Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg professionally known as Jean-Claude Van Damme and abbreviated as JCVD, is a Belgian martial artist, actor, and director best known for his martial arts action films.
The most successful of these films include Bloodsport (1988), Kickboxer (1989), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), Street Fighter (1994), Timecop (1994), Sudden Death (1995), JCVD (2008) and The Expendables 2 (2012).
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.
He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shotokan karate school. His styles consist of Shotokan Karate and Kickboxing. 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. 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.” Later he took up also Taekwondo, Kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Martial arts career
At the age of 11, 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; later training in full-contact karate and kickboxing with Dominique Valera.
Semi-contact karate career
At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976-1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in tournament and non-tournament semi-contact matches.
Van Damme was a member of the Belgium Karate Team when it won the European Karate Championship on 26 December 1979 at La Coupe Francois Persoons Karate Tournament in Brussels.
Van Damme placed second at the Challenge Coupe des Espoirs Karate Tournament (1st Trials). At the 3-day tournament, Van Damme defeated 25 opponents before losing in the finals to fellow team-mate Angelo Spataro.
1980 Forest National match
On 8 March 1980, in Brussels, Belgium, Van Damme competed against his former team-mate Patrick Teugels at the Forest National Arena on the undercard of the Dan Macaruso-Dominique Valera Professional Karate Association Light-Heavyweight World Championship bout. 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. In a 2013 interview, Van Damme called this fight his most memorable match.
Kickboxing and full-contact karate career
Van Damme began his full-contact career in 1977, when Claude Goetz promoted the first ever full-contact karate tournament in Belgium. From 1977 to 1982, Van Damme compiled a record of 18 victories (18 knockouts) and 1 defeat.
During his 5-year full-contact career, Van Damme was only knocked down once, in a match with Sherman Bergman. Van Damme went on to knock out Bergman in 56 seconds of the first round. In 1980, Van Damme caught the attention of Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anderson, and multiple European champion Geet Lemmens. Both men tabbed Van Damme as an upcoming prospect. Van Damme retired from competition in 1982.
Since 2009, Van Damme has been planning to make a comeback to fight former boxing Olympic gold-medalist Somluck Kamsing. The fight was a focal point in his ITV reality show Jean Claude Van Damme: 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. December 2012, Van Damme was seen as part of Kam Sing’s ring crew, when Kam Sing fought against Jomhod Kiatadisak.
In 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend, Michel Qissi, moved to the United States in the hope of becoming action stars. They both were cast as extras in the film, Breakin’. Van Damme also had a non-speaking part as a Secret Service agent who carries a polio-crippled President Franklin Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy) out of a pool in the 1988 TV miniseries War and Remembrance. 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, estranged twin 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 in a lead role to date.
After his role in the poorly received Street Fighter, his projects started to fail at the box office. Sudden Death (1995); 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, also a box-office flop, was 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.”
Van Damme returned to the mainstream with the limited theatrical release of the 2008 film JCVD, which received positive reviews. 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.
He was offered a lead role in Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 film The Expendables. Stallone called Van Damme personally to offer him the role, but Van Damme turned it down. He scheduled a series of film projects for 2011, including another Universal Soldier movie. On 30 June 2011, Van Damme confirmed his participation in The Expendables 2, which was released on 17 August 2012.
He voiced Master Croc in the 2011 animated film Kung Fu Panda 2. That same year Van Damme appeared in commercials for Coors Light beer, showing him on a snow-covered mountain wearing a sleeveless denim jacket, and for the washing powder Dash.
On 21 October 2012, Van Damme 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”.
Van Damme appears in the 2013 comedy Welcome To The Jungle directed by Rob Meltzer, in a role as a workplace team building trainer opposite Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Kristen Schaal, Megan Boone, and Dennis Haysbert.
Van Damme returned to the Universal Soldier series with Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, which again co-stars Dolph Lundgren. He will star in the thriller Enemies Closer, which will reunite him with Timecop and Sudden Death director Peter Hyams.
Van Damme indicated that Stallone might include him in The Expendables 3, in which Van Damme would play Claude Villain, the brother to his Expendables 2 character Jean Villain. The casting of Mel Gibson as the film’s villain, however, has made this less than likely.
|1984||Monaco Forever||Gay Karate Man|
|1984||Breakin’||Spectator in First Dance Sequence||Uncredited|
|1986||No Retreat, No Surrender||Ivan Krushensky||Also known as Karate Tiger (European)|
|1988||Bloodsport||Frank Dux||Fight choreographer, Writer, Editor
First work with Bolo Yeung.
|1988||Black Eagle||Andrei||Also known as Red Eagle or Red Hunter (European)|
Also known as Karate Tiger 3 (European)
|1990||Death Warrant||Louis Burke|
|1990||Lionheart||Lyon Gaultier||Fight choreographer, Writer
Also known as Leon or A.W.O.L. – Absent Without Leave (European)
|1991||Double Impact||Alex Wagner/Chad Wagner||Dual role, Producer, Writer
Second work with Bolo Yeung.
|1992||Universal Soldier||Luc Deveraux/GR44||First work with Dolph Lundgren.|
|1993||Last Action Hero||Himself||Cameo|
|1993||Nowhere to Run||Sam Gillen|
|1993||Hard Target||Chance Boudreaux|
|1994||Timecop||Max Walker||Dual role|
|1994||Street Fighter||Colonel William F. Guile|
|1995||Sudden Death||Darren McCord|
|1996||Maximum Risk||Alain Moreau/Mikhail Suverov||Dual role|
|1996||The Quest||Christopher Dubois||Director, Writer|
|1997||Double Team||Jack Quinn|
|1998||Knock Off||Marcus Ray|
|1998||Legionnaire||Alain Lefevre||Writer, Producer|
|1999||Universal Soldier: The Return||Luc Deveraux||Producer|
Also known as Desert Heat
|2001||The Order||Rudy Cafmeyer/Charles Le Vaillant||Dual role, Writer|
|2001||Replicant||Edward “The Torch” Garrotte/Replicant||Dual role|
|2003||In Hell||Kyle LeBlanc|
|2004||Wake of Death||Ben Archer|
|2004||Narco||Jean’s ghost by Lenny||minor role|
|2006||The Hard Corps||Phillip Sauvage|
|2006||Second in Command||Sam Keenan|
|2007||Until Death||Anthony Stowe|
|2008||The Shepherd: Border Patrol||Jack Robideaux||First work with Scott Adkins.|
|2010||Universal Soldier: Regeneration||Luc Deveraux||Second work with Dolph Lundgren.
First work with Andrei Arlovski.
Limited theatrical release in Israel, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy, Japan, and Pakistan.
|2011||Kung Fu Panda 2||Master Croc||Voice only|
|2011||Assassination Games||Vincent Brazil||Limited theatrical release in US, Russia, and Ukraine.
Second work with Scott Adkins.
Also known as Weapon (European)
|2011||Beur sur la ville||Colonel Merot|
|2012||Rzhevskiy vs. Napoleon||Himself|
|2012||Dragon Eyes||Jean-Luis Tiano||First work with Cung Le and Peter Weller.|
|2012||The Expendables 2||Jean Vilain||Third work with Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren.|
|2012||Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning||Luc Deveraux||Fourth work with Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren.
Second work with Andrei Arlovski.
|2012||Six Bullets||Samson Gaul|
|2013||Welcome to the Jungle||Storm Rotchild|
|2014||Full Love||Frenchy||Director, Writer, Completed|
|2015||Pound of Flesh||Deacon||Post-production|