One of the most successful lead-outs in the history of the Super Bowl was a star-studded 1996 episode of Friends. In the show’s second season, NBC went big and the result helped the show rocket to the top of the ratings. The rest was history, so to speak. But the episode and how it got made is fascinating and has some surprising stories.
The Hollywood Reporter had an oral history of the Friends Super Bowl episode, “The One After The Super Bowl,” and it’s packed with lots of fun moments, including the origin story of Suddenly Susan. And the episode had some big stars, as well as the return of Marcel the Monkey to Ross’s loving arms.
But apparently one guest star was incredibly difficult to work with, and those behind the scenes said he was even tougher to work with than the animal co-star who was infamous for trouble. Jean-Claude Van Damme, who among stars like Julia Roberts, Chris Isaak and Brooke Shields was apparently the worst of the worst.
Littlefield: Jean-Claude Van Damme may have fallen into the category of, “Who’s more difficult to work with, him or the monkey?”
Bright: He arrived at the set three or four hours late and went straight to his trailer. So David and I thought we’d introduce ourselves and ask him if he had any questions. We went over and he says, “No! First, I memorize lines. Then you give me the feeling.”
Sikowitz: I think that when Jean-Claude showed up, he asked through his manager or some other person who came to the set with him for Cocoa Puffs. I believe a P.A. ran out and got them.
Lembeck: Having completely blown up our shooting day, we had to scramble. Then he’s unprepared and arrogant! But this is the story I want to share: We shoot him and Jennifer first. Then she walks over to me and says, “Lem, Lem, would you do me a favor and ask him not to put his tongue in my mouth when he’s kissing me?” I tell him everything is great but it’s a tight shot so maybe let’s not do that. Then we’re shooting a scene later with Courteney. Here comes Courteney walking toward me and saying, “Lem, can you please tell him not to put his tongue in my mouth?” I couldn’t believe it! I had to tell him again, but a little firmer.
It’s notable because Van Damme was famously fired from Predator because of his difficulties. And considering all the other people new to the Friends universe that popped up in that episode, having the title of worst of the bunch is quite a feat.
You can see a bit of his appearance here, or the entire two-part episode on Peacock if you have access to that. Van Damme didn’t get to defend himself, but it’s not a great look for the actor. And some on the writing staff weren’t thrilled by the direction that plot point went in the episode. But the episode itself is regarded as a classic, and the full oral history is really interesting and full of much more fun details that won’t make you feel nearly as uncomfortable.
[via The Hollywood Reporter]