Jean-Claude Van Damme was sued in the 1990s over an injury that took place on the set of Cyborg. Throughout his career in the movie business, the Muscles from Brussels has had a reputation for delivering intense and well-choreographed fight sequences in his films. But supposedly as an unfortunate consequence of this realistic approach, a stuntman sustained a serious injury while filming a fight with Van Damme.
Released in 1989, Cyborg was an early action vehicle for Van Damme, whose career was just beginning to take off. In fact, the movie was only his second lead role, with the first being 1988’s Bloodsport. Though the part was reportedly written for Chuck Norris, Van Damme ended up playing the main protagonist. Set in a cyberpunk world, Cyborg easily earned its
R-rating with a plethora of violent battles and brutal kills, many of which performed by Van Damme’s character. Over the course of the story, Van Damme’s Gibson Rickenbacker had to use his martial arts skills and cyborg enhancements to fight his way through a number of knife and sword-wielding criminals and pirates. In 1993, Van Damme was taken to court over an incident that occurred during one of
Cyborg’s fight scenes [via Associated Press]. Jackson “Rock” Pinckney, a stuntman who played one of the pirates Van Damme’s character had to fight, accused the actor of gouging out his eye. Jackson, who was a soldier in the U.S. Army at the time, was hit in the eye with a rubber knife. Apparently, he was supposed to rush at the Bloodsport star with a knife of his own. The scene called for
Van Damme to kick the knife out of his hand, and then make it look as if he had slashed open his enemy’s throat. Instead, Van Damme’s rubber knife struck Pinckney’s left eye. The blindness he suffered in his eye caused him to be discharged from the military. It was said that the damage was permanent. The lawsuit, which alleged that the damage was permanent, asked for Van Damme to pay the stuntman more than $10,000 in damages.
Pinckney’s argument against Van Damme was that the star stabbed his eye “willfully”. This was based on the notion that Van Damme was insistent on making his fights look so authentic that he often went too far. The defense offered by Van Damme and his attorney was that it was only an accident, and that there was simply no evidence that the injury was anything more than that. Van Damme’s side maintained that his actions weren’t “willful” or “reckless”.
In the end, the court ruled against Van Damme and awarded Pinckney with a $487,000 sum. What ultimately hurt Van Damme’s case was the words of other stuntmen who worked alongside the star in Cyborg. To the court, their testimonies that Van Damme didn’t shy away from physical contact during fight scenes corroborated Pinckney’s claims. But while the outcome certainly didn’t favor Jean-Claude Van Damme, it didn’t stop the actor from furthering his brand of fighting in the movies that followed.