Jean-claude Van Damme


Actor

About

Also Known As
Frank Cujo, Jean Claude Vandamme, Jean-Claude Van Varenberg, Jean-Claude Vandam
Birth Place
Belgium
Born
October 18, 1960

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 "Uni...

Family & Companions

Maria Rodriguez
Wife
First wife, Venezuelan, born c. 1954; separated in 1981 when Van Damme moved to the USA.
Cynthia Derderian
Wife
Married for one year in 1985; met while he was working in her father's carpet store.
Gladys Portugues
Wife
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.
Darcy La Pier
Wife
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.

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 - 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 - which he dropped upon the release of the horror film of the same name - 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 clich├ęd 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 Stallone's action extravaganza, "The Expendables 2" (2012).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The Quest (1996)
Director
Kickboxer (1989)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)
Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
Voice
Jian Bing Man (2015)
Pound of Flesh (2015)
Welcome to the Jungle (2014)
Enemies Closer (2014)
Swelter (2014)
UFO (2013)
6 Bullets (2012)
Alien Uprising (2012)
The Expendables 2 (2012)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Voice
Assassination Games (2011)
Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010)
JCVD (2008)
Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008)
The Shepherd: Border Patrol (2008)
Until Death (2007)
Sinav (2006)
Second In Command (2006)
The Hard Corps (2006)
Wake of Death (2004)
In Hell (2003)
The Order (2002)
Replicant (2001)
Replicant; The Torch
Derailed (2001)
Desert Heat (1999)
Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)
Luc Deveraux
Legionnaire (1998)
Knock Off (1998)
Double Team (1997)
Maximum Risk (1996)
The Quest (1996)
Chris Dubois
Sudden Death (1995)
Timecop (1994)
Max Walker
Street Fighter (1994)
Last Action Hero (1993)
Himself
Hard Target (1993)
Nowhere To Run (1993)
Universal Soldier (1992)
Double Impact (1991)
Death Warrant (1990)
Lionheart (1990)
Cyborg (1989)
Kickboxer (1989)
Bloodsport (1988)
Black Eagle (1988)
Andrei
Predator (1987)
No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)
Karl Brezdin--
Monaco Forever (1985)
The Homosexual

Writer (Feature Film)

Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)
Source Material
The Order (2002)
Screenwriter
Legionnaire (1998)
From Story
The Quest (1996)
From Story
Double Impact (1991)
Screenplay
Lionheart (1990)
Screenplay
Lionheart (1990)
From Story
Kickboxer (1989)
From Story

Producer (Feature Film)

Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)
Executive Producer
Pound of Flesh (2015)
Executive Producer
JCVD (2008)
Executive Producer
Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)
Producer
Desert Heat (1999)
Producer
Legionnaire (1998)
Producer
Double Impact (1991)
Producer

Dance (Feature Film)

Kickboxer (1989)
Choreographer

Stunts (Feature Film)

Double Impact (1991)
Stunts
Missing in Action (1984)
Stunts

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Last Action Hero (1993)
Other
Deceit (1993)
Assistant

Cast (Special)

World Music Awards 2003 (2003)
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills (2001)
The 2000 World Music Awards (2000)
Presenter
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards (1998)
Performer
The 1996 World Music Awards (1996)
Host
The Walt Disney Company and McDonald's Present the American Teacher Awards (1996)
Presenter
The Opening Ceremonies of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games (1995)
The Blockbuster Entertainment Awards (1995)
Presenter
50th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1993)
Presenter
The 1993 World Music Awards (1993)
Presenter
The 1992 MTV Video Music Awards (1992)
Presenter
Hollywood Hotshots (1992)
The 17th Annual People's Choice Awards (1991)
Performer
Voices That Care (1991)
The Movie Awards (1991)
Presenter

Life Events

1971

Began studying martial arts at age 11 (date approximate)

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

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"

Family

Eugene Van Varenberg
Father
Florist, accountant.
Eliana Van Varenberg
Mother
Veronique Van Varenberg
Sister
Hair salon owner. Lives in Belgium.
Kristopher Van Varenberg
Son
Born c. 1987; mother, Gladys Portugues.
Bianca Van Varenberg
Daughter
Born in October 1990; mother, Gladys Portugues.
Nicholas Van Varenberg
Son
Born on October 10, 1995; mother, Darcy LaPier.

Companions

Maria Rodriguez
Wife
First wife, Venezuelan, born c. 1954; separated in 1981 when Van Damme moved to the USA.
Cynthia Derderian
Wife
Married for one year in 1985; met while he was working in her father's carpet store.
Gladys Portugues
Wife
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.
Darcy La Pier
Wife
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.

Bibliography