Twenty-five years ago today, Oscar-winner-featuring* action classic Bloodsport premiered in theaters. Though not Jean-Claude Van Damme's first film (that would be Monaco Forever, in which he played "Gay Karate Man"), Bloodsport certainly was the one that put him and his spaghetti-strap tank tops on the map. Muscles in all the right places and awkward pauses in all the wrong ones, Bloodsport tells the story of Frank Dux, an expert martial artist who travels from the U.S. to Hong Kong for the hardest core of hardcore superfights known as the Kumite.
Two nights ago, sitting on my bathroom floor, ignoring my guests during the first hour of my Oscars party, I spoke with the real Frank Dux over the phone and asked him how he felt about the movie's quarter-century milestone. Now living in Seattle, Dux says he spends his time training Special Forces units, hosting martial arts clinics, and working on his two books — one of which is titled The Complete History of the Ninja. Awesome.
It's impossible to talk about Dux without mentioning the rampant speculation — much of it more than just speculation, as outlined in this Los Angeles Times piece published a few months following the film's release — that the details of his life as portrayed in Bloodsport aren't entirely accurate.
I asked Dux about the article and specifically about the accusation that he not only lied about winning the Kumite but that he also lied about it existing at all. Not surprisingly, he categorically denied the claims of the piece, calling it "paid-for slander" and "a libelous hatchet-job." When I asked him who would pay the Los Angeles Times to write the story, he said it was "complicated" and "nobody knows for sure," but that it had something to do with his strong stance that ninjas aren't trained masters (see No. 5 below) and maybe even involved Oliver North. Look, I could write an entire long read about Dux's wild explanations for each of the story's claims, but today is about celebrating the film Bloodsport, which we all know with 100% certainty did happen and did launch the career of one of the best action stars of all time. So let's focus on that.
Here are 15 new details about Bloodsport as revealed by Dux himself:
1. The story of how young Frank met his shidoshi wasn’t true.
2. Dux owes much of his fighting success to being born handicapped.
"I became accustomed to great pain and adversity at a very young age because my feet went 180 degrees in the wrong direction. To get them forward, I wore braces that moved them a little bit every day."
3. Jean-Claude is a dog person!
"He used to always bring his dog Buffy — I think that was its name — to the set and to the gym. It was black, maybe a Lab or a Lab mix, I'm not sure. He really loved that dog."
4. Jean-Claude probably can’t kill anyone with a roundhouse kick.
5. According to Dux, any of us can be a ninja.
6. Bolo Yeung, who plays the terrifying Chong Li, is actually a big ol’ pussycat.
7. In addition to serving as the film's fight choreographer, Dux was also its Edith Head.
8. There wasn’t a single stuntman in the film.
"They weren't paying for any stuntmen, so when we cast the guys, it wasn't necessary that they be martial artists, but everyone needed to be able to take a punch. Many of the guys had professional dance backgrounds."