By Mimmi Montgomery
Assistant News Editor
“Advertisers should just quit. Nothing will ever top this Volvo ad. Makes me want to sell my house and buy a Volvo truck!” was one of thousands of Tweets about Volvo’s new truck ad, featuring Belgian martial artist/action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, performing a symmetrically perfect, but unreal-looking, split atop two reversing trucks. The advertisement, which has left viewers gaping in awe, attracted more than 50 million YouTube views in two weeks.
Is this real or is this fake? How on earth was it shot? Is it even physically possible? Volvo’s new truck commercial certainly stands out for its originality. By associating Van Damme’s unwavering stability, and focus, to endure his split, with the dynamic strengths in their FM Series trucks’ steering features, Volvo goes beyond the typical car commercial. The best part is the performance was real, and in addition, shot during a single take.
The ad, named “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme,” starts off showing only the actor’s upper body, with closed eyes, while viewers hear him talking about his legs being strong enough to defy the laws of physics. The camera begins to zoom out to the sounds of Enya’s “Only Time,” revealing that Van Damme stands with one foot atop each side mirror of two golden trucks traveling in reverse next to each other. As if that was not enough, the vehicles start to separate with exact equal timing and precision, gradually forcing Van Damme to perform a perfect split – a position held for almost 30 seconds.
How was the commercial made, then? Are Van Damme’s legs really strong and stable enough to defy the laws of physics? Anders Vil- helmsson, Volvo Truck’s Public Relations Manager, and Anders Nilsson, the video director, said in a Wall Street Journal article that the elements in the ad are real. “The stunt is real and performed in just one take. Van Damme’s feet were never secured to the mirrors.” Vilhelmsson added, “even though we nailed it in one take, there had been plenty of rehearsals before we filmed it.” However, Nilsson noted that some safety precautions had to be taken during the shoot. “Van Damme needed to be rigged, since we did not want to be responsible for killing the Muscles from Brussels [a nickname of Van Damme],” he said. The measures included safety lines that were later made invisible in the commercial and small platforms attached to the mirrors to create a flatter surface to stand on.
Chris Lorentzen, junior Business major, is highly impressed with the commercial. “It’s hard to believe that the stunt is real. It’s logical to think that Van Damme has been cut into the image, because it is just so unreal that anyone would be able to perform a perfect split on top of two trucks,” he said. “Van Damme’s extreme body control and agility is also crazy. This commercial was definitely an uplift for him and everybody is impressed by his split,” he added.
Even though this might have been one of the more epic splits in Van Damme’s career, the Muscles from Brussels is well known for showing off the most agile performances on the movie screen. His martial arts career began at age 11, when he became a practitioner at the National Karate Centre of Belgium, after being inspired by super heroes in comic books. He began fighting on professional level at 16-years-old, and trained in bodybuilding and kickboxing on a daily basis to gain physical strength and grow muscle.
Ballet classes were also part of the training program, to improve his flexibility. He landed his first leading role in 1988, starring in “Blood sport,” and became the highest paid martial arts actor in the world during the 1990s. Two years ago, his well trained body was seen in “The Expendables II,” where he starred together with some world famous action stars, such as Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Van Damme has revealed to plenty of health magazines that training and healthy eating are large parts of his lifestyle. He eats a lot
of vegetables, and also prefers intense repetitions rather than going fast and maxing out as part of his workout regimen. He said in an interview with Men’s Health News that “mixing karate with ballet has greatly improved his flexibility. Ballet takes impossibly hard work in your body and mind, yet it must look all effortless, isometric, perfect.”
Making it look effortless, isometric and perfect is exactly what Van Damme manages to do in Volvo’s truck ad. Now, Volvo has to wait and see if potential clients are looking for dynamic steering models featuring the same qualities. But one thing is sure; other car companies might have to step up their advertising game.