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Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme

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Also Known As: Frank Cujo, Jean Claude Vandamme, Jean-Claude Van Varenberg, Jean-Claude Vandam Died:
Born: October 18, 1960 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Belgium Profession: actor, screenwriter, 2nd unit director, stunt coordinator, producer, karate champion, model, director, pizza deliveryman, martial arts instructor, carpet installer, bouncer, limo and taxi driver

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An action movie hero and world-renowned martial artist hailing from Belgium, Jean-Claude Van Damme burst onto the Hollywood scene with classic martial arts films "Bloodsport" (1988) and "Kickboxer" (1989). Van Damme was suddenly a star and broadened his fan base from fight film fanatics to general action film fans with critically panned, but commercially successful blockbusters like "Universal Soldier" (1992) and "Time Cop" (1994). Unlike his more popular counterparts, Van Damme projected a softer character who was not as invincible as Schwarzenegger nor as unrefined as Stallone. Van Damme's vehicles in the 1990s like "Sudden Death" (1995), "Maximum Risk" (1996) and "Double Team" (1997) were fairly formulaic, requiring him to speak little but display as much of his muscular physique as possible â¿¿ all of which eventually turned the actor into a caricature of himself and demoted the actor to the straight-to-video bin. Meanwhile, Van Damme hit rock bottom in his personal life when he sought help for his cocaine addiction and was diagnosed with manic depression, which he began talking about openly in 1998. Though he was able to resurrect himself in private, Van Damme continued to struggle on the screen...

An action movie hero and world-renowned martial artist hailing from Belgium, Jean-Claude Van Damme burst onto the Hollywood scene with classic martial arts films "Bloodsport" (1988) and "Kickboxer" (1989). Van Damme was suddenly a star and broadened his fan base from fight film fanatics to general action film fans with critically panned, but commercially successful blockbusters like "Universal Soldier" (1992) and "Time Cop" (1994). Unlike his more popular counterparts, Van Damme projected a softer character who was not as invincible as Schwarzenegger nor as unrefined as Stallone. Van Damme's vehicles in the 1990s like "Sudden Death" (1995), "Maximum Risk" (1996) and "Double Team" (1997) were fairly formulaic, requiring him to speak little but display as much of his muscular physique as possible â¿¿ all of which eventually turned the actor into a caricature of himself and demoted the actor to the straight-to-video bin. Meanwhile, Van Damme hit rock bottom in his personal life when he sought help for his cocaine addiction and was diagnosed with manic depression, which he began talking about openly in 1998. Though he was able to resurrect himself in private, Van Damme continued to struggle on the screen until he surprised everyone with a critically hailed performance as a fictional version of himself in the art house showbiz satire "JCVD" (2008). In the end, however, his appeal rarely went beyond his impressive physicality, as Van Damme continued trying to cross over to mainstream thrillers and dramas with little avail.

Born on Oct. 18, 1960 in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, van Damme was raised by his father, Eugene, a florist and accountant, and his mother, Eliana. When he was 11 years old, van Damme began martial arts training and earned a black belt in Shotokan karate, winning the European Professional Karate Association's middleweight championship while still in his late teens. After touring internationally as a competitor on the professional karate and kickboxing circuits, he opened his own gym in his hometown of Brussels. His moderate level of renown in the bodybuilding and martial arts industries led to some modeling work and product endorsements, and with stars in his eyes, Van Damme spent some time in Hong Kong trying to break into martial arts films. By the time he was 21 years old, he was set on the idea of parlaying his background into a career as a movie star. Not surprisingly, he moved to Hollywood, trying out various stage names like Frank Cujo â¿¿ which he dropped upon the release of the horror film of the same name â¿¿ and Jean-Claude Vandam, while taking a variety of odd jobs to make ends meet.

After getting his feet wet in Hollywood with small background roles, Van Damme landed a co-lead in the moderate martial arts cult classic "No Retreat, No Surrender" (1986), starring as the Russian opponent of an American karate student. A chance meeting with producer Menahem Golan outside a Beverly Hills restaurant, where Van Damme demonstrated a karate kick to another person's head during an impressive 360-degree leap, led to his casting in "Bloodsport" (1988). One of the most well-known titles of Van Damme's career, the low-budget film earned an impressive $35 million in box office and its popularity helped Van Damme partially achieve his goal of becoming a movie star. He had first billing in the panned sci-fi actioner "Cyborg" (1989) but rebounded to star in another of his more memorable films, "Kickboxer" (1989). Van Damme contributed the storyline to this martial arts extravaganza, which highlighted his unique blend of fighting techniques and his rare ability to do splits. The film brought in a sturdy $10 million in box office against a $1.5 million budget.

