JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME
October 18, 1960
Saint-Agatha Berchem, Belgium
Jean-Claude Van Damme, also known as "The muscles from Brussels", started martial arts at the
age of 11, his father introduced him to martial arts when he saw that Van Damme was physically
weak. Jean-Claude started with Shotokan Karate. He later studied Kickboxing, Taekwon-Do, and
Muay Thai. Van Damme won the European professional karate associations middleweight championship as a teenager, and also beat the 2nd best karate fighter in the world. His goal was to be number one but got sidetracked when he left his hometown of Brussels and moved to the United States in search of movie stardom.
The move wasn't immediately successful. He took English classes while working as carpet layer,
limo driver, and thanks to Chuck Norris he got a job as a bouncer at a club. Chuck Norris also
gave Van Damme a small role in the movie "Missing in Action", but it wasn't good enough to get
anybody's attention. Then in 1984 he got a role as a villian named Ivan in the low-budget movie
"No Retreat, No Surrender". His martial arts assets, highlighted by his ability to deliver a
kick to an opponent's head during a leaping 360-degree turn, and his good looks led to starring
roles in higher budgeted movies. His realistic fight sequences in such cult favorites as
"Bloodsport" and "Kickboxer" became legendary, and Van Damme was headed for mainstream features.
He is one of those incredible success stories that conjures intense images of the underdog
overcoming impossible odds and improbable circumstances in order to live out his dream. Van
Damme moved to the USA in 1981, didn't speak English, didn't know anyone,and only had 2,000
dollars to his name, which he lived on for almost 5 yrs. In that time he was searching
everywhere and everyone for a role in a movie. Then one day, while walking on the streets, he
spotted a producer for Cannon Pictures, and showed some of his abilities to him. The next day
Van Damme went to the producer's office and he gave Jean-Claude the leading role in "Bloodsport".
But when it was completed it was so bad they shelved it for almost two years. It might have
never been released had not Van Damme helped recut the film and begged producers to release
it. They released the film, and the miracle happened. "Bloodsport", shot in Hong Kong on a
meager 1.5 million dollar budget, became a U.S box-office hit in the spring of 1988. It made
about 30 million world and audiences supported this film for only one reason. Its star was
sensational. Jean-Claude Van Damme, the skinny, goofy kid who loved classical music and
dreamed of movie stardom, had made it. After the success of "Bloodsport", Van Damme went on
to make a list of hit movies, and who would have thought he would later end up on drugs.
After his 1995 movie "Sudden Death", Van Damme plummeted at the box-office. Every movie he
made after 95' plugged and the stress lead Van Damme to cocaine. After 95' he was in the
media but only because of his drug usage and other personal problems that he had. In 1998
Van Damme realised that it was time to stop the drugs and problems and get control over
his life once again. With help from his family he got control over his life, faced his
problems and in 1998 he made the movie "Knockoff", although it wasn't a success, Van Damme
still tryed and filmed two straight to video movies "Desert Heat" and "Legionnaire", and
although "Universal Soldier: The Return" went to theatres it too wasn't a success, but
Jean-Claude gave his fans what they wanted to see, his acting in those movies got better
and each movie was action packed.
Jean-Claude lives with his wife and three children, has made over a dozen hit movies, and
his name is known around the world.
But what made Jean-Claude Van Damme a candidate for superstardom? The 5-foot-11,180 pound
actor/martial artist has it all. He's muscular; charismatic on screen, charming off screen:
skilled martial artist; intelligent, speaks English, French, German, and Spanish, has a great
family and he's not just an actor but a filmmaker...an artist.
Photo © Unknown
Bio by Damian Grajeda © 2001 - [please let us know of any errors]
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