Jean-Claude Van Damme ,belgium-born action-movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme has showcased his patented splits and acrobatic kicks in such movies as Bloodsport.
Early Years and Career. Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg was born on October 18, 1960, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium. A skinny child, he began studying Shotokan karate at age 11, and also eagerly took to weightlifting and ballet. As a teenager, Van Damme won the middleweight championship of the European Professional Karate Association and was named “Mr. Belgium” in a bodybuilding competition.
Jean-Claude Van Damme opened a gym in Brussels and earned some modeling work, but he was enthralled with the idea of becoming a film star. After briefly attempting to break into the thriving martial-arts movie industry in Hong Kong, China, he moved to Los Angeles, California, in the early 1980s to pursue his Hollywood dreams.
Big-Screen Stardom.Originally calling himself “Frank Cujo,” Jean-Claude Van Damme received bit parts in feature films and worked as a cabdriver, waiter, aerobics instructor and nightclub bouncer as he tried to make a name for himself in Tinseltown. He was featured in the 1986 martial-arts flick No Retreat, No Surrender, but his big break came after he displayed his ability to perform a jumping, 360-degree “helicopter kick” to B-list producer Menahem Golan, who cast the unknown actor in Bloodsport (1988). The low-budget film grossed a surprising $35 million at the box office, and Van Damme followed with another successful starring role in Kickboxer the following year.
Over the following decade, Van Damme filled the big screen in such action flicks as Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Time Cop (1994), Sudden Death (1995) and Maximum Risk (1996), overcoming his limited acting chops with his acrobatic kicks and patented splits. He made his directorial debut with The Quest (1996), but Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) were flops, and by the start of the 2000s most of his movies landed in the straight-to-video bin.
In 2008, Van Damme resurfaced as a fictionalized version of himself in the part-satirical, part-confessional JCVD. His performance drew positive reviews and triggered something of a revival for the former action star, who went on to reprise a familiar role in Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010) and voice the character of Master Croc in Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). In 2012, Van Damme was back in his element as part of the veteran butt-kicking ensemble featured in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 2.Personal Life
In October 2012, Van Damme was honored with the unveiling of a bronze statue in his native Brussels. The statue depicts the former martial-arts champion in a classic fighting pose, ready to launch one of his famous flying kicks.