Jean-Claude Van Damme Was 'Coked Out of His Mind' During 'Street Fighter,' Director Says
Director Steven de Souza described filming the 90s action flick as a total shit show.
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The 90s live-action Street Fighter movie is a cliched, cringeworthy masterpiece. The action movie, based on the video game, is sustained almost entirely by fight scenes and one-liners, and it's one of those films that is so terrible, it's actually fucking great. Now, more than a decade after the film was released, the film's director, Steven de Souza, told the Guardian that the making of the movie was just as chaotic as it came across onscreen.
Apart from actors getting punched on set and extras playing with actual knives, de Souza revealed in an oral history of Street Fighter that his star was pretty much always "coked out of his mind." Jean-Claude Van Damme starred as the all-American Colonel Guile—which didn’t really make sense considering he’s super Belgian—but he was the biggest action star around back then, and apparently Street Fighter had to have him. At the time he was struggling with a pretty serious cocaine addiction, snorting an estimated $10,000 worth of coke a week, and it allegedly made filming a nightmare.
"I couldn’t talk about it at the time, but I can now: Jean-Claude was coked out of his mind," de Souza told the Guardian. "The studio had hired a wrangler to take care of him, but unfortunately the wrangler himself was a bad influence. Jean-Claude was calling in sick so much I had to keep looking through the script to find something else to film; I couldn’t just sit around for hours waiting for him. On two occasions, the producers allowed him to go to Hong Kong, and both occasions he came back late—on Mondays he just wasn’t there at all.”
According to de Souza and a few other folks from the film's cast, JCVD's habit wasn't the only element that made Street Fighter kind of a shit show. For starters, they were filming in Thailand during talk of what an assistant director described as a "possible coup." They'd also blown a huge chunk of the film's budget on hiring Van Damme and Raúl Juliá—who honestly crushed it as the villain, General Bison—which meant they didn't have the time or money to train everyone properly before their fight scenes. And the whole thing was shot out of sequence, making it hard for a lot of people on set to know what was going on.
"I didn’t know the character; I didn’t know the video game; I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” actor Roshan Seth told the Guardian. "I was supposed to be a mad scientist. I thought: What sort of science am I supposed to be doing and what am I mad about?"
Despite the chaos, geopolitical turmoil, and JCVD's coke habit, things eventually came together: The movie got horrible reviews, but it wound up raking in $105 million and, more importantly, kicking ass.
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