October 7, 2009
Darcy LaPier was a stunner who turned heads as a Hawaiian Tropic model. She is also a great example of personal reinvention (and still a stunner), now the subject of E!'s True Hollywood Story airing October 7.

LaPier first married her boss, Hawaiian Tropic honcho Ron Rice. Then she caught the eye of Belgian action-star Jean Claude Van Damme, with whom she had a son, Nicholas. Her third marriage to Herbalife founder Mark Hughes, who died suddenly at age 44, ended less than a year after their nuptials.

Today, LaPier, a mother of three, has transformed herself into an award-winning professional rodeo barrel racer in her home state of Oregon. You'll be seeing more of the intrepid athlete whose love of the equine sports has given her comfort and coping skills during some tough years.

Darcy LaPier is a bonafide rodeo star, a cowgirl and a damned fine barrel racer when the weekends roll around. Darcy and her family have thrived in the Pacific Northwest, but Hollywood and reality TV have caught wind of her unique story, and are all ears.

The premiere of Hollywood Ex Wives: The E! True Hollywood Story on Wednesday, October 7 (10pm on E!) will introduce you to a woman who has come through the ride, and survived.

The E! series "Hollywood Ex-Wives" will deliver an intimate look at some of the women who’ve been married to Hollywood’s biggest players and how they’ve gone from rags to riches, and in some cases, back to rags.

E! Producers delve into the world of privilige, lawyers, pre-nups, perks and the perils of being married to a hot property that everyone wants a piece of.

Featured ex-wives include: Gretchen Bonaduce (Danny Bonaduce), Sharise Ruddell-Neil (Vince Neil), Sandra Carradine (Keith’s Carradine) and of course, the lead "ex-wife": Darcy LaPier (Jean Claude Van Damme).

From her model years, to her Trophy wife rocky marriage with Jean Claude and the historic divorce, and her subsequent marriage to HerbalLife founder Mark Hughes which ended with his tragic death, Darcy LaPier's story serves as a lesson for anyone with a past, as she rebuilds her life inside and out of the rodeo circuit for a docu-drama series that will be announced later this Fall.

Monsters and Critics was granted an interview with Darcy LaPier:

Darcy, you went from one high profile marriage to the next, each union seemingly was more newsworthy and tragic than the one before it. After the death of your last husband, how did you pull through this shock, heal emotionally, take care of yourself and your children and reinvent yourself?
Darcy: First, you have to allow yourself to grieve. I traveled for a year. I didn’t want to take on any new projects in Entertainment. I wanted to move to Oregon and fulfill my lifelong dream of living on a farm or ranch. I couldn’t have made a better choice, it's been perfect for the children.

When did the rodeo bug bite you? Was this a childhood dream or a later in life epiphany for you?
Darcy: After I moved to Oregon, I went to a rodeo with my father. I saw fast horses come storming into the arena with beautiful ladies all glammed up! I said that’s it! I want to do that!

What is it about horses, and the sport that pull you to it?
Darcy: Horses are the ultimate therapy. I lost my husband, my father and grandfather within a year and a half. I found that when I rode, no matter how I felt, they always put me in a better mood. They show you comfort, trust and unconditional love. I know its strange because I come from the beauty pageant world, but I like that rush of the race.

Barrel racing is a speed event, the only sport in the PRCA for Women. You race your horse through a cloverleaf pattern as fast as you can go. Fastest time win prizes which can include titles, points, saddles and cash.

We travel in a four horse live-in trailer and I usually drive the full semi to pull it. It has a 14 ft live-in quarters. I love the western style!

Injuries are rampant in rodeo work, any good war stories you can share?
Darcy: I’m prone to them! I’ve always been someone who learned to run before they could walk, but I’ve also been known to be clumsy. Just a few injuries I’ve incurred are a compound fracture - my left arm; a torn sternum; a plate in my neck with six screws after I herniated two discs; a broken foot; some chipped teeth and plenty of broken fingers.

Most every competitor has something so working it out is a must and massages are a necessity not a luxury! Us rodeo girls usually take better care of our horses than ourselves. They get ice therapies, special shoes and bedding – I’ve come to find that if you take care of the horse, they take care of you. The horse always the most important!

