Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport Was Based On A True Story That Turned Out To Be An Absurd Lie
The filmmakers behind Bloodsport were conned into thinking they were making a story about a real person.
When news broke that Jean-Claude Van Damme literally followed a star around Miami trying to fight them, fans immediately thought of Bloodsport. 1988 film about an American soldier who breaks away from the army to fight in deadly mixed martial arts tournaments in China perfectly encapsulates Jean-Claude’s image. Not to mention his very strange but fascinating career.
Without a doubt, Bloodsport is a cult hit and one of former President Donald Trump’s favorite movies. In fact, he’s kinda obsessed with it. But what he and other fans of the Newt Arnold-directed film may not know is that it’s actually based on a true story. Actually, scratch it… it was supposed to be based on a true story. But it ended up being an outlandish lie.
Here’s the ridiculous story of how the filmmakers behind Bloodsport were conned into thinking they were making a story about a real person.
Is Bloodsport A True Story? In an article about Donald Trump’s love of Bloodsport by MEL Magazine, screenwriter Sheldon Lettich explained that he had been introduced to a man who had claimed to fight in hidden tournaments in Hong Kong back in the 1970s.
“In the late 1970s, I’d been introduced to this guy named Frank Dux by my agent at the time. Frank had written a novel about the Vietnam War and the agent thought he could sell this novel if it was cut in half, and he knew that I was a Vietnam veteran and thought that I should meet up with Frank and have a discussion with him,” Sheldon Lettich explained.
Frank ended up telling Sheldon about a secret Kumité tournament that he took part in and won. He claimed to be the first Westerner to do so. Sheldon was immediately intrigued by the story and was convinced of its accuracy after seeing a “huge trophy” and an article published by Black Belt Magazine about his skills in Kumité.
“Then, we’re driving along in my car one day and once again he’s telling me about this tournament and that it was no-holds-barred and it got to be very bloody. For that reason, it was nicknamed “bloodsport” by some of the fighters. Well, when I heard that word “bloodsport,” I swear it was like I heard a choir of angels singing. I said, ‘Wow, that’s a great title for a movie.’”
A few years later, Sheldon met with producer Mark DiSalle and teamed up to create the martial arts movie around a character based on Frank Dux. And, of course, this character would share his name.
The movie ended up being a decent success and absolutely launched Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career. This was something that the real Frank Dux even stated in an interview with BuzzFeed.
“I’m proud of it and proud that it’s inspired so many people [to take up MMA fighting]. I think it’s a classic that people will still be watching 25 years from no,” Frank Dux said. “It’s the one film that made Jean-Claude a star and will keep him a star.
Is The Story Of Frank Dux True? “So everything about Frank Dux and the Kumité turned out to be bulls***,” Sheldon Lettich said to MEL Magazine.
A week or so after Bloodsport was released, a restorer at the L.A. Times started an investigation into the real Frank Dux.”He actually interviewed Frank and published an article blowing holes in Frank’s story.”
Over the years, other martial artists continued to shoot holes into the Frank Dux legend as they had never even heard of the underground competition that he supposedly won.
“According to Frank, it took place in The Bahamas — people have checked with the government there and they said, ‘No, there’s no such event that ever occurred there,’ and nobody could ever be tracked down who actually participated in the tournament. Even Black Belt Magazine had had the wool pulled over their eyes,” Sheldon revealed.
“And Frank had a kind of a devious way of disguising this as he would say, ‘Well, it was a secret competition, we were all sworn to secrecy, so nobody’s going to admit that they participated in the Kumité.’
He did the same with his military records. He used to tell people that he was a war hero, that he was in Vietnam, that he used to go on secret missions and that he was awarded a Medal of Honor. He even showed me his Medal of Honor once. I don’t know where he got it.”
While the real Frank Dux went after the L.A. Times for the story that exposed his lies, the case was thrown out by a judge.
“He also sued Van Damme over a movie called The Quest but he lost that,” Sheldon said. “He’s very litigious. He’s never won a lawsuit, but he keeps suing people.
Frank Dux’s lies didn’t end there, according to Sheldon, L.A. Times, Ranker, and All That Is Interesting.com. He also reportedly wrote a book where he claimed to have been recruited by the head of the CIA, made up the foundation called The International Fighting Arts Association, and lied to the producers about his teacher, Tiger Tanaka, who was actually a character in a James Bond novel.
“Despite [Bloodsport] being touted as based on a real story — was all made up,” Sheldon said. “Frank Dux made himself up to be this warrior hero and martial arts champion, none of which was true. It was, though, a good story.”