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The head of Cannon Pictures hated Bloodsport so much, he nixed a Lone Wolf McQuade sequel which would have co-starred JCVD.

While Bloodsport, the 1988 martial arts tournament movie, is widely considered by fans to be Jean-Claude Van Damme’s best film, it almost never saw the light of day. Indeed, according to Nick De Semlyen’s book, “Last Action Heroes” (buy it here), the film was deemed unreleasable by Cannon Pictures head Menachem Golan. The film sat on the shelf for fourteen months and was considered so bad that Golan intended to release the movie direct-to-video.

Things got so heated that Golan refused to go ahead with a proposed sequel to Lone Wolf McQuade, which would have featured Van Damme teaming up with Chuck Norris (who was an early mentor to JCVD). He wanted Michael Dudikoff instead.

According to the book, Van Damme, who had returned to his old job as a limo driver when the movie wrapped, convinced the studio to allow him to re-edit the film with Towering Inferno editor Carl Press. The two reworked the fight scenes and trimmed down some of the drama, resulting in a faster-paced cut that the studio allowed them to release.

However, in 1988, the studio was on the verge of going under, thanks to their attempt to hit the big time with a trio of would-be blockbusters in 1987. The films Over the Top, Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace all tanked at the box office, and in 1988, the studio could barely afford to promote Bloodsport. Thus, JCVD and the film rolled out in Asia and Europe before hitting North America, and by then, the film’s international success meant that the film was already profitable. It only grossed $11.7 million domestically, but overseas, it made over $50 million, all on a budget of only $2.3 million. On VHS, it became one of the biggest-selling titles in the Warner Bros library.

It’s incredible that Menahem Golan didn’t think the film was worth releasing, given how bad some of the product Cannon put out in their heyday was. Most studios would have never released Superman IV in the shape it was in theatres. Of all the films Cannon produced, Bloodsport is arguably the one with the most staying power. It is considered by many (myself included) to be one of the best American Martial Arts movies ever made.

Of course, after Bloodsport was a hit, JCVD was immediately put into two more Cannon films, Cyborg and Death Warrant. But the time the latter film came out, Golan had left the company. If JCVD had been stuck in a long term contract with Cannon, many believe his career would have never taken off. Take for example what happened to Michael Dudikoff. He should have been cast in bigger movies post American Ninja and Avenging Force, rather than smaller films. In many ways, their spendthrift ways doomed him to a career dominated by DTV movies.

Bloodsport has the following synopsis: U.S. soldier Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) has come to Hong Kong to be accepted into the Kumite, a highly secret and extremely violent martial-arts competition. While trying to gain access into the underground world of clandestine fighters, he also has to avoid military officers who consider him to be AWOL. After enduring a difficult training and beginning a romance with journalist Janice Kent (Leah Ayres), Frank is given the opportunity to fight. But can he survive?

Do you think Bloodsport is JCVD’s best movie? Let us know in the comments.



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