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Damme Straight: Four Facts About Jean-Claude Van Damme

Few things are stranger than playing a weeklong game of phone tag with Jean-Claude Van Damme. But it was worth it to talk about JCVD, coming to DVD this month. Van Damme shows surprising range as “himself,” a washed-up actor who goes home to Belgium only to wind up a hostage in a post office robbery the police mistakenly think he’s orchestrating. Somehow, through the bad connection and broken English, we learned four things we didn’t know about the action star.

1. He was once homeless in L.A.
Luckily, there were kindhearted homeowners to give him a place to crash. “I would stay in their garage with some covers and a pillow,” he recalls. “In the morning I’d clean their houses and then go for casting.”

2. He’s still huge in Belgium.
But dealing with fans isn’t easy when you’ve had a shitty day. “Anybody can be in a bad mood, but you have to think of the consequences,” says Van Damme. “Some people have your posters for 10 years on a wall.”

3. You want him around during a heist.
Van Damme knows exactly what he would do in a robbery like the one in JCVD. “Since I like people so much, I will after a while try to enter into a communication,” he explains.

4. The guy can act.
JCVD’s highlight is an improvised six-minute monologue in which Van Damme talks about his own issues with drugs, ex-wives, and Hollywood. “It was interesting for the audience to see me in a different light,” he says. “I was ready to do a 20-minute monologue.” Suck it, Seagal!