The two biggest martial arts action stars of the 1990s, Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme, do not like each other. It is a feud that has endured for decades, with several real life confrontations taking place outside the box office arena. It’s time to take a brief look at the war between Seagal and Van Damme.
The first (known) shots came from Sensei Seagal. In 1991 when appearing on the Arsenio Hall show, the host asked The Master if he’d heard of a man called Jean Claude Van Damme. Despite not being keen on answering, when Hall pressed, Seagal responded bluntly: “No“. Unlikely, given Van Damme’s near-meteoric rise as a martial arts action star at the time.
When asked further, Seagal then nodded that he was, in fact, aware of Van Damme’s existence. Asked what he thought of Van Damme’s work, Seagal looked to the floor then asked to change the subject. But then, decided to opine.
“I just promised all my mentors I was going to be a good boy,” admitted Seagal before unleashing a snide response.
He said: “I think that’s a matter of opinion he was champion anywhere. I’m not being catty or anything I wish the guy all the best. But there are an awful lot of people who say that’s not true.”
THE PLANET HOLLYWOOD INCIDENT
Having stuck it to Van Damme on national television, the two men were to have a conversation in person. Most think that the infamous show down at Sylvester Stallone’s house in 1997 was the first stand off, however this actually took place at a Planet Hollywood venue years earlier.
In a 1994 interview with MovieLine, Van Damme said when asked about his opinion of Seagal: “Well, he’s a good guy, but he’s too tense. I saw him in Planet Hollywood and I said, ‘Hey, Steven, you speak bad about me on TV. Why?‘”
Van Damme said that Seagal only muttered and would not answer properly.
“I said, ‘Come on, look, I’m a nice guy. Am I a bad guy?’ I shook his hand, he relaxed. Hey, it’s okay if he wants to say things. It’s not my problem.”
Van Damme then posited that Mr. Seagal was not in the best of shapes, physically, and might need to up his game in other areas, too.
“He’s not in good physical shape, absolutely not. He came on the screen playing a macho guy who fights in a suit. Women love that. Warner Bros, really promoted him in Above the Law and the movie didn’t do that much, but he became a star on video. I believe he’s got some charisma. Now he has to change, to find something new. It will be…difficult.”
THE SECOND CONFRONTATION
After taking to a Brazilian TV show in 1995 and denouncing Steven Seagal as a “very boring man”, things were to escalate severely two years later, in 1997. Sylvester Stallone threw a house party on his own property. There were many famous people in attendance, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Madonna.
Stallone relayed what happened next to AICN.com:
“At a party in my home in Miami in 1997, Van Damme was tired of Seagal claiming he could kick his ass so he offered Seagal outside into my back yard. Seagal made his excuses and left. But Van Damme, who was berserk, tracked him down at a nightclub and offered him out again.”
Stallone then noted that Van Damme was “too strong” and that Seagal “wanted none of it“.
Speaking about the incident, Van Damme said he was worried about screwing up Balboa’s fancy furniture. (And, given that Stallone has openly admitted to beaten another motorist to a pulp for ramming the back of his car, it’s probably best not to mess with his belongings…)
“No fight was made, just a little pushing”, Van Damme said in a 2010 French interview. “Because it was a beautiful house. Had beautiful furniture. I was pissed a little and said to Steven come outside.
“I waited two hours but he never came. Steven was very disrespectful that night.”
Seagal, however, has a different recollection of the incident. “He approached me. He was drooling. Foaming at the mouth. And he said something to me. I just said back to him, ‘When you’re sober, if that day ever comes, come say shit to me, I don’t care how small you are or how girlie you are. It won’t matter'”.
THE FEUD CONTINUES
For a while, the feud lay dormant. And it looked like it may even have been settled, when rumor came that Moshe Diamont was going to combine the star power of both actors and have them appear in an epic two-hander called Weapon. Said IGN:
In Weapon, Jack Conway (Steven Seagal) and Derek Chase (Jean-Claude Van Damme) are the two best assassins in the world — but unknown to each other. While Conway is a master sharpshooter, Chase is equally skilled with a knife. These two rival assassins form an uneasy alliance to take down the head of a drug cartel, which is backed by the DEA. The producers announced today that principal photography on Weapon will commence in July 2009 on locations in and around New Mexico and Vancouver. They expect to confirm a director in the next several weeks.
Obviously, this movie never happened. Worse, hostilities were to recommence with The Master taking a shot at Van Damme on his TV series Lawman. Asked by a fellow cop if the rumors were true that he (Seagal) had gotten into a fight with Van Damme, the actor laughed; “Nooo. It would be like me squashing an ant.”
Apparently debunking the rumor that he had ran away from Van Damme at Stallone’s house, Seagal revealed that it’s Van Damme who runs from him. “When he sees me he runs“.
In an interview that same year with Hustler Magazine, Seagal angrily shat on Van Damme’s height, and submitted that the man was a fake martial artist.
“The guy is no taller than her,” *Motions to 4’11 makeup girl*. “He never did martial arts in his life. Find his teacher for me. Whoever says he’s trained is a cocksucker and an asshole“.
Lately. the feud appears to have settled. Van Damme would deride Seagal’s weight, while promoting The Expendables II, while in 2015 when asked by an online discussion host about Van Damme’s fighting prowess, Seagal found the query so outrageous as to be humorous; “Can I laugh in your face“?
But who knows, maybe the time will come when they bury the hatchet and give us the ultimate manly martial arts movie.