Jean-Claude Van Damme
Van Damme in 2012
BornJean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg
(1960-10-18) 18 October 1960 (age 63)
Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Brussels-Capital, Belgium
Other names
  • "JCVD"
  • "The Muscles from Brussels"
DivisionMiddleweight
StyleKarate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo
Fighting out ofBrussels, Belgium
TeamTeam Goetz
TrainerClaude Goetz
Dominique Valera
Rank  2nd Dan Black Belt in Karate
Years active1976–1982 (martial arts)
1979–present (acting)
Kickboxing record
Total19
Wins18
By knockout18
Losses1
Amateur record
Total48
Wins44
Losses4
Other information
Occupation
  • Martial artist
  • actor
  • writer
  • producer
  • conservationist
Spouse
María Rodríguez
(m. 1980; div. 1984)
Cynthia Derderian
(m. 1985; div. 1986)
(m. 1987; div. 1992)
(m. 1999)
(m. 1994; div. 1997)
Children3
Websitejcvdworld.com

Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg (French: [ʒɑ̃ klod kamij fʁɑ̃swa vɑ̃ vaʁɑ̃bɛʁɡ]; Dutch: [vɑn ˈvarə(n)ˈbɛrx]; born 18 October 1960), known professionally as Jean-Claude Van Damme (French: [vɑ̃ dam]; Dutch: [vɑn ˈdɑmə]), is a Belgian martial artist and actor. Born and raised in Brussels, his father enrolled him in a Shotokan karate school at the age of ten, which led Van Damme to hold the rank of 2nd-dan black belt in karate, and compete in several karate and kickboxing competitions. With the desire of becoming an actor, he moved to the United States in 1982, where he did odd jobs and worked on several films, until he got his break as the lead in the martial arts film Bloodsport (1988).

He became a popular action film star and followed up with commercially successful films such as Cyborg (1989), Kickboxer (1989), Lionheart (1990), Death Warrant (1990), Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Nowhere to Run (1993), Hard Target (1993), Timecop (1994), Street Fighter (1994), Sudden Death (1995), The Quest (1996), which marked his directorial debut, and Maximum Risk (1996). After a decline in popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he returned to prominence with the critically acclaimed crime drama JCVD (2008). His big return to the action genre was in The Expendables 2 (2012), in which he starred as the villain, opposite Sylvester Stallone. From thereon, he continued starring in action films and doing extensive voice work.

Regarded as an icon of action and martial arts cinema, his films have grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making him one of the most successful action stars of all time.[1] Outside acting, Van Damme has publicly supported various conservationist causes and animal rights organisations.

Early life and education

Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg, on 18 October 1960, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, the son of Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, who was an accountant and florist.[2][3][4][5] His father is from Brussels and bilingual, and his mother is Flemish (Dutch-speaking).[6] Van Damme was brought up Roman Catholic. His paternal grandmother was Jewish.[7]

He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shōtōkan karate school.[8] His styles consist of Shōtōkan Karate and Kickboxing.[9] He eventually earned his black belt in karate at 18, and earned the rank of 2nd-dan black belt.[10][11] He started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title.[12] At the age of 16, he took up ballet, which he studied for five years. According to Van Damme, ballet "is an art, but it's also one of the most difficult sports. If you can survive a ballet workout, you can survive a workout in any other sport."[13] Later he took up both Taekwondo and Muay Thai.[14]

Career

Early 1970s to 1980: Martial arts and first film appearance

At the age of 12,[15] Van Damme joined the Centre National de Karaté (National Center of Karate) under the guidance of Claude Goetz in Belgium. Van Damme trained for four years and he earned a spot on the Belgian Karate Team; he later trained in full-contact karate and kickboxing with Dominique Valera.[16] According to Van Damme, "it was tough growing up. I was kind of geeky, and physically I was not gifted".[17]

At the age of 15, he started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976 to 1980, he compiled a record of 44 victories and four defeats in tournament and non-tournament semi-contact matches.

He was a member of the Belgium Karate Team when it won the European Karate Championship on 26 December 1979 at La Coupe François Persoons Karate Tournament in Brussels.[16][18]

He placed second at the Challenge Coupe des Espoirs Karate Tournament (1st Trials). At the three-day tournament, he defeated 25 opponents before losing in the finals to teammate Angelo Spataro.[16]

On 8 March 1980, in Brussels, Belgium, he competed against his former teammate Patrick Teugels at the Forest National Arena on the undercard of the Dan Macaruso-Dominique Valera Professional Karate Association Light-Heavyweight World Championship bout.[16] Prior to this match, Teugels had defeated Van Damme twice by decision, including a match for the Belgium Lightweight Championship. Van Damme had a 1977 victory over Teugels. Teugels was coming off an impressive showing at the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations World Championships four months earlier, and was favored by some to win this match. According to reports, and Patrick Teugels' own interview (with photos), Teugels lost to Van Damme by TKO in the 1st round. Teugels was kicked in the nose and was unable to continue as a result.[16] In a 2013 interview, Van Damme called this fight his most memorable match.[19]

He began his full-contact career in 1977, when Claude Goetz promoted the first ever full-contact karate tournament in Belgium.