You are a glamor puss, an ex-model; is Oregon satisfying that part of you?
Darcy: No it doesn’t! I love and miss Los Angeles and its glamorous scene. Lately, I’ve been traveling back every week for business and that’s been satisfying me… for now.
March 5, 2009

The Belgian — aka the Muscles from Brussels, star of such '90s action fare as Timecop, Street Fighter and Universal Soldier — is getting his career back on track.

But keeping an interview with him on the rails is more difficult than any big-screen comeback.

He follows no logic, answers his own version of your question, if not a different question altogether, and is prone to drifting off.

He says "you know what I mean?" at the end of a lot of his sentences, and mostly you're left thinking, "Errr, actually, no".

But back to that comeback: "I have to be very careful for my next movie," he says.

And so he haphazardly starts to paint us a picture of his next movie.

An eagle is his friend. In Thailand. There are Russian and Bulgarian girls — "very difficult to cast".

There are human friends who will help him, "and they're going to die for it, some of them".

There's something about a white rose, a temple of business, a flashback to some mentally scarring incident when he was eight, a woman who "will trash my life, and I will react very crazy", and a scene that will stun everyone: "you never saw a shot like that in the history of cinema".

"So the movie is like the Casablanca of 2009 with a lot of class . . ."

OK, he's not so much outlining the plot as he is giving away every detail. Luckily for Van Damme, it's easy to come away from his description of this film he has written and directed, The Eagle Path, still having no clue as to what it's about.

"The way I'm telling you the story, I'm giving you all the story, you have to be careful," he says after spilling it all.

"But do me a favour, I mean, you will hurt me so much and I won't know what to do. I will do anything for you if you don't talk too much about the story."

Van Damme is adamant that the film will show, and succeed, at Cannes in mid-May.

He claims he's spent the past four months editing it.

"I worked for 20 hours cutting a day," he says. "Really, I didn't stop cutting for four months the movie, because I have to make Cannes, you know what I'm saying?"

If The Eagle Path does show at Cannes, it is down to one thing: JCVD.

Just as The Wrestler propelled Mickey Rourke from has-been to rehab-ed hero, JCVD has revived the fortunes of Van Damme, who has battled cocaine addiction, gone through wives like Liz Taylor went through husbands, lost contact with his children, been arrested for drink-driving, and suffered the indignity of most of his films this decade going straight to DVD.

JCVD is such a revelation because it blends this not-at-all-glamorous reality with fiction — Van Damme plays himself as a washed-up actor, losing his daughter in a custody hearing and losing movie roles to rival action beefcake Steven Seagal (there's no arguing when Seagal promises to cut off his ponytail for the part).

Broke, burnt out and back in Belgium, our hero goes to the post office to withdraw some money, only to find himself caught up in a hostage crisis — which the cops believe is his doing.

"Did you like it?" Van Damme asks.

As he talks he is — in real life, this is — in Belgium, in a hotel room apparently filled with mates.

They must have been partying all night, because Van Damme eventually reveals he's had an hour's sleep.

"When I opened myself, how did you see that?"

He's not lying about opening himself up — at one point in JCVD, Van Damme floats up and away from the action to deliver a long and moving monologue about everything that has gone wrong in his life.

It ends with him crying and shouting as he asks what he has done on this earth: "Nothing! I have done nothing!"

"I was very ashamed of myself," Van Damme says of the first time he saw the scene played back.

"Like, wow, I was too open to the public. But you know what? That scene, it came from something deep."

The shame didn't last — now he believes it's what people want from him.

"In JCVD I opened my soul so much, you know. People, they like to see me suffering in a sense, right? When you saw me in the movie, it felt sad for you, right? But at the same time it was enjoyable to see a man opening himself that much.

"So there are two sides of the story

— one my side, and the other side the public. This public, they want to see me strong, my action side. So we've made a movie (The Eagle Path) now with a lot of action, but not that much, but strong, real, with my age — I'm now 48. I don't fight like a clown any more, it's important to make it real."

It remains to be seen how much "realness" he'll fit into his next few films, which appear to be a rash of action sequels: he's back in training for another Universal Soldier film with Dolph Lundgren, and there's talk of revisiting Timecop and Bloodsport.

And with The Eagle Path, he plans to kick-start his own low-cost, good-returns business.

