It feels like there’s been a massive increase in video game movies in recent years, but they’ve been around for decades. Well over 20 years ago Capcom tossed their hat in the ring with the
Street Fighter movie. Steven E. de Souza wrote and directed the project, which launched to generally poor reviews. It now frequently appears on lists of the top ten worst video game movies of all time.

There are numerous apparent flaws with
Street Fighter, but as it turns out, de Souza was also dealing with a myriad of behind-the-scenes problems. There were budgeting issues and casting problems (with Capcom and de Souza occasionally disagreeing), and Raul Julia (Bison) lost a significant amount of weight due to a battle with stomach cancer. There was even talk that the government of Thailand (where much of the filming took place) was about to be overthrown, leading to the military closing down roads.

On top of all of that, de Souza claims he had an incredibly difficult time dealing with the film’s star, Jean-Claude Van Damme. According to the director/writer, the high-priced action star they bet the film on became a nightmare to work with due to his out of control cocaine habit.

“I couldn’t talk about it at the time, but I can now: Jean-Claude was coked out of his mind. The studio had hired a wrangler to take care of him, but unfortunately the wrangler himself was a bad influence. Jean-Claude was calling in sick so much I had to keep looking through the script to find something else to film; I couldn’t just sit around for hours waiting for him. On two occasions, the producers allowed him to go to Hong Kong, and both occasions he came back late – on Mondays he just wasn’t there at all.”
— Steven E. de Souza

Keith Heygate, the first assistant director on the second unit, had similar memories of his time working with Van Damme.

“He was an interesting man, but he was extremely hard to work with – there are a lot of stories I can’t share. There was one time he was in the trailer and he was quite pissed. My assistant couldn’t get him out, I couldn’t get him out, so I had to call the producer, Chad Rosen, to get him out. Then he came out with a bottle of a champagne. I told him it was against health and safety to have alcohol on set. From that point on, he hated me.”
— Keith Heygate

Others who worked with Van Damme recall him frequently being late to filming or refusing to film at all, often saying things like “I need to pump my muscles” to explain his absence. Although Van Damme made filming difficult, de Souza also credits a single re-shoot with van Damme as part of the reason the film was a financial success.

The film was initially set to receive an R rating, which de Souza believed would kill its profitability. After making numerous edits, he resubmitted it only to receive an R rating once again. After a second round of editing he submitted the film a third time, and this time it came back with a G rating. De Souza saw this as the “kiss of death,” as he believed it would be unpopular with teenagers. To salvage the film’s “teen” perception, he brought Van Damme in for one more re-shoot adding a single line: “Four years of ROTC for this shit.” The film’s fourth submission earned the desired PG-13 rating.

Although the
Street Fighter movie has been a frequent target of ridicule in the 24 years since it launched, it earned just under $100 million in the box office on a budget of $35 million. Considering how many issues de Souza and his team were dealing with, that’s actually kind of amazing.

Source: The Guardian

Ben Lamoreux


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