From 1977 to 1982, he compiled a record of 18 victories (18 knockouts) and one defeat. [citation needed]

In 1979, he had an uncredited role in André Delvaux's Woman Between Wolf and Dog, a Belgian-French drama film starring Marie-Christine Barrault, and Rutger Hauer.

In 1980, he caught the attention of Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anderson and multiple European champion Geert Lemmens. Both men tabbed Van Damme as an upcoming prospect.[20] Van Damme retired from competition in 1982.

During his early life, he sold flowers in restaurants, and got a loan to open a gym to save some money before his move to the United States.[21] Aptly titled California Gym, it was opened in 1979 and catered to "karate, dancing, aerobics, bodybuilding – everything". Van Damme adds that "I wrote special training programs for people, and it was a very upbeat atmosphere with music". At its peak, California Gym was making $15,000 per month; "when I decided to sell my gym my father thought I was crazy. He said, 'What the hell are you doing? You have the best gym in Brussels. You have a sports car, a beautiful apartment, you’re making so much money that you can have anything you want — and now you’re going to sell your business and go to America'. He was very upset".[22]

1982 to 1988: Early works and breakthrough

In 1982, he and childhood friend Michel Qissi moved to the United States in the hope of working as actors. They did a variety of jobs to support themselves. Their first job working on a film as extras in the hip hop dance film Breakin' (1984), made by Cannon Films; they are seen dancing in the background at a dance demonstration.[23]

Around that time he developed a friendship with action martial art film star Chuck Norris. They started sparring together, and Van Damme started to work as a bouncer at a bar named Woody's Wharf, owned by Norris.[24] He also supplemented his income as a limousine driver and private karate instructor.

He described his early days in the United States as being particularly difficult – excluding $2,000, he had placed all of his money from the sale of his gym into a European bank;[22] thus, he struggled financially.[25] To ensure his own emotional wellbeing, he would go for runs every night in Santa Monica. After that, he would train at the world-renowned Gold's Gym. This routine reportedly helped him survive for many years. He actively participated in casting calls and had a specific routine. On Wednesdays, he would purchase the Drama-Logue magazine; then Thursday mornings, he would send out his picture and resume in response to advertisements. He was willing to try anything to achieve success, even going so far as to fabricate a story. He would call movie studios and claim to be an actor from Brussels with an investor from Hong Kong. He also instructed a friend to play along and act as if they wanted him to star in a movie and were willing to invest money, but required additional funding. Armed with this, he approached producers and suddenly found that all his phone calls were being answered. Of course, his intention was simply to meet the person and put his name out there, as opposed to securing illegitimate deals.[22]

In the 1984 action film Missing in Action starring Norris, which was also released by Cannon Films, Van Damme is credited in the stunt team crew.[26] That same year he also had a role in the comedy short film Monaco Forever.[27][28]

Corey Yuen's martial arts film No Retreat, No Surrender, which premiered On 2 May 1986 in Los Angeles,[29] was his first sizeable role when he was cast as the Russian villain. It starred Kurt McKinney, and was released through New World Pictures.[30][31] McKinney stars as Jason Stillwell, a U.S. teenager who learns karate and defends his martial arts dojo against a Soviet martial artist played by Van Damme.[32] Both Vann Damme and McKinney were set to also star in No Retreat, No Surrender 2, but backed out.[33]

He worked for director John McTiernan for the film Predator (1987) as an early (eventually abandoned) version of the titular alien, before being removed and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.[34] As the first choice to play the titular Predator character, with the intent that he would use his martial arts skills to make the alien an agile, ninja-like hunter, but after few days shot, he left the film. It was reported that he constantly complained about the monster suit being too hot and causing him to pass out; he allegedly also voiced reservations about only appearing on camera in the suit. Additionally, it became apparent that a more physically imposing actor was needed to make the creature appear threatening against the team of soldiers. The role eventually went to Kevin Peter Hall.[35] After Predator was a success, Van Damme said that he appreciated the movie and that he had no regrets about missing that role.

Van Damme's breakout film was Bloodsport, which opened on 26 February 1988, based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux.[36] It was shot on a $1.5-million budget for Cannon.[37][38] The film is about U.S. Army Captain Frank Dux (played by Van Damme), trained from his youth in the ways of ninjutsu by Senzo Tanaka, who takes the place of Tanaka's deceased son Shingo in the illegal martial-arts tournament Kumite in Hong Kong.[39][40] It became a U.S. box-office hit in the spring of 1988. Producer Mark Di Salle said he was looking for "a new martial arts star who was a ladies' man, [but Van Damme] appeals to both men and women. He's an American hero who fights for justice the American way and kicks the stuffing out of the bad guys."[41] In reality, Van Damme had begged for a starring role; at the point of casting, he was homeless, sleeping in cars and garages, and sometimes had to resort to stealing food to survive.[25] Also in 1988, he played another Russian villain in Black Eagle, opposite Sho Kosugi.[42]

1989 to 1999: International stardom

After the success of Bloodsport, Cannon Films offered him the lead in Delta Force 2, American Ninja 3 or Cyborg, a cyberpunk martial arts film directed by Albert Pyun.[43] He chose Cyborg which premiered in 1989. The film was a low budget box office success and led to two sequels, neither of which Van Damme appeared in.

