Jean Claude Van Damme frequently had one of two back stories.  Writers rarely found a unique way to explain an american with a french accent who knew martial arts. Let’s explore the alternatives.

In “Universal Soldier” JCVD plays Luc Deveraux, yes from Louisiana – the only place in America where a french accent would be allowed to flourish, and only in the bayou can you hone the delicate art of a split punch, and a double flying roundhouse.  Let’s look at “Hard Target,” where the writers go whole hog naming JCVD’s character, Chance Boudreaux.   Yep, a ragin cajun with martial arts skills.  Incidentally, “Hard Target” was John Woo’s debut in American film.

But wait, he wasn’t always a cajun martial arts master, don’t forget that he was in the vaunted French Foreign legion as, Alan Lefevre (again the writers whole hog french on this one) in the movie “Legionnaire.”  Of course it seems that he was the only member of his legion unit to learn the fine art of killing with your bare hands.  In “Lionheart,” he plays Leon Gaultier, a member of the French Foreign legion again, except this time he has gone AWOL and finds himself in the steam tunnels of the Los Angeles underground full-contact fighting circuit.  What is the deal with the French Foreign legion anyway?  Can anyone join?  Why would you join, it seems like a pretty bad setup.  Is it still around?  Maybe there should be more movies about it…it was loosely referenced in “The Mummy?”

In “TimeCop” his character, Walker, is ambiguously Cajun / Canadian – while it’s not totally clear there do seem to be some hints of a Cajun background.  Incidentally, “TimeCop” was JCVD’s most successful feature film (both critically and financially).  So basically the writers decided not to bother with a back story on “TimeCop.”  In “Sudden Death,” he is a disgraced Pittsburg firefighter (at a hockey game) who clearly seems to be from the Bayou.  I get its hard to mask his frenchness, but did people really try?

In many other movies we get many variations on the Legion / Cajun back story.  So here are some solutions.  One is obvious, Canadian.  Frank Dux was Canadian – but since “Bloodsport” was a bio-pic about a real canadian that is a bit different.  But you could be more specific about what sort of Canadian he was.  He could be Claude Demoux, ex-hockey player from New Brunswick that learned how to fight on the ice.  What if he were ACTUALLY from Belgium, what’s wrong with being the Fighting Flemmishman?  There are other cities in Belgium besides Brussels, Antwerp for example?  They are known for diamond trading?  Maybe he could be Arnold Moskowitz who learned martial arts from vicious diamond traders?  Those guys are nasty.  They speak French in Haiti, and have French accents there- what if he were Robert Pierre-Maxime, his relatives practiced voodoo and taught him the deadly art of the split punch?  I will throw one more question into the fire, was he just that bad at masking his accent?  Did he ever try?  Christian Bale manages to sound a lot like an American?  Hell Gerard Depardieu sounds more American in “Green Card” than JCVD usually does?  What’s up with that – he has so many other gifts I guess trying new accents just wasn’t going to work.

Any ideas on how we can improve JCVD’s back stories?  I have offered a few here but we would welcome additional ideas.

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