Biographic by Steve McGarry for August 12, 2012
BIOGRAPHIC Steve McGarry Distributed by Universal UClick Jean-Claude Van Damme Born Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg on October 18, 1960, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, Jean-Claude Van Damme Studied martial arts from an early age - as well as training in ballet - and eventually earned a black belt in karate, he won titles in karate and bodybuilding and opened his own gymnasium in his teens, but with his sights firmly set on breaking into action movies, he moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s. He worked at a variety of jobs, including carpet layer, limo driver and nightclub bouncer, while taking English classes and picking up minor acting roles. He followed a role as a villain in the low-budget "no Retreat, No Surrender" with the lead in "Bloodsport" - a role he landed after demonstrating his balletic martial arts skills to the film's producer in a chance encounter outside a restaurant! Unfortunately, the movie was so bad that it was shelved and wouldn't have seen the light of day without Van Damme's dogged persistence and powers of persuasion. When it was finally release in 1988, "Bloodsport" became an international hit, making "The Muscles From Brussels" the hottest property in action movies. He cemented his reputation with the likes of "Cyborg" and "Double Impact," and found huge success with "universal Soldier" and "Timecop," the latter earning more than $100 million worldwide. But as the 1990s progressed, his box-office returns diminished and his personal problems increase, as health issues and a messy divorce from his fourth wife were played out in the tabloid headlines. By the end of the decade he was remarried to his third wife and putting his demons to rest. Subsequent projects flew under the mainstream radar until he picked up awards recognition and much critical acclaim for 2008's self-referential and candid "JCVD." He has gone on to revive the "universal Soldier" franchise and follows his role in the animated hit "Kung Fu Panda 2" with a starring role opposite Sylvester Stallone and a posse of other action star peers in this summer's "The Expendables 2."