Cannon used Van Damme again in Kickboxer released that same year. It was highly successful, returning over $50 million on a $3-million budget.[44] The film started the Kickboxer franchise. He did not appear in any of the film's four sequels, though he did return as a different character in the reboot series.

In 1990, he starred in Death Warrant, the first script credit for David S. Goyer. Also that year he starred in Lionheart.[45] Lionheart was directed by Sheldon Lettich who had co-written Bloodsport, and said the film was "the first movie to demonstrate that Van Damme was more than just a flash-in-the-pan "Karate Guy" who would never rise above simplistic low-budget karate movies."[46] It also featured rear nudity from Van Damme which Lettich says "became a very memorable moment for the ladies in the audience, and for the gay guys as well. Showing off his butt (clothed or unclothed) almost became a signature trademark of his after that."[46]

In 1991, Double Impact was released. Directed by Lettich, it features Van Damme in the dual role of Alex and Chad Wagner, estranged twin brothers fighting to avenge the deaths of their parents. Upon its opening it received mixed reviews. The Los Angeles Times said the film "delivers the goods", while Variety didn't like the plotline and predicted a flop. The film grossed $23,683,813 in its first 28 days.[47] It made a total of $30,102,717 in the US.[48] Retrospective critics perceive it to be a fun action film, with good comical moments, and a good performance by Van Damme who plays two distinct characters.[49][50][51][52]

In 1992, he starred in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year in the sci-fi action picture, Universal Soldier, directed by Roland Emmerich for Carolco. Van Damme (as Luc Deveraux) and Dolph Lundgren (as Sergeant Andrew Scott) play U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War who end up shooting each other dead after Devereaux discovers that Scott has gone insane and resorted to mutilating civilians.[53] They are later reanimated in a secret Army project along with a large group of other previously dead soldiers and sent on a mission. At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Van Damme and Lundgren were involved in a verbal altercation that almost turned physical when both men pushed each other only to be separated, but it was believed to have only been a publicity stunt.[54][55] Universal Soldier opened in theatres on 10 July 1992, a moderate success domestically with $36,299,898 in US ticket sales, but a major blockbuster worldwide, making over $65 million overseas, which earned the film a total of $102 million worldwide, on a $23 million budget.[56]

He was considered to play Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man[57] and was briefly considered for the role of Michael Cheritto in Heat.[58]

Van Damme at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993[59]

In 1993, he made a cameo in Last Action Hero, and starred in Nowhere To Run. The film was the first in a three-picture deal between Van Damme and Columbia Pictures and his fee was $3.5 million. Columbia said the film is "true to his audience and goes beyond his audience."[60]

In 1994, he starred in Hard Target for Universal Pictures, the first American film from director John Woo. Also released that year, he starred in Timecop, playing a time-traveling cop.[61] Directed by Peter Hyams, the film was a huge success, grossing over $100 million worldwide, and remains his highest-grossing film in a lead role to date. Also that year, he starred in Street Fighter, written and directed by Steven E. de Souza for Universal and based on the video game. It was poorly received critically. Though a commercial success, making approximately three times its production cost.

Van Damme and Hyams re-teamed for Universal's Sudden Death, released in 1995. Van Damme portrays a French Canadian-born firefighter with the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau who suffered a personal crisis after he was unable to save a young girl from a house fire. Now removed from active duty, he has become demoted to being fire marshal for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, where a gang of terrorists are holding U.S. Vice President and several other VIPs hostage in a luxury suite during a game. The movie was a modest success.[62]

In 1996, he starred and directed The Quest. The film, though it under-performed domestically, did better internationally at the box-office and was a commercial success.[63][64][65] That year, he appeared in the TV show Friends in the two-part episode "The One After the Superbowl". He also starred in Maximum Risk, the first American film directed by Ringo Lam, and their first collaboration. The film was mildly successful at the box office.[66]

He followed up with Double Team (1997), a sci fi action film with basketball superstar Dennis Rodman. It was Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's American debut.

In 1998, he and Hark reunited on Knock Off, a box-office flop.[67] Also that year, Van Damme acted in the war film Legionnaire. Despite a $35 million budget, it was not released theatrically in the US, only overseas.[68]

In 1999, he starred in Universal Soldier: The Return, (1999), where he returns as Luc Deveraux. The movie did poorly at the box office debuting at #4.[69] That year he also starred in Inferno (1999).

2000s: Subsequent films

Van Damme in 2007

Released in 2001, Replicant is the second collaboration between Van Damme and director Ringo Lam, and the fifth time that Van Damme has starred in a dual role. It co-stars Michael Rooker. Also that year he starred in The Order, directed by Sheldon Lettich, and written by Van Damme.[70]

In 2002, he starred in Derailed. In Hell is a 2003 American prison action film directed by Ringo Lam. It is the third collaboration between Van Damme and Lam. Van Damme plays an American working overseas in Magnitogorsk, Russia. That same year, he employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar's "Kiss My Eyes".

His 2004 film was Wake of Death, an action film directed by Philippe Martinez. Ringo Lam was the original director, but he left the project after a few weeks of filming in Canada. It co-stars Simon Yam, Valerie Tian, Tony Schiena, etc.