"I am back in my old-fashioned way," he says. "Now I'm talking like a businessman: if I have four movies, I can give a big distribution company in Europe the next four years in the life of Van Damme so they'll have an investment.

"I'll make less money, but I want to go back to the (movie) theatre — I look better on the big screen when I smile.

"Those famous action movies, the motion, you can see all the flexibility, the muscles, the legs — that's what people like to see, you know."

Flexing those ageing muscles will clearly remain Van Damme's bread and butter. The trick is to get people to look beyond them.

He talks about the reaction of some people who have seen The Eagle Path: "They go, 'Oh nice arms, you're big there. Oh you're strong, look at your arms, na na na . . .' all that bulls---.

"But after 45 minutes they were hooked to the character and they saw me as a man who was hurt because of a flashback to being young."

He returns to this Eagle film again and again, even when the question is about JCVD: "For the first time in my life I can see maybe 10 times the film I just finished."

As he says in that JCVD monologue, this life is what Van Damme, born Jean-Claude Van Varenberg, wanted. His love of karate and bodybuilding first took him to Hong Kong, then at 20 to LA to try to make it in films. He could barely speak English, but eventually his kickboxing did the talking and he made his name with 1988's Bloodsport.

Maybe he'd have more to be proud of, more films he could watch 10 times, if drugs hadn't messed him up.

"Yeah," he says, "but I so s---; with drugs, man. Oh no, disgusting. No. Disgusting."

He says it was a woman who gave him his first line of cocaine.

"That night, when she gave me that — some people become, I dunno, intellectual; for me, it became primal. And I have an addictive personality, so it was dangerous for me.

"Then I travelled all over the world.

It happens to you when you become a star, and all those guys they want you, then you feel the glamour, it can be a trap for a man."

Why did he finally stop? He answers his own version of the question.

"Yeah, finished," he says. "Stopped. Finished. My family is back together with me, so it's fantastic."

Indeed, Van Damme is again living in Hong Kong, where he's reunited with one of those wives, Gladys Portugues, and their two children.

Those children are now young adults, old enough to do their own thing.

"They want to be actors and directors," Van Damme says.

After his very low lows, it would be understandable if Van Damme were to warn his children to stay away from the movie business.

Apparently, he hasn't.

"No, I don't care what business it is.

I think it's a good business, you can meet lots of people in many countries, different religions, everything. You know what I'm saying?"

Errr, actually, no.
14 November, 2008
A former martial arts champion who became known as The Muscles from Brussels,
Jean-Claude Van Damme, 48, is the Belgian-born star of a series of action movies such as Bloodsport and the Universal Soldier series. He hadn't had a hit in years however, until the surprising «JCVD», a festival favourite in which he plays himself as an aging action star who gets caught up in a hostage-taking at a local post office. In the film's most famous scene, he sits in a chair that raises into the air and delivers a six-minute monologue on his dreams of movie-stardom and how they all went sour. Van Damme, who was in Bangkok filming his new movie «Full Love», talked to Canwest movies writer Jay Stone. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Q: "How much of the character Jean-Claude Van Damme in the movie «JCVD» is the real Van Damme?
A: "I play the actor and at the same time a certain reality of my life. So it's half fiction and half real because Mabrouk (director Mabrouk El Mechri) put me into a situation in the post office, it became Van Damme the so-called movie star being trapped with normal people like I was year ago. I mean I'm still normal. I was there with people and not playing the big guns and kicking all over the place."

Q: "How did that six-minute monologue about your life and career come about?"
A: "I said to Mabrouk, 'What about doing some sort of confession, talking to the public the way I see Hollywood, the way I see me 20, 10, two years ago, and also to tell people I made it because I did believe and I dreamed that dream I believe'."

Q: "You say in the monologue that you haven't really achieved anything worthwhile in your life. Do really believe that?"
A: "I was dreaming about being that so-called movie star. I saw Lawrence of Arabia when I was so young with my father, and those movies like Ben-Hur, and I was dreaming always about the big cinema. When I did Bloodsport people said, 'Wow, the guy's amazing,' but what people should know is I started training when I was 11, so without knowing, I did rehearse so many years. From there I became that sensation overnight and I didn't find nothing special. It was as empty as I was back in Belgium, full of life but still empty of feeling something I would be happy with. Then at the end of my career when I met one or two directors, Ringo Lam, he would teach me how to be real, which is when you go into a movie, it's not to go into a movie, it's to go into a situation you believe is real. And now it's like a different feeling for me to make movies. It's not empty any more."

