Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme Headshot

Actor • Martial Artist • Choreographer

Birth Date: October 18, 1960

Age: 63 years old

Birth Place: Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium

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 clichéd 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).

Credits

Darkness of Man

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Russell Hatch
Movie
2024

Sneak Peek: Minions: The Rise of Gru

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Show
2022

Minions: The Rise of GruStream

Voice
Jean Clawed
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2022
70%

Le dernier mercenaire

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Richard Brumère
Movie
2021

Haters

Actor
Movie
2021

We Die Young

Actor
Daniel
Movie
2019

Kickboxer: Retaliation

Actor
Master Durand
Movie
2018

Black Water

Actor
Wheeler
Movie
2018

Lukas

Actor
Lukas
Movie
2018

Kill 'Em All

Actor
Philip
Movie
2017

Jean-Claude Van JohnsonStream

Actor
Jean-Claude Van Johnson
Miniseries
2016
70%

Jean-Claude Van JohnsonStream

Executive Producer
Miniseries
2016
70%

Kickboxer: Vengeance

Actor
Master Durand
Movie
2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

Voice
Maître Croc
Movie
2016

Pound of Flesh

Actor
Deacon
Movie
2015

Pound of Flesh

Executive Producer
Movie
2015

Jian Bing Man

Actor
Movie
2015

Swelter

Actor
Stillman
Movie
2014

The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films

Actor
Movie
2014

Enemies Closer

Actor
Xander
Movie
2013

Welcome to the Jungle

Actor
Storm
Movie
2013

The Expendables 2Stream

Actor
Jean Vilain
Movie
2012
67%

Dragon Eyes

Actor
Tiano
Movie
2012

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Actor
Luc Devereaux
Movie
2012

6 Bullets

Actor
Samson Gaul
Movie
2012

U.F.O.

Actor
George
Movie
2012

Jean Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors

Executive Producer
Show
2011

Jean Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors

Self
Show
2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

Voice
Master Croc
Movie
2011

Assassination Games

Actor
Vincent Brazil
Movie
2011

ConanStream

Guest
Talk
2010

The Eagle Path

Actor
Frenchy
Movie
2010

The Eagle Path

Director
Movie
2010

The Eagle Path

Producer
Movie
2010

The Eagle Path

Screenwriter
Movie
2010

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

Actor
Luc Deveraux
Movie
2009

The Shepherd: Border Patrol

Actor
Jack Robideaux
Movie
2008

JCVD

Actor
J.C.V.D.
Movie
2008

Until Death

Actor
Anthony Stowe
Movie
2007

The Hard Corps

Actor
Philippe Sauvage
Movie
2006

Second in Command

Actor
Cmdr. Samuel "Sam" Keenan
Movie
2006

Out There with Melissa DiMarco

Guest
Show
2005

Robot ChickenStream

Guest Voice
Series
2005

Wake of DeathStream

Actor
Ben Archer
Movie
2004

Las VegasStream

Guest Star
Series
2003

In Hell

Actor
Kyle LeBlanc
Movie
2003

Derailed

Actor
Jacques Kristoff
Movie
2002

ReplicantStream

Actor
Replicant/Edward Garrotte
Movie
2001
27%

The Order

Actor
Rudy Cafmeyer/Charles Le Vaillant
Movie
2001

The Order

Writer
Movie
2001

Coyote Moon

Actor
Eddie Lomax
Movie
1999

Unité spéciale: le combat

Actor
Movie
1999

Universal Soldier: The ReturnStream

Actor
Luc Deveraux
Movie
1999
5%

Universal Soldier: The ReturnStream

Producer
Movie
1999
5%

Desert Heat

Actor
Eddie Lomax
Movie
1999

Desert Heat

Producer
Movie
1999

Knock Off

Actor
Marcus Ray
Movie
1998

Legionnaire

Actor
Alain Lefevre
Movie
1998

Legionnaire

Producer
Movie
1998

Double TeamStream

Actor
Jack Quinn
Movie
1997
11%

The QuestStream

Actor
Christopher Dubois
Movie
1996
14%

The QuestStream

Director
Movie
1996
14%

Maximum Risk

Actor
Alain Moreau/Mikhail Suverov
Movie
1996

Sudden Death

Actor
Darren McCord
Movie
1995

FriendsStream

Guest Star
Series
1994
78%

Timecop

Actor
Walker
Movie
1994

Street Fighter

Actor
Colonel William F. Guile
Movie
1994

Le Flic du temps

Actor
Movie
1994

Nowhere to Run

Actor
Sam Gillen
Movie
1993

Hard TargetStream

Actor
Chance Boudreaux
Movie
1993
60%

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Guest
Talk
1992

Universal SoldierStream

Actor
Luc Deveraux / GR44
Movie
1992
34%

The Best of the Martial Arts Films

Actor
Movie
1991

Double ImpactStream

Actor
Alex/Chad Wagner
Movie
1991
33%

Double ImpactStream

Producer
Movie
1991
33%

Double ImpactStream

Screenwriter
Movie
1991
33%

Death WarrantStream

Actor
Louis Burke
Movie
1990
0%

Lionheart

Actor
Léon Gaultier
Movie
1990

Lionheart

Screenwriter
Movie
1990

CyborgStream

Actor
Gibson Rickenbacker
Movie
1989
22%

KickboxerStream

Actor
Kurt Sloane
Movie
1989
36%

BloodsportStream

Actor
Frank Dux
Movie
1988
46%

Black Eagle

Actor
Andrei
Movie
1988

No Retreat No Surrender

Actor
Ivan Kraschinsky the Russian
Movie
1986

Vaincre ou mourir

Actor
Movie
1985

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