In 2005, he played himself in the French film Narco. In 2006, he starred in Second in Command directed by Simon Fellows, and The Hard Corps directed by Sheldon Lettich.

In 2007, he played a small role in The Exam, a Turkish comedy-drama film directed by Ömer Faruk Sorak. Also that year he starred in Until Death.[71]

Van Damme on the set of JCVD in October 2007

Van Damme returned to the mainstream with the limited theatrical release of the 2008 film JCVD, which received positive reviews. Time Magazine named his performance in the film the second best of the year (after Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight),[72] having previously stated that Van Damme "deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar."[73] Also in 2008, he starred in Isaac Florentine's The Shepherd: Border Patrol.

He then reprised his role as Luc Deveraux alongside Dolph Lundgren in the 2009 film Universal Soldier: Regeneration, directed by John Hyams. The film was released theatrically in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and directly to video in the United States and other parts of the world. Since its release, the film has received mostly positive reviews, with praise towards the performances and surprisingly high production values.[74][75][76]

2010–present: Current work

In 2010, he directed himself in the barely released Full Love. That same year, he turned down the role of Gunner Jensen in the first instalment of The Expendables and the role went to Dolph Lundgren.[77]

In 2011, he voiced Master Croc in the computer animation film Kung Fu Panda 2. In the film, he voices a character who helps the heroes of the previous film. That same year, he co-starred with Scott Adkins in Assassination Games. Also in 2011, he played a role in the French comedy Beur sur la ville. Also that year, he starred in his own reality TV show Behind Closed Doors. The show showcases his family life, his personal troubles, and an upcoming fight. Since 2009, he has been planning to make a comeback to fight former boxing Olympic gold-medalist Somluck Kamsing.[78][79][80] The fight was a focal point in his ITV reality show Behind Closed Doors. The fight has been repeatedly postponed, with many critics doubting it will occur, especially due to the difficulty of booking the venue.[81]

In 2012, he acted in the Russian comedy film named Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon, and U.F.O.[82] He starred in Dragon Eyes, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, and Six Bullets.[83]

Also that year, he starred as the main villain in The Expendables 2. The film series follows a mercenary group as they undertake a mission which evolves into a quest for revenge against a rival mercenary (Van Damme). The film was a success, grossing over $310 million worldwide, and was his big return to the action genre.[84] Empire's Nick de Semlyen praised Van Damme's "grandstanding, plutonium-crazed baddie" and Lundgren's "action-troll" as high points in the film.[85] Also that year, he was seen as part of Kam Sing's ring crew when Kam Sing fought against Jomhod Kiatadisak.[86] He also appeared in commercials for Coors Light beer, showing him on a snow-covered mountain wearing a sleeveless denim jacket,[87] and for the washing powder Dash. On 21 October 2012, he was honored with a life-size statue of himself in his hometown of Brussels. He told reporters during the unveiling, "Belgium is paying me back something, but really it's to pay back to the dream. So when people come by here, it is not Jean-Claude van Damme but it's a guy from the street who believed in something. I want the statue to represent that".[88]

In 2013, he acted in the comedy Welcome to the Jungle. Also that year, he played the main villain in Enemies Closer, an American action thriller film directed by Peter Hyams.[89] On 13 November 2013, Volvo Trucks released an advertisement on YouTube that shows Van Damme doing the splits while perched with each of his feet on the outer rearview mirrors of one semi-trailer truck and one box truck moving backwards, which he describes in the commercial as "the most epic of splits". The video quickly went viral around the web, receiving more than 11 million views in three days,[90] 35 million in the first week.[91] It was dubbed as The Epic Split.[92]

Swelter is a 2014 American action film where he plays one of the leads. It stars Lennie James, and co-stars Grant Bowler, Josh Henderson, and Alfred Molina. James plays a sheriff in a small town who has a dark past that he can not remember, only to have to confront it when his ex-partners show up looking for stolen money they believe he has.

In 2015, he starred in the action thriller film Pound of Flesh, directed by Ernie Barbarash. Also that year, he had a supporting role in a Chinese superhero parody film.

In 2016, he returned to his voice role of Master Croc in the Kung Fu Panda franchise for the third installment. Also that year, he acted in Kickboxer: Vengeance directed by John Stockwell. It is a reboot of the original where he was the lead. That year he also played the lead in the tv series Jean-Claude Van Johnson.

In 2017, he starred in Kill 'Em All, an action film directed by Peter Malota.

In 2018, he returned to his role in Kickboxer: Retaliation, a sequel to the reboot.[93] That same year, he acted in Black Water. It co-stars Dolph Lundgren in the fifth collaboration between both actors[94] as well as the first time they appear together as on-screen allies.[95] In 22 August of that same year, he starred in Julien Leclercq's The Bouncer.

In 2019, he starred in We Die Young. In 2021, he starred in The Last Mercenary. In 2022, he voiced the character Jean-Clawed in the computer animation film Minions: The Rise of Gru.