Q: "Your character in JCVD is 47 years old, and he says he's getting too old for action movies. But you're still making them, aren't you?"
A: "I just finished shooting a movie I directed called Full Love and it's plenty of good action but it's kind of different from what I've done before. I'm going to use the film to show something visually to the audience that is going to be very controversial. Like I said in that chair, I've done some good deeds but not big enough to die happy in a way. So in the movie I'm risking something because I've got a career and JCVD is putting me back in a good place, but I've got to do this movie."

Q: "I understand you're still in Bangkok because you have a sick dog?"
A: "I adopted seven dogs in Thailand, I love animals, and one dog had a stroke. So immediately I left for the clinic and took him to another clinic, the emergency clinic, he was in a coma. And he came back alive. And believe it or not, this is the dog I chose for my movie. And when I came to choose that dog in the kennel I saw other dogs and I adopted them because one was handicapped with three paws and another dog his body was lifeless, with his two front paws and the back is just dragging, so we bought him a wheelchair. I love animals. I love dogs. I'm crazy about them. I like to walk in the morning on the beach in Belgium, we have those very wide, beautiful, hard-sand beaches, and I walk with my dogs for hours in the morning and nobody's there, it's like infinity-looking. And I don't talk. I talk to people, I talk to you, but I don't talk. That's a special moment because I'm like them, I'm not using my voice to talk. I'm just using my mouth to breathe and my nose to smell and feeling even more part of their clan."

Q: "Thank you very much for your time."
A: "Are you kidding or what? Thank you for your time."
San Francisco Chronicle: April 4, 1997

It's the classic confrontation -- not good versus evil, but clean versus dirty. "Double Team" presents Jean-Claude Van Damme -- the spiffiest action hero, the man who looks well-groomed in the desert, the best haircut in movies -- in a battle to the death with Mickey Rourke, the man who is scared of shampoo.

But Tsui Hark ("A Chinese Ghost Story," "Once Upon a Time in China"), canny director that he is, plays against our expectations in this, his first American film. He gives us an unshaven Van Damme and a relatively hygienic Rourke. In one extreme close-up, Van Damme is even shown with unsightly hair peeking out from his nostrils. What is Hark thinking? Comes here from Hong Kong and starts messing with our heroes.

And our villains, too. Rourke is buffed in ``Double Team.'' Not Van Damme buffed, not aesthetic buffed. Rourke is in amazing-yet- weird shape, with evil-looking, humongous shoulders. He looks like someone forgot to tell him about chest exercises. In their final showdown, it's Van Damme playing shirts to Rourke's skins. Add into the mix an arms dealer played by Dennis Rodman, a basketball star who has augmented his fame by dressing like an idiot, and the action recipe is complete.

The movie takes its title from the basketball term in an effort to capitalize on Rodman's presence. That's as good a signal as any of the picture's level of aspiration. But Hark takes this weak pretext for action and throws everything at it. By the time the opening credits are finished, there have been two gun battles (with machine guns) and a gasoline fire.

``Double Team'' is either an intentional satire of American action films or a Hollywood translation of Hong Kong-style action. In either case the film is odd and confusing, and it just keeps coming.

Hark is the kind of director who will use 15 different setups to film a one-minute conversation, just so the audience can notice how brilliant he is. But at the same time, he often really is brilliant. Who else would use fades in the midst of action scenes? He actually fades in and out, without interrupting the velocity of the action.

Shots linger in the mind. Van Damme goes through a glass window, hits the ground and then there's this beautiful close-up: Van Damme's head on the floor, with a handful of little glass crystals falling in front of his face.

"Double Team" might have been a ridiculous, 90-minute waste of time, but its scope, style and brazen stupidity eventually earn it a sort of campy grandeur. There are shoot-outs in Antwerp, in Nice and in Rome's Piazza Novanna. And at one point or another each character is chased by a tiger. "A man is strong," international menace Rourke intones. "But the tiger is stronger."

Rodman can't act, but his outsized personality fits right in. Van Damme, as always, does his job and looks good doing it. As for Rourke, he's taken the first step. Now he just needs to rinse and repeat.

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