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cannes 2010

Auteur Jean-Claude Van Damme Is at Cannes to Talk About His Kickboxing Comeback

Why is Cannes so special? Because it's the kind of place where you can get dressed up in a dapper tuxedo and attend the opening-night party for the elite Cannes Film Festival, and there Jean-Claude Van Damme will tell you about his new reality show. That alone is worth the airfare! We bumped into the 50-year-old Muscles from Brussels at the gala, where he talked about the new series he's doing for British TV that he describes as The Osbornes meets Bloodsport: He will be filmed getting back into face-kicking shape and then fighting Thai kickboxing champ Somluck Kamsing in October. Says Van Damme: "It’s going to be like Hollywood versus reality.” Wham bam, merci, Van Damme!

So what is this show exactly?
[When I was younger] I was doing karate and dreaming about movies. And the dream came true, but I always missed that martial-arts type of experience, the fight. But it’s become so sophisticated today that I want to go backwards and learn, but I am 50 years old — I have some problems with knees and hips.

How old is your opponent?

I’m 50 and the guy’s 36, also with a gold medal in the Olympics. He has many, many fights in muay thai [kickboxing]. We’re going to put this all together … It will be in Vegas or in Dallas, and I will be followed by a TV show, from me going down to 75 kilos and living the movie-star type of life, to one month later, sleeping by nine, staying home.

Are you training now?
No. If I train too long at my age, you peak at around four months of training. If you train too long, it will wear out the joints. He’s almost fifteen years younger, a different type of anatomy and metabolism, so he will have to train for six months. Somluck has 200 fights in muay thai — kicking, low kicks, elbows, very strong.

Are you trying to prove something to critics of your fighting?
Some people will come to see me fall, but I want to prove that I can bring a certain validity to the ring. I will not fall so easily.

And what will the show look like?
It’s divided into three pieces: a movie documentary explaining my life, from the bottom to the top of the rock-and-roll life and back all the way to training for a championship fight. It’s going to be a big fight. I’ll go to a camp and train — and we’ll have my family around me like The Osbornes.

And do you have a strategy for how you’ll beat Somluck?

I cannot reveal my secret for how to try to win. But I can’t go into the corner with him because he is too good with his fists. I have to use my legs; I am very good with my legs, like in Bloodsport.

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images