In 2023, he featured his likeness and voice as Johnny Cage in the fighting game Mortal Kombat 1 (2023).[96]

Monument

Van Damme Monument in Qabala, Azerbaijan

In 2012, a statue of Van Damme was unveiled in Anderlecht, Belgium. The artwork, which depicts a younger incarnation of the Muscles from Brussels in one of his fighting poses from the movie Kickboxer, was commissioned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Westland Shopping complex. The unveiling took place on Boulevard Sylvain Dupuis and was attended by Van Damme, his parents, Wallonia-Brussels culture minister Fadila Laanan [nl] and nearly 2,000 fans. Van Damme said the statue "represented the dream of a Brussels kid" and was "for all the children who want something bad", adding that "if you believe in something strongly enough, it can come true".[97]

In 2019, a Van Damme monument was mounted in the Vandam village of Qabala, Azerbaijan, due to the similarity of the village name and Van Damme's name. The actor subsequently published a post on his Facebook account, thanking those responsible.[98]

Controversies

Lawsuit and fight record controversy

In 1997, Frank Dux, the martial artist whom Van Damme portrayed in Bloodsport, filed a lawsuit against him for $50,000 for co-writing and consultation work Dux did on the 1996 film The Quest. According to the lawsuit, Dux also accused him of lying to the public about his martial arts fight record, stating that when Dux tutored Van Damme while the latter was laying carpet for a living, Van Damme exhibited a lack of martial arts skills. Van Damme's lawyer, Martin Singer, responded, "There are records to document his martial arts acclaim. Why, just look at his movies; he didn't get those roles on his acting ability! He's the one who does those splits on chairs. He doesn't have a stuntman to do that."[99]

Chuck Zito incident

Tensions arose between Van Damme and bodyguard/stuntman Chuck Zito when Zito began dating Van Damme's estranged wife Darcy LaPier. Zito was reportedly unhappy about LaPier's claim in a divorce action that Van Damme had abused her.[100] On 6 February 1998, the New York Daily News reported that Van Damme had been punched by Zito the previous night at the Scores strip club in Manhattan, New York.[101] Zito, who had previously bodyguarded Van Damme and did stunts on the film Nowhere to Run, recalled the incident in his 2002 autobiography Street Justice, claiming that he suffered a broken hand as a result of striking Van Damme several times after Van Damme made disparaging remarks about him to a club bouncer, who then relayed the comments to Zito.[102] Van Damme denied in an appearance on Inside Edition days after the incident that he had been struck by Zito and challenged Zito to a fight.[100]

Kadyrov event

In October 2011, Van Damme, along with other celebrities including Hilary Swank, Vanessa-Mae and Seal attracted criticism from human rights groups for attending an event in Russian federal subject Chechnya's capital Grozny on the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov on 5 October.[103] Human rights groups, who had urged the celebrities to cancel their appearances because of abuses carried out under Kadyrov, criticised the celebrities for attending the event.[104] Human Rights Watch released a statement which said, "Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses. It's inappropriate for stars to get paid to party with him [...] And getting paid to be part of such a lavish show in Chechnya trivializes the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses there."[105][106]

Public image and influence

Van Damme is widely regarded as an icon of action and martial arts cinema.[107][108] His popularity is credited with opening the Hollywood doors to names like Don Wilson, Olivier Gruner, Dale Cook and Loren Avedon. Described as the most 'remade' action star, his films have spawned endless sequels, such as Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996), Bloodsport III (1997), Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1999), Cyborg 2 (1993), Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994), Kickboxer 2-6 in the Kickboxer (film series), Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms (1998), Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business (1998), Hard Target 2 (2016), Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009), Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist (2014), Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision (2003), the Timecop (TV series) (1997), and Welcome to Sudden Death (2020). Van Damme's influence has been compared to the Bruceploitation explosion of the 1970s.[109]

Many martial artists, athletes, and filmmakers have cited Van Damme as an influence, such as Alain Moussi,[110] Scott Adkins,[111] Dave Callaham,[112] Jay Cutler,[113] Georges St-Pierre,[114] Nick Diaz,[115] Tom Duquesnoy,[116] John Albert,[117] Charles Rosa,[118] Murad Ramazanov,[119] Halil Amir,[120] Andrei Stoica,[121] Giorgio Petrosyan,[122] Alfie Davis,[123] Enkh-Orgil Baatarkhuu,[124] and Angela Chang.[125] In August 2016, Georges St-Pierre described fighting Van Damme in the film Kickboxer: Vengeance as "a dream come true".[126]

The original video game Mortal Kombat (1992) was conceived as a fighting game based on Van Damme.[127] Creators Ed Boon and John Tobias had originally wanted to star Van Damme himself in the game. That fell through as he had allegedly a prior deal for another game under the auspices of the Sega Genesis platform. Boon and Tobias eventually decided to create a character named Johnny Cage, who is modelled after Van Damme, primarily from Van Damme's appearance and outfit in the martial arts film Bloodsport.[128][129] In the German version of the Donkey Kong 64 website, DK's greatest hero is Jean-Claude Van Kong.[citation needed]

American professional wrestler Robert Alexander Szatkowski was given his ring name "Rob Van Dam" in 1992 by Ron Slinker, a promoter in Florida, possibly because of his martial arts experience and his resemblance to Van Damme.[130]

