It's pretty well-known that Jean-Claude Van Damme originally portrayed the titular character in 1987's Predator, but there hasn't been too many good images of what he looked like while on the set in Mexico. There's some video footage from the set of Predator, but a recent image gives us our best look yet at the original design for the alien hunter, and it's not very cool at all. Van Damme was famously fired from the movie for wanting to add some kickboxing to the killer alien, and was reportedly not very happy about the way that the suit looked either.
As far as the look of iconic villains go, the Predator and its titular character are tough to beat. The same can be said for the Alien franchise as well. However, both franchises did not start that way. Both Predator and Alien started off not looking very cool at all, and in the case of Predator, Jean-Claude Van Damme was in the original ill-fated suit. In the recently released picture from the set, the costume looks like a weird dog head on a reptile's body, far from the menacing alien that ended up in the final cut. Some people are calling Van-Damme's take on the hunter a 'space roach'.
Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed in his autobiography that they were attempting to make the movie on a real tight budget, to play off of the suspense of the stealthy alien. To create the alien, a company called Boss Film Creature Shot was hired on to design the now laughable monster wannabe. Jean-Claude Van Damme hated it, and was under the impression that he was going be wearing a leotard and makeup, which would have allowed him to utilize some of his kickboxing moves.
Jean-Claude Van Damme was sadly mistaken. Instead, they put him in a heavy suit that covered his entire body. For the stealth scenes, the suit was all red to go against the green jungle and Van Damme absolutely hated that as well, saying he looked more like a superhero. Van Damme was totally unaware that his whole body would not be seen after thinking that Predator was going to be his breakout film. To make matters worse, director John McTiernan, along with the cast and crew, didn't see the Predator suit until it was shipped down to the set. "It looked like a guy in a lizard suit with the head of a duck," according to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After some test footage was shot for Predator, John McTiernan was able to secure more funding and able to hire Stan Winston to get the iconic alien that we all know today. Jean-Claude Van Damme was fired for complaining too much and wanting to add some kickboxing to the character, which led to him being replaced by Kevin Peter Hall who was an imposing 7' 3," compared to Van Damme at 5' 9". In the end, it all worked out for the best for all involved. Shane Black, who played Rick Hawkins in the original movie now has a reboot coming out later this year and Jean-Claude Van Damme has a respectable career in the line of work that he always aspired to. You can check out the terrible original Predator costume below, thanks to the Stan Winston School YouTube channel.