Van Damme debuted as a producer with "Double Impact" (1991), his first certifiable hit, which drew a huge international audience with its gimmicky plot that doubled the actor's screen time by having him play twin brothers. "Universal Soldier" (1992) was panned by critics as a "Terminator" (1984) rip-off, but it still surpassed even the worldwide success of "Double Impact." "The muscles from Brussels," as he was nicknamed, seemed on the verge of a crossover success from martial arts films to major Hollywood action star, on par with Stallone or Schwarzenegger. Van Damme hoped his starring role as an escaped convict who becomes involved with a single mother in the drama "Nowhere to Run" (1993) would earn the respect of moviegoers and the Hollywood establishment, but it actually drew far less crowds than his standard, non-stop fight fests. Van Damme found a successful medium ground with the sci-fi thriller "Time Cop" (1994), which hit blockbuster status and even had critics reluctantly admitting that the star had made some progress with his acting chops. His follow-up "Sudden Death" (1995), however, was lost in a sea of that year's holiday blockbusters.

In the first of several collaborations with Hong Kong director Ringo Lam, Van Damme brought in respectable box office sales for his starring role as a French cop avenging the death of a co-worker in "Maximum Risk" (1996). The same year, he made his own feature directing debut with the international martial arts picture "The Quest," which fared less well than most of his previous releases. "Double Team" (1997) and "Knock Off" (1998) ultimately represented minor entries in the filmography of Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, and by 1999, Van Damme's inability to establish staying power among filmg rs led to the straight-to-video release, "Inferno." Amid confessions by the actor that he had struggled for over a decade with drug additions to sleeping pills and cocaine, he lost his grip as a Hollywood contender and retreated to a steady stream of clichéd violence, including Lam's "Replicant" (2001) and "In Hell" (2003). The theatrical release "Wake of Death" earned Van Damme a few hopeful reviews, but the actor stayed below the Hollywood radar for much of the new century.

