The print looked great and the film still holds up as one of JCVD's more solid efforts. It has Van Damme's trademark martial arts action and buff but not too developed body along with a surprising amount of heart and emotion, an early sign of the Muscles from Brussels being more than just a high kicking brute. Harrison Page steals nearly every scene as the broken down fighter turned promoter looking out for Lyon while you can really see the effort on young Van Damme's part.
After the film, Sheldon and Greg took the stage for Q&A:
- The butt shot was Van Damme's idea after doing several clothed takes. Greg's mom would forever take him to see JCVD movies because of it.
- Original story came from JCVD, he and Sheldon would meet up at a coffee shop on Sunset to discuss. After an altercation between Van Damme and the head waiter, a Sheriff showed up to tell them to leave.
- Sheldon's first feature so didn't attempt any crazy shots or tricks. Producers would have vetoed anything too extravagant to save money anyhow.
- Harrison Page is Sheldon's neighbor and long time friend. Most of the dialog was on the page but Harrison would take it and run with it, making it his own.
- Film picked up by Jim Jacks and Universal who didn't like Cynthia's scenes and trimmed them down. One was after Lyon asks to leave hotel to live like a fighter and she has a fit while another is her visiting Lyon at the hospital, knowing he's injured and setting up the final fight.
- Original title was Wrong Bet, Van Damme's idea. Sheldon didn't love it but had a hard time coming up with a better name. Released worldwide as A.W.O.L., Full Contact and Wrong Bet. Lyonheart became Lionheart at Universal.
- The film was a hit in America and abroad. Sheldon and co-star Michel Qissi were in France where Lion opened up against a Seagal picture. On the first night, Lion was in the small house while Seagal was in the big room. By the next evening, the films swapped as demand for Lionheart was much higher than Seagal's film and could have been the roots of Seagal's dislike for Van Damme.
- Producers wanted to use synthesizers for the score to save money but upon seeing the film, put more cash in and used the Salt Lake City orchestra to give composer John Scott's work gravitas.
- Really tried to make it different than Van Damme's previous films which explains the lack of splits and a tournament or revenge plot. Making it more dramatic helped differentiate the film and is why it stands the test of time today. But their next film, Double Impact, went balls out with all the cliches.
- Costume Designer Joseph Porro went crazy with Cynthia's wardrobe with big hats, rhinestone jackets, etc since everyone else would be in drab sweats, jeans and suits. Went on to work on classics Double Impact, Universal Soldier, Tombstone, Independence Day and many more.
- Film shot for 39 days, mainly in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the desert scenes.
- Lots of friends in the film, Lawrence Bender, Scott Spiegel, Kamel Krifa...
It was a great start to the evening with Greg's passion for the film shining through but still affording solid moderating and great stories from Sheldon. The lobby was hopping with fans and friends before Only the Strong as we popped out to roam the streets for a quick minute...