Friday, November 30, 2012

Okay, Serious Question....



It was always a bit of a running joke that in the "canonical" Jean-Claude Van Damme films of yore, his Belgian accent had to be painfully explained in some elaborate way. In Lionheart, he was a deserter from the French Foreign Legion. In Maximum Risk, he was a French cop. In Hard Target, he played a Cajun (admittedly, the film did take place in the Bayou). In Double Impact, one of his characters had been raised in a Belgian orphanage in Hong Kong. And so on. I daresay it was one of the incidental pleasures of these films.

So, my question is: Why on earth did filmmakers feel the need to explain Van Damme's accent while those who made Arnold Schwarzenegger's films so rarely did?

Both their accents were distractingly thick, so it couldn't have been that. Is it just that a Belgian/French accent sounds significantly less badass than an Austrian/German accent, and thus required a greater leap of logic? Or the fact that so often Van Damme's films were international co-productions, whereas Arnie's movies were as 'murican as plastic explosive-laced apple pie?

Or maybe I just missed the scene in Jingle All the Way where someone speculated on why the all-American mattress salesman next door sounded like a Teutonic killer robot from the future.


13 comments:

  1. Arnold's may've just been more accepted in the mainstream compared to Van Damme. I think Arnold's been more of a mainstream celebrity than Van Damme has and people just didn't care. Also Arnold looks like a beast, so things can be a bit "wonky". Van Damme kinda looks like a normal white dude so the accent could've thrown some people off. "White doesn't he talk like an American?" stuff, ya know.

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  2. EDIT: "Why doesn't he..." Excuse: I've been drinking vodka.

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  3. Couple of reasons: 1. Unlike JCVD, Arnold was already famous as the austrian-american mr. universe before he made it big on screen, this allowed him some space to be himself. 2. Arnold got famous with a series of out-of-place/time characters (Hercules, Conan, Terminator) with intrinsically weird accents that had no relevance to any real accent in existence. The crowd got used to his screen presence and expected him to talk 'weird'. This is how he got to keep it 'real' without any apologies. JVCD, however started out looking 'normal' (as S.St. Monsters points out) within normal settings and contemporary milieus. So he always had to have a background set-up explaining why he sounded different while looking normal. That being said, I still think they had to insert some explanation for his fruity dance act in kickboxer.

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