Van Damme persistently tried to recapture his past stardom, but could only muster a series of discount video bin roles as soldiers and cops in "Sinav" (2006) and "Til Death" (2007), while making a cameo appearance as himself for an episode of "Las Vegas" (NBC, 2003-08). In 2008, he surfaced unexpectedly on the art house circuit in "JCVD" (2008), an inventive, satirical look at fame starring Van Damme as himself. The actor earned some of the best critical notices of his career for his portrayal as an aging, increasingly irrelevant former star being sued by ex-wives and in search of life's meaning when he finds himself at the center of a real-life hostage situation. Critics were amazed by the actor's previously unseen acting skill, comfort, and even poignancy on screen, though the limited release indie was only accessible to a scant few audiences. Unable to translate the good reviews into more dramatic work, Van Damme once again joined Dolph Lundgren for "Universal Soldier: Regeneration" (2010) and voiced Master Croc for the hit animated sequel "Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011). Finally able to regain some of his 1980s glory, Van Damme joined fellow muscle heads Jason Stratham, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Terry Crews for Sylvester Stalloneâ¿¿s action extravaganza, "The Expendables 2" (2012).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Quest, The (1996) Director
2.
  Kickboxer (1989) 2nd Unit Director (2nd Unit)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
2.
 Jian Bing Man (2015)
3.
 Pound of Flesh (2015)
4.
 Enemies Closer (2014)
5.
6.
 Swelter (2014)
7.
 UFO (2013)
8.
 6 Bullets (2012)
9.
 Alien Uprising (2012)
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1971:
Began studying martial arts at age 11 (date approximate)
:
Turned professional after earning black belt in Shotokan (Japanese-style karate)
:
Built a gymnasium business while in late teens; modeled and endorsed products
:
Sold gymnasium and moved to Hong Kong to work in martial art films
1981:
Moved to USA; worked as limo and taxi driver, bouncer, carpet installer and pizza delivery man while studying English and trying to make first US film
:
Adopted the stage name Frank Cujo
:
Hired to play a villain in the French film "Rue Barbere" (1983); walked off project when he clashed with the director
1983:
Changed name to Jean-Claude Van Damme after the release of the feature film "Cujo"
1984:
Film debut as The Homosexual in the short "Monaco Forever"; billed as Jean-Claude Vandam
1984:
First American film credit, coordinating stunts for "Missing in Action"
1986:
Approached producer Menahem Golan outside a Beverly Hills restaurant and demonstrated his martial arts prowess
1988:
First starring role, "Bloodsport", co-produced by Golan
1988:
First film as 2nd unit director, "Kickboxer"; also credited for story and choreography; also essayed starring role
1989:
Sued for "willfully" gouging the eye of an extra in a sword fight while filming "Cyborg"; lost the case
1990:
Debut as a screenwriter, "Lionheart"; also starred
1991:
Film debut as a producer, "Double Impact"; also played dual lead, served as fight choreographer and wrote script
1991:
Began shooting "Universal Solider", the first film in a reported eight-picture deal with Columbia Pictures and Carolco
1993:
Appeared as himself in a cameo in "The Last Action Hero"
1993:
Teamed with HK director John Woo for "Hard Target"
1994:
Had title role in "Timecop"
1996:
Directorial debut "The Quest"; also starred
1996:
Had dual role as twins in "Maximum Risk", helmed by Ringo Lamb
1996:
First underwent treatment for substance abuse in December; left 30-day program after one week
1997:
First of two features with Tsui Hark, "Double Team"
1998:
Admitted in interviews to a cocaine addiction
1998:
Starred in "Knock Off", directed by Tsui Hark
1998:
Sued for $1.5 million by former trainer Frank Dux who claimed to have worked on the film "The Quest"; jury sided with Van Damme
1999:
Arrested in September for driving under the influence; in July 2000 placed on three years' probation and fined $1200 after pleading no contest; also ordered to attend a 90-day anti-drunk driving program
2004:
Guest-stars as himself on an episode of NBC's "Las Vegas"
2011:
Voice-acted in "Kung Fu Panda 2"
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Notes

"Jean-Claude's personal charm has never transferred itself to the screen. He's a little tighter onscreen than he is in person. I don't think he's ever relaxed into his own personality enough to ake him a movie star, as far as U.S. audiences are concerned." --an unidentified "industry executive" quoted in US, October 1998

"I think I'm going to arrange my life to become much more practical than before, learn how to say no, be more peaceful with myself, which I am for the last three years, more secure, more everything." --Van Damme quoted in DAILY NEWS, September 6, 1998

"It doesn't disturb me to have gay fans. Maybe they like me because gay people love beauty in general. They have a high level of taste." --Jean-Claude Van Damme quoted in MOVIELINE, August 1994

"I am the Fred Astaire of karate." --Van Damme to LOS ANGELES TIMES, August 20, 1991

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Maria Rodriguez. First wife, Venezuelan, born c. 1954; separated in 1981 when Van Damme moved to the USA.
wife:
Cynthia Derderian. Married for one year in 1985; met while he was working in her father's carpet store.
wife:
Gladys Portugues. Bodybuilder. Married in 1986; separated in July 1992; divorced; reconciled after his separation from LaPier in 1997; remarried in a civil ceremony on June 25, 1999 and in a church ceremony on June 26, 1999.
wife:
Darcy La Pier. Model. Born c. 1965; a Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest winner representing the state of Oregon in 1985; previously married to Hawaiin Tropic mogul Ron Rice in a highly publicized lavish wedding while still married to a man in Portland, Oregon; married on February 3, 1994; filed for divorce on June 7, 1996; reconciled; filed again for divorce on December 19, 1996; reconciled a second time; refiled divorce petition in November 1997, alleging that Van Damme physically abused her and was addicted to drugs; divorced.
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Family close complete family listing

father:
Eugene Van Varenberg. Florist, accountant.
mother:
Eliana Van Varenberg.
sister:
Veronique Van Varenberg. Hair salon owner. Lives in Belgium.
son:
Kristopher Van Varenberg. Born c. 1987; mother, Gladys Portugues.
daughter:
Bianca Van Varenberg. Born in October 1990; mother, Gladys Portugues.
son:
Nicholas Van Varenberg. Born on October 10, 1995; mother, Darcy LaPier.
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