JCVD & Dolph Lundgren staged a fight at Cannes to promote Universal Soldier

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren tricked the media into thinking they were feuding to promote Universal Soldier.

Universal Soldier

The Cannes Film Festival has a storied history of infamous moments. We think of Brigitte Bardot in her bikini, Spike Lee threatening Wim Wenders with a baseball bat after losing the Palme d’Or, pretty much everything Lars Von Trier has said or done…But one that really caught the media’s attention was when Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren went at it on the red carpet, with people under the impression that the Universal Soldier co-stars and European macho men were really at each other’s throats. Turns out, it was all just a gag for the press.

It’s one thing that Universal Soldier was even being represented at the Cannes Film Festival but another entirely that it wasn’t even screened! As it was, despite a minor presence on the Palais des Festivals, Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi action flick wasn’t part of any screenings because it wasn’t complete. As such, it needed some extra promotion. So leave it to the Muscles from Brussels to concoct a plan that would give Universal Soldier a little boost in publicity ahead of its summer 1992 premiere.

As JCVD told Arsenio Hall of the staged Universal Soldier spat at Cannes, “The movie was complete but not cut yet…So I was in Cannes in Dolph. So I call his room, I say, ‘Dolph, we have a problem: we’re here, we have no movie to show…So let’s do something special. Remember when Sly and Arnold were dancing in Cannes [in 1990]? What about you and I…having a friction on the steps of the red carpet…So he said, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea.’ So we push around each other and we made all the news in Cannes.” When Hall pressed JCVD if he really made up the entire red carpet tussle, he confirmed, “It was free publicity. I’m a businessman.”

Rumors were abound that JCVD and Dolph Lundgren didn’t get along while making Universal Soldier so when they pretended to go at it while the likes of David Lynch, Sidney Lumet and Robert Altman were waiting to see if they would take home the Palme d’Or, it was easy to buy. And the stunt paid off, with Universal Soldier opening at #2 and going on to be a fan favorite in the catalogs of both stars.

Source: Jean Claude Vandammelibrary

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with JoBlo.com periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.