As a teenager, Jean-Claude Van Damme is a champion martial artist and bodybuilder, using his athletic skills to become the star of American action flicks such as Bloodsport (1988) and Double Impact (1991). Beginning in the 1990s, Van Damme faced personal and professional challenges but has since recovered some of his star strength.
Jean-Claude Van Damme – Early Years and Career
Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg was born in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, on October 18, 1960. A slim boy, at the age of 11, he started learning Shotokan karate, and enthusiastically took on weightlifting and ballet as well. Van Damme captured the European Professional Karate Association’s middleweight championship as a teenager and was named ‘Mr. Belgium’ in a bodybuilding competition.
In Brussels, Van Damme opened a gym and won a modeling job, but he was thrilled with the prospect of becoming a film star. He moved to Los Angeles, California, in the early 1980s to fulfill his Hollywood ambitions, after briefly attempting to break into the booming martial-arts movie industry in Hong Kong, China.
Van Damme obtained bit parts in feature films and worked as a taxi driver, bartender, aerobics instructor, and nightclub bouncer as he attempted to make a name for himself in Tinseltown, initially calling himself “Frank Cujo,” He was featured in the No Retreat, No Surrender martial arts flick of 1986, but his big break came after he demonstrated his ability to jump a 360-degree helicopter kick to B-list producer Menahem Golan, who cast the unknown actor in Bloodsport (1988). At the box office, the low-budget film grossed a surprising $35 million, and Van Damme followed up the following year with another successful starring role in Kickboxer. Jean Claude Van Damme
In such action flicks as Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Time Cop (1994), Sudden Death (1995), and Maximum Danger (1996), Van Damme filled the big screen over the next decade, surmounting his restricted acting chops with his acrobatic kicks and patented splits. With The Hunt (1996), he made his directorial debut, but Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) were flops, and most of his films landed in the straight-to-video bin by the start of the 2000s.
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In 2008, in the part-satirical, part-confessional JCVD, Van Damme resurfaced as a fictionalized version of himself. His success drew positive reviews and caused something of a resurgence for the former action star, who played a familiar role in Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010) and voiced Master Croc’s character in Kung Fu Panda 2 2. (2011). In 2012, as part of the veteran butt-kicking ensemble featuring in The Expendables 2 by Sylvester Stallone, Van Damme was back in his element.
Jean Claude Van Damme – At the height of his stardom in the 1990s, Van Damme became addicted to cocaine and sleeping pills and was arrested in 1999 for DUI. During this time, he was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, though his condition improved after he started taking medicine and got his personal life in order.
Van Damme was married on five occasions and has three children. As actors, two of them, Kris Van Varenberg and Bianca Bree, have followed in the footsteps of their father.
Van Damme was celebrated in October 2012 with the unveiling in his native Brussels of a bronze statue. In a classic battle stance, the statue portrays the former martial arts champion ready to unleash one of his famous flying kicks. Jean Claude Van Damme
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