is a Belgian martial artist, actor, and director best known for his martial arts action films. The most successful of which include Bloodsport (1988), Kickboxer (1989), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), Timecop (1994), Sudden Death (1995) and JCVD (2008). He is known as "The Muscles from Brussels".
After studying martial arts intensively from the age of ten, Van Damme achieved national success in Belgium as a martial artist and bodybuilder, earning the "Mr. Belgium" bodybuilding title. He emigrated to the United States in 1982 to pursue a career in film, and achieved success with Bloodsport (1988), based on a story written by Frank Dux. He attained subsequent box office success with Timecop (1994), which grossed over $100 million worldwide and became his most financially successful film.
Early lifeVan Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, the son of Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, who was an accountant. He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shotokan karate school. His styles consist of kickboxing, Shotokan karate, Muay Thai and Taekwondo. He eventually earned his black belt in karate. He started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title.
HollywoodIn 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend, Michel Qissi, moved to America in the hope of becoming action stars. They both were cast as extras in the film, Breakin'. After a small part in Missing In Action, Van Damme was next cast in the film No Retreat, No Surrender, as the role of the villain, Ivan the Russian. Van Damme worked for director John McTiernan for the 1987 film Predator as an early (eventually abandoned) version of the titular alien, before being removed and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall. His breakout film was Bloodsport, based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux. Shot on a 1.5 million dollar budget, it became a U.S. box-office hit in the spring of 1988. He then starred in the smaller budgeted film Cyborg. His last role for 1989 was Kurt Sloane in the successful Kickboxer. In this film, his character fights to avenge his brother who has been paralyzed by a Thai kickboxing champion (Qissi).
Double Impact featured Van Damme in the dual role of Alex and Chad Wagner, two brothers fighting to avenge the deaths of their parents. This film reunited him with his former Bloodsport co-star, Bolo Yeung. He then starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the action film Universal Soldier. While it grossed $36,299,898 in the U.S., it was an even bigger success overseas, making over $65 million, well over its modest $23 million budget, making it Van Damme's highest grossing film at the time.
Van Damme followed Nowhere To Run and Hard Target with Timecop in 1994. The film was a huge success, grossing over $100 million worldwide. In the film, Van Damme played a time traveling cop, who tries to prevent the death of his wife. It remains his highest grossing film to date.
After his role in the poorly received Street Fighter, his projects started to fail at the box office. The Quest (1996), which he directed; Maximum Risk (1996), Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) were box-office flops.
The 1999 film Universal Soldier: The Return which was also a box-office flop, and Van Damme's last theatrically released film until 2008. In 2003, Van Damme employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar's Kiss My Eyes.
He returned to mainstream with limited theatrical release of the critically acclaimed film JCVD in 2008. Time magazine named Van Damme's performance in the film the second best of the year (after Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight), having previously stated that Van Damme "deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar". Van Damme indicated while promoting the film, he experienced a period of homelessness "sleeping on the street and starving in L.A."
Van Damme reprised his role as Luc Deveraux in the 2009 film Universal Soldier: Regeneration.
Van Damme voiced "Master Croc" in Kung Fu Panda 2 released worldwide on 26 May 2011 which became Van Damme's most successful film to date with the movie grossing well over $600 million worldwide.
Also in 2011, Van Damme participated in various commercials for Coors Light beer, in which he is located on a snow-covered mountain wearing a sleeveless denim jacket, and for washing powder "Dash". He also took part in special birthday celebrations of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, which raised objections from human rights groups because of Kadyrov's human rights record.
He was offered a lead role in Sylvester Stallone's latest film The Expendables. Stallone called Van Damme personally to offer him the role, but Van Damme turned it down. He has a series of film projects scheduled for 2011, including another Universal Soldier movie. On 30 June 2011, Van Damme confirmed his participation in The Expendables 2 as the lead villain.
Personal lifeAt 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." In the French-speaking world, Van Damme is well known for the picturesque aphorisms that he delivers on a wide range of topics (personal well-being, the environment, etc.) in a sort of Zen franglais. Most famous and often quoted was his repeated use of the English word aware during an interview for a French channel, to convey the notion of self-awareness as a key to success.
He is training for his upcoming fight with cage fighters Chris 'Ball-Breaker' Banister, Jules 'Crown Jewels' Fox and the champion Paul 'Pistol-Fists' Shah in his home country Belgium.
Gladys Portugues. Van Damme is the father of three children: Kristopher Van Varenberg (born 1987), Bianca (born 1990), and Nicholas (born 1995).
Health and addictionVan Damme had troubles with cocaine that started during 1995. He entered a month-long rehabilitation program in 1996 but left it after only one week. In 1996, he spent up to $10,000 a week on cocaine. He is also reported to have experienced bipolar disorder. A turning point in his health issues came in late 1997, after having signed divorce papers charging him with spousal abuse, and drug addiction.
After the filming of the 1998 film Knock Off, Van Damme was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder after becoming suicidal and started treatment on the mood stabilizer, sodium valproate.