In 2008, two films featuring down on their luck movie stars from the 1980's and 90's hit screens to widespread acclaim. One film mirrored the hard times of its star while the other was a meta style mockumentary featuring the actor as himself. While one would hit the television, interview and award circuit to grovel and cry about his past, the other canceled all promotion for the film and squandered the goodwill the film generated. Now, one of them is again stuck in DTV land while the other just starred in an ad campaign that has gone viral and racked up 10 million views in two days. The first film was The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. The second is JCVD, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
During the 90's, JCVD was one of those who revered Mickey Rourke as an actor, believing Rourke was on the same level as DeNiro. Even though Rourke had lost a step, JCVD believed his talent would win through and a comeback was possible. The two were friends and neighbors in Santa Monica and while Rourke was having trouble securing roles, he ended up playing the villain against Van Damme in Sony's theatrical release, Double Team, in 1997. There's a great video of the two during production on a night out, both wearing vests to show off their pumped up bodies, kissing each other on the mouth and Rourke proclaiming Van Damme to be an underestimated actor but with skills on par with DeNiro. Cut to 2008 and Rourke is calling Van Damme a "has been" in interviews. That's gratitude for you.
With an Oscar nomination followed by villain roles in Iron Man II and Immortals and a cameo in The Expendables, Rourke seems to have won the 2008 Comeback Award. But heat only lasts so long and his last four films have all gone direct to video with no theatrical prospects looming. Jean-Claude Van Damme seemed like an idiot for cancelling his appearances to promote JCVD to take care of a sick dog but life repaid him as the dog lived, Sylvester Stallone came calling for Expendables II and his series of commercials have been viewed by millions as clever, insightful and totally unexpected. Looks like JCVD wins the Life Award.