Personal life

By the mid-1990s, the stress of the constant filming and promotion of his films, as Van Damme explains, led him to develop a cocaine habit, on which he spent up to $10,000 a week, and consuming up to 10 grams per day by 1996. He was arrested for driving under the influence in 1999.[131][132][133] Attempts at drug rehabilitation were unsuccessful, and he resorted to resolve his addiction via quitting cold turkey and exercise.[131] In 1998, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[131][132][134] In 2011, he discussed the condition on the British reality show Behind Closed Doors, saying, "Sometimes you're gonna like me, and sometimes you're gonna hate me. But what can I do? I'm not perfect ... I'm an extreme bipolar, and I'm taking medication for this ... When I was young, I was suffering those swing moods. In the morning, the sky was blue [when I was] going to school, and to me, the sky was black. I was so sad."[135]

He has been married five times to four different women. Until 1992 he was married to his third wife, bodybuilder Gladys Portugues, with whom he has two children, Kristopher (b. 1987) and Bianca Brigitte (b. 1990).[136] He had begun an affair with actress Darcy LaPier, whom he married in February 1994. From this marriage, the couple has a son named Nicholas (b. 10 October 1995). That same year he had an affair with his Street Fighter co-star Kylie Minogue during filming in Thailand.[137][138] LaPier, who was pregnant with their son at the time, did not become aware of the affair until Van Damme publicly admitted it in 2012.[139]

In October 2016, he expressed his support for presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election.[140] Earlier that year in March, he mentioned that the Illuminati including the Rockefellers and Rothschilds might try to stop Trump from winning.[141]

He had been in a decade-long relationship with model Alena Kaverina, though still married to Gladys Portugues. Kaverina was born in Ukraine; Van Damme visited the country during the Russian invasion of Ukraine to show his support.[142][143]

Conservationism

Outside acting, Van Damme has publicly supported various conservationist causes and animal rights organisations, appearing in a number of PSAs for Animals Australia, and working towards his goal of rallying celebrities and fellow actors in creating sanctuaries for endangered species. In 2022, he was appointed as Democratic Republic of the Congo Ambassador On Environment, with the role of enhancing the protection of forests as well as local fauna and flora.[144][145][107]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1979 Woman Between Wolf and Dog Moviegoer / Man in Garden Uncredited extra[146]
1984 Missing in Action Soldier Also credited for stunts
Monaco Forever Gay karate man Short film
Breakin' Spectator in the first dance scene Uncredited extra
1985 No Retreat, No Surrender Ivan Kraschinsky
1988 Bloodsport Frank Dux Also editor (uncredited)
Black Eagle Andrei
1989 Cyborg Gibson Rickenbacker Also editor (uncredited)
Kickboxer Kurt Sloane Also writer, fight director and choreographer
1990 Lionheart Lyon Gaultier Also writer and fight choreographer
Death Warrant Louis Burke
1991 Double Impact Alex Wagner / Chad Wagner Dual role; also writer, producer and fight choreographer
1992 Universal Soldier Luc Deveraux
1993 Nowhere to Run Sam Gillen
Last Action Hero Himself Cameo
Hard Target Chance Boudreaux
1994 Timecop Max Walker
Street Fighter Colonel William F. Guile
1995 Sudden Death Darren McCord
1996 The Quest Christopher Dubois Also director and writer
Maximum Risk Alain Moreau / Mikhail Suverov Dual role
1997 Double Team Jack Paul Quinn
1998 Knock Off Marcus Ray
Legionnaire Alain Lefèvre Also writer and producer
1999 Universal Soldier: The Return Luc Deveraux Also producer
Inferno Eddie Lomax Limited release; also producer
2001 Replicant Edward "The Torch" Garrotte (Luc Savard) / The Replicant Dual role; direct-to-video
The Order Rudy Cafmeyer / Charles Le Vaillant Dual role; also writer; direct-to-video
2002 Derailed Jacques Kristoff Direct-to-video
2003 In Hell Kyle LeBlanc Direct-to-video
2004 Narco Jean's Ghost by Lenny
Wake of Death Ben Archer Direct-to-video
2006 Second in Command Samuel Keenan Direct-to-video
The Hard Corps Philippe Sauvage Direct-to-video
The Exam Charles
2007 Until Death Anthony Stowe Direct-to-video
2008 The Shepherd: Border Patrol Jack Robideaux Direct-to-video
JCVD Himself Limited release; also executive producer
2009 Universal Soldier: Regeneration Luc Deveraux Direct-to-video
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2 Master Croc Voice role
Assassination Games Vincent Brazil Limited release; also executive producer
Beur sur la ville Colonel Merot Cameo
Rzhevsky versus Napoleon Himself Cameo
Dragon Eyes Jean-Louis Tiano Limited release
2012 The Expendables 2 Jean Vilain Van Damme's first widely released film since 1999
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Luc Deveraux Limited release
Six Bullets Samson Gaul Direct-to-video; also executive producer
U.F.O. George Limited release
2013 Welcome to the Jungle Storm Rothschild Limited release
Enemies Closer Xander Limited release
Swelter Stillman Direct-to-video
2015 Pound of Flesh Deacon Lyle Limited release; also executive producer
Jian Bing Man Himself Cameo
2016 Kung Fu Panda 3 Master Croc Voice role
Kickboxer: Vengeance Master Durand Limited release
2017 Kill 'Em All Philip Direct-to-video
2018 Kickboxer: Retaliation Master Durand Limited release
Black Water Wheeler Limited release; also executive producer
The Bouncer Lukas Limited release
2019 We Die Young Daniel Limited release
2021 The Last Mercenary Richard Brumère / The Mist
Haters Le fan de Thomas
2022 Minions: The Rise of Gru Jean Clawed Voice role
2024 Darkness of Man Russell Hatch Post-production
TBA Frenchy Frenchy Also writer, director, producer and editor; complete

