasn't referring to the Official Selection. "Later, it will be in cinemas in Russia and Paris. There's going to be a lavish opening with all the people who invest in fashion and luxury brands, as well as my audience, the kickboxing world. We're going to mix billionaires with blue-collar people like me together and they're going to dream together.

"I love Thailand. I live nearby in Hong Kong. Thailand is part of my youth and kickboxing is part of my life. Without kickboxing, what would I be today? Nobody," said Van Damme, who rose to fame during the late 80s in the film Kickboxer in which he plays Kurt Sloane, a man out for revenge after his brother was paralysed by a Thai boxing champion.

Van Damme revealed that he had planned to fight former Olympic boxer Somrak Khamsingh. Unfortunately, he said, the fight was pushed back when he was offered the role in Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables 2.

Before Luxury Meets Justice, "The Muscles from Brussels" recently finished his upcoming film, Full Love (originally titled The Eagle Path) set in Thailand. Van Damme plays a taxi driver with a dark, twisted past. One day he picks up a female passenger and something tells him that he needs to save her. The film is set to premiere later this year and, according to the actor, 75% of Full Love was filmed here.

"Thailand has its own Hollywood. They also do a lot of commercials here. The film crews in Thailand are amazing. They are very fast, very efficient," he said, smiling.

As a famed action star, Van Damme expressed his appreciation towards our home-grown talent Thatchakorn "Tony Jaa" Yeerum.

"My friend introduced me to him. I went to his house in the countryside. He gave me a Buddhist amulet. My Thai housekeeper in Hong Kong told me that the type of amulet he gave me is to protect me while I am travelling," he said.

"We did some training together and decided to make a movie together, but the movie didn't happen. I don't know what the reasons are."

Earlier this year, Sahamongkol Film revealed that Tony Jaa was working on a new project called Ai Noom Kangnam (Kangnam Boy), in which he was set to co-star with Van Damme. However the Belgian star pulled out, citing health reasons. Van Damme, however, declared on his Facebook page that the rumour about his health is completely false and he is perfectly fine.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer