Jean-Claude Van Damme and The Epic Split Volvo Trucks Commercial

If you haven’t seen the Volvo Trucks commercial featuring actor Jean-Claude Van Damme this past week yet, you’re among the few who has missed it. As of today, the YouTube commercial has already wowed over 36 million viewers (posted online on November 13).

The clip leaves me breathless and in awe, as well as converting me into a bona fide Van Damme fan. Most importantly, should I ever need a commercial truck,  there’s no question which one to buy.

The new Volvo online commercial shows Van Damme performing a split between two backward moving Volvo FM trucks. It’s the most majestic commercial I’ve seen - anywhere.

“The stunt is real and is performed in just one take,” said Anders Vilhelmsson, public relations manager for the Volvo Trucks brand. “It’s a daring stunt but we had full control. There was never any real danger involved.”

The safety measures included safety lines (not visible in the film) and a small standing platform for the actor’s foot on each truck’s mirror. Van Damme’s feet were not secured to the mirrors.


The Film Location for The Epic Split

The badass stunt advertising Volvo Trucks’ new dynamic steering system was filmed by director Andreas Nilsson (from Folke Film) on Ciudad Real, a private airstrip near Madrid, Spain.

PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo of Ciudad Real Airport is from here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo of Ciudad Real Airport is from here.

The stunt was rehearsed for three days and the final version was shot within 15 minutes one morning, between 8:05 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. to take advantage of the beautiful backlit sunlight.

“The film you see is the first take. But obviously we had tons of rehearsals,” Nilsson said. “The tension was really high. I saw a tough stunt coordinator swell up after we nailed it. That might actually be the nicest memory from the shoot.”

And if you’ve already watched the commercial, you might have noticed that the trucks were going backward. Why? Here’s the answer from Vilhelmsson:

“. . . we all know that going in reverse is a bit more difficult than going forward. We felt that would be the ultimate test, to have the trucks go in reverse with someone standing on the side mirrors performing a side split. And we knew that if anyone would be able to do that, it would have to be Jean-Claude Van Damme.”

Volvo has made a series of commercials for their trucks before, mostly in the documentary format such as in The Ballerina Stunt (in which a young woman walked across a tightrope between to moving Volvo trucks as they were speeding toward a tunnel). But for The Epic Split, they decided to do something more “poetic” and the results didn’t disappoint the creators or us viewers.

“The film is very clean and simple – there isn’t a lot of information and we just let the stunt illustrate what the trucks can do,” said Nilsson. “It’s like a slow-moving, carefully choreographed modern dance.”

Less than 1.5-minute long, The Epic Split (with the melodic music of Enya’s “Only Time” in the background) sets a high, creative standard for all future commercials.

For more details on the Volvo Truck commercial, read this Wall Street Journal article.