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1996 Friends Himself Episode: "The One After the Superbowl"
2004 Las Vegas Himself Episode: "Die Fast, Die Furious"
2009 Robot Chicken Himself / Count Dracula / Rhett Butler (voices) Episode: "Maurice Was Caught"
2011 Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors Himself 8 episodes; also producer
2011 Les Anges Gardiens Himself 20 episodes
2016 Sense8 Himself Episode: "Happy F*cking New Year"
2016–2017 Jean-Claude Van Johnson Johnson / Filip 6 episodes; also executive producer for "Pilot"
2020 Les Anges Asian Dream Himself
2022 Ramez Movie Star Himself Arabian pranks show, represented by him and Ramez Galal
2023 Jean-Claude Van Damme, Coup sur Soup Himself TV special

Music videos

Year Song title Artist(s)
1992 "Body Count's in the House" Body Count
1994 "Time Won't Let Me" The Smithereens
"Straight to My Feet" MC Hammer featuring Deion Sanders
1995 "Something There" Chage and Aska
1999 "Crush 'Em" Megadeth
2003 "Kiss My Eyes" Bob Sinclar
2008 "Ya Lyublyu Ego" Iryna Bilyk and Olga Gorbacheva
2015 "The Hum"[147] Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike vs. Ummet Ozcan
2020 "Ultrarêve"[148] AaRON

Video games

Year Title Role Note
1995 Street Fighter: The Movie Colonel Guile
2021 Warpath Himself As fictional general[149]
2023 Mortal Kombat 1 Johnny Cage Voice and likeness; DLC skin

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1988 Golden Raspberry Award Worst New Star[150] Bloodsport Nominated
1992 MTV Movie Award Most Desirable Male Double Impact Nominated
1993 Nowhere to Run Nominated
1994 Hard Target Nominated
1998 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Screen Couple (with Dennis Rodman) Double Team Won
2001 Video Premiere Award Best Actor Replicant Nominated
2004 Bollywood Movie Award International Action Super Star Himself Won
2008 Silver Leopard Best Actor JCVD Nominated
2009 TFCA Award Best Performance, Male Nominated
2014 Golden Lotus Award Outstanding Achievement of Action Movies Show Himself Won

Championships and accomplishments

This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living people that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately.Find sources: "Jean-Claude Van Damme" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Mr. Belgium bodybuilding Championships (1976 Gold)

Belgium Karate Lightweight Championships (1977 Gold)

Belgium Karate team European Championships (1979 Gold)

Belgium Coupe des Espoirs Karate Tournament Championships (1980 Silver)

Fights record

Semi-contact/light-contact record

This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately from the article and its talk page, especially if potentially libelous.Find sources: "Jean-Claude Van Damme" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Result Record Opponent Method Date Round Event Location Notes
Win 44-4-0 Belgium Jonny Wellum Decision 7 May 1980 3 WAKO Brussels, Belgium Light-Contact (Van Damme avenges early career defeat)
Win 43-4-0 Belgium Jordy Claes 1980 Gala International WAKO Light-Contact
Win 42-4-0 Belgium Patrick Teugels[16] l'abandon (TKO) 8 March 1980 1 Forest Nationals Light-Contact (Teugels suffers a broken nose and is unable to continue)
Win 41-4-0 Hungary Andras Kovacs Decision 1980 3 WAKO Semi-Contact
Win 40-4-0 Algeria Bekim-Moussa Muhammad
Win 39-4-0 Algeria Mustapha-Ahmad Benamou
Win 38-4-0 Germany Reinhard Krass Disq. 26 December 1979 2 Karate Tournament: Belgium Team vs. German Team Woluwe, Brussels, Belgium Light-Contact[16]
Win 37-4-0 Portugal Gilberto Dias l'abandon November 1979 1 World All-styles Karate Organization Brussels, Belgium Light-Contact (Dias suffers ankle injury and is unable to continue)
Win 36-4-0 Germany Hans Kohler Decision 1979 3 Ingelmunster, Belgium Semi-Contact
Loss 35-4-0 Belgium Patrick Teugels WAKO Tampa, Florida, USA Light-Contact (Both men fight in karate-gi uniforms, no pads or gloves)
Win 35-3-0 Belgium Matthias Evrard Cup of Antwerp World All-styles Karate Organization Antwerp, Belgium Semi-Contact
Win 34-3-0 Belgium Paul Sperati World All-styles Karate Organization Opprebais, Belgium
Win 33-3-0 Belgium Lucus Reinfeld World All-styles Karate Organization, Europe Interland Cup Mulhouse, Belgium
Win 32-3-0 Belgium Robbe Bogaerts 1978 Hope Cup World All-styles Karate Organization Brussels, Belgium Semi-Contact[151]
Win 31-3-0 Belgium Leonard Baptiste World All-styles Karate Organization Izegem, Belgium Semi-Contact
Win 30-3-0 Portugal Fernando Cabanela World All-styles Karate Organization
Loss 29-3-0 Belgium Angelo Spataro[16] Challenge Coupe des Espoirs Karate Tournament (1st Trials) Antwerp, Belgium Light-Contact
Win 29-2-0 Belgium Gabriel van der Driessche
Win 28-2-0 Belgium Farid Muhammad Mousseau
Win 27-2-0 Belgium Jacques van Laere
Win 26-2-0 Belgium Christian Hedin
Win 25-2-0 Belgium Gerard Charon
Win 24-2-0 Portugal David Arranz
Win 23-2-0 Belgium Bernard Redden
Win 22-2-0 Belgium Antoine Redi
Win 21-2-0 Belgium Ben Salah Ellah
Win 20-2-0 Belgium Gaston Airey Foul 1
Win 19-2-0 Belgium Abdembi Hassan Ali Decision 3
Win 18-2-0 Portugal Jonas "Marcel" Cohen Decision
Win 17-2-0 Belgium Christian van Tieghem
Win 16-2-0 Belgium Max Roelandt
Win 15-2-0 Belgium Andre Verbon
Win 14-2-0 Belgium Michel Juvillier
Win 13-2-0 Belgium Joel Maoreau
Win 12-2-0 Belgium Ronald Duivenbode Semi-Contact
Loss 11-2-0 Belgium Patrick Teugels Belgium Lightweight Championship Antwerp, Belgium Light-Contact
Win 11-1-0 Belgium Gris Lubbers 1976 European Karate Union Ingelmunster, Belgium Semi-Contact
Win 10-1-0 Belgium Andre Lemaire 1977 World Association of Kickboxing Organizations Open International Izegem, Belgium
Win 9-1-0 Belgium Patrick Teugels Antwerp Open International Competition WAKO Antwerp, Belgium Light-Contact[citation needed]
Win 8-1-0 Belgium Maurice Devos World Allstyles Kickboxing Organization Semi-Contact
Win 7-1-0 France Jacques Berri 1976 Antwerp Open WAKO
Win 6-1-0 Belgium Johannes Binding Antwerp, Belgium
Win 5-1-0 France Jean-Morin Devigne
Win 4-1-0 Belgium Roland Vedani 1976 3 European Karate Union Ingelmunster, Belgium
Win 3-1-0 Belgium Jean-Paul Gaston Brussels, Belgium
Loss 2-1-0 Belgium Jonny Wellum 22 January 1976 La Federation Europeene de Karate (European Karate Federation) Brussels, Belgium Semi-Contact (J. Vandenberg credit with defaite)
Win 2-0-0 Belgium Bernard Briers Semi-Contact (J. Vandenberg credit with victoire)
Win 1-0-0 Belgium Robin Lomard Semi-Contact (J. Vandenberg credit with victoire - Karate magazine Boxe francaise)

Kickboxing record

This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately from the article and its talk page, especially if potentially libelous.Find sources: "Jean-Claude Van Damme" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Result Record Opponent Method Date Round Time Event Location Notes
Win 18-1-0 India Nedjad Gharbi KKO 1982 1 Brussels, Belgium Kickboxing
Win 17-1-0 Belgium Daniel Le Jaouen 1:05
Win 16-1-0 Belgium Lenny Leikman[16] 3 1st Journée des Arts Martiaux
Win 15-1-0 Turkey Ajom Mahmud Uddin KO 1981 1 0:19
Win 14-1-0 Algeria Mustapha-Ahmad Benamou KKO
Win 13-1-0 Netherlands Henk Besselman KO
Win 12-1-0 United Kingdom Michael J. Heming KKO 1980 0:46 European Karate Federation Middleweight Championship Kickboxing [citation needed]
Win 11-1-0 France Georges Verlugels KO 2 PKA Middleweight Championship Kickboxing[20]
Win 10-1-0 United States Sherman Bergman KKO 1979 Nov 4 1 0:56 Tampa, Florida, USA Full-Contact
Win 9-1-0 Germany Rolf Risberg KKO 1979 Ingelmunster, Belgium Kickboxing [citation needed]
Win 8-1-0 Belgium Emile Leibman Izegem, Belgium Kickboxing [citation needed]
Win 7-1-0 Belgium Cyrille Nollet 1978 Kickboxing
Win 6-1-0 Belgium Orlando Lang KO 0:26 Antwerp, Belgium
Win 5-1-0 Belgium Jacques Piniarski KKO Belgium Kickboxing [citation needed]
Win 4-1-0 Germany Eric "Basel" Strauss 0:18 Antwerp, Belgium Kickboxing [citation needed]
Win 3-1-0 Belgium Andre "Robar" Robaeys Mulhouse, France Kickboxing [citation needed]
Win 2-1-0 Belgium Michel Juvillier KO 0:39 Antwerp, Belgium Full-Contact [citation needed]
Loss 1-1-0 France Etienne "Tuf" Aubry DQ 7 March 1977 1:02 Marseilles, France Full-Contact (Karate magazine Boxe francaise)
Win 1-0-0 Belgium Toon van Oostrum KKO 1977 0:46 Brussels, Belgium Full-Contact [citation needed]

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Books cited

Further reading