Jean-Claude Van Damme

Belgian actor and martial artist

Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg (French: [ʒɑ̃ klod kamij fʁɑ̃swa vɑ̃ vaʁɑ̃bɛʁɡ]; Dutch: [vɑn ˈvarə(n)ˈbɛrx]; born 18 October 1960), known professionally as Jean-Claude Van Damme (French: [vɑ̃ dam]; Dutch: [vɑn ˈdɑmə]), is a Belgian martial artist, actor, and filmmaker. Nicknamed "The Muscles from Brussels", he is widely regarded as an icon of action and martial arts cinema.[1][2] Van Damme's films have grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making him one of the most successful action stars of all time.[3]

Jean-Claude Van Damme in April 2010

Born and raised in Brussels, his father enrolled him in a Shotokan karate school at the age of ten, which led Van Damme to earn his black belt in karate at the age of eighteen, and the rank of 2nd-dan black belt.[4][5][6] He competed in several karate and kickboxing competitions, and was a member of the Belgium Karate Team when it won the European Karate Championship on 26 December 1979.[7][8][9] At the age of 16, he took up ballet, which he studied for five years.[10] He started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title in 1978.[11] In 1979, he opened a gym called "California Gym" in Brussels.[12] Among his acting heroes growing up were Charles Bronson, Bruce Lee, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Steve McQueen, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Sylvester Stallone.[13][14]

With the desire of becoming an actor, he moved to the United States in 1982, where he did a variety of jobs and worked on several films, until he got his break as the lead in the martial arts film Bloodsport (1988). The film introduced his trademark splits and spinning 360˚ heel kick to an American audience.[15] Van Damme became a popular action film star and followed up with commercially successful films such as Cyborg (1989), Kickboxer (1989), Lionheart (1990), Death Warrant (1990), Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Nowhere to Run (1993), Hard Target (1993), Timecop (1994), Street Fighter (1994), Sudden Death (1995), The Quest (1996), which marked his directorial debut, and Maximum Risk (1996). At the height of his career, he was one of the biggest action movie stars in the world, and one of the most successful martial arts actors of the 1980s and 1990s, alongside Steven Seagal.[16][17] Van Damme was also considered a sex symbol.[18][19]

During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, his popularity declined. He mostly appeared in limited theatrical releases or direct-to-video films. During this time, he starred in Replicant (2001), for which he was nominated for a Video Premiere Award for Best Actor. The film is considered the best outing from within Van Damme’s direct-to-video career.[20] He returned to prominence with the critically acclaimed crime drama JCVD (2008). After JCVD, he began mixing things up, starring in comedies, and voicing kids animations, all the while keeping the action going.[21] His big return to the action genre was in The Expendables 2 (2012), in which he starred as the villain, opposite Sylvester Stallone.[22] From thereon Van Damme continued starring in action films and doing extensive voice work. He also starred in the action comedy-drama streaming television series Jean-Claude Van Johnson (2016–2017).

He was married to Maria Rodriguez from 1980 until they divorced in 1984. Then he was married to Cynthia Derderian from 1985 until they divorced in 1986. Then he was married to Darcy LaPier from 1994 until they divorced in 1997. Then he was married to Gladys Portugues from 1987 until they divorced in 1992; they remarried in 1999. He has three children. In 2022, he was living in Hong Kong.[23] Van Damme has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[24]

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1979 Woman Between Wolf and Dog Movie Goer / Man in Garden Uncredited extra [25]
1984 Breakin Spectator in First Dance Sequence Uncredited extra
1984 Missing in Action Soldier Uncredited extra; also stunt
1984 Monaco Forever Gay Karate Man
1986 No Retreat, No Surrender Ivan "The Russian" Kraschinsky
1987 Predator None Uncredited body double only
1988 Bloodsport Frank Dux Also uncredited editor
1988 Black Eagle Andrei
1989 Cyborg Gibson Rickenbacker Also uncredited editor
1989 Kickboxer Kurt Sloane Also story, fight director and choreographer
1990 Lionheart Lyon "Lionheart" Gaultier Also writer/story and fight choreographer
1990 Death Warrant Detective Louis Burke
1991 Double Impact Alex Wagner / Chad Wagner Dual role; also story/writer, producer and fight choreographer
1992 Universal Soldier Private Luc Deveraux / GR44
1993 Nowhere to Run Sam Gillen
1993 Last Action Hero Himself Cameo
1993 Hard Target Chance Boudreaux
1994 Timecop Agent Max Walker / Agent Max Walker Dual role
1994 Street Fighter Colonel William F. Guile
1995 Sudden Death Chief Darren Francis Thomas McCord
1995 The Quest Christopher Dubois Also director and story
1996 Maximum Risk Detective Alain Moreau / Mikhail Suverov Dual role
1997 Double Team Agent Jack Paul Quinn
1998 Knock Off Marcus Ray
1999 Legionnaire Alain Lefèvre Direct-to-video; also story and producer
1999 Universal Soldier: The Return Private Luc Deveraux Also producer
1999 Inferno Eddie Lomax Limited release; also producer
2001 Replicant Edward "The Torch" Garrotte (Luc Savard) / The Replicant Direct-to-video; dual role
2001 The Order Rudy Cafmeyer / Charles Le Vaillant Direct-to-video; dual role; also writer
2002 Derailed Agent Jacques Kristoff Direct-to-video
2003 In Hell Kyle LeBlanc Direct-to-video
2004 Narco Jean's ghost by Lenny
2004 Wake of Death Ben Archer Direct-to-video
2005 Second in Command Commander Samuel "Sam" Keenan Direct-to-video
2006 The Hard Corps Philippe Sauvage Direct-to-video; also uncredited fight choreographer
2006 Sinav Charles
2006 Until Death Detective Anthony Stowe Direct-to-video
2007 The Shepherd: Border Patrol Detective Jack Robideaux Direct-to-video
2008 JCVD Himself Limited release; also executive producer
2009 Universal Soldier: Regeneration Private Luc Deveraux Direct-to-video
2010 Frenchy Frenchy Also writer, director, producer and editor
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2 Master Croc Voice role
2011 Assassination Games Vincent Brazil Limited release; also executive producer
2011 Beur sur la ville Colonel Merot Cameo
2011 Rzhevsky versus Napoleon Himself Cameo
2011 Dragon Eyes Jean-Louis Tiano Limited release
2012 The Expendables 2 Jean Vilain
2012 Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Private Luc Deveraux Limited release
2012 Six Bullets Samson Gaul Direct-to-video; also executive producer
2012 U.F.O. George Limited release
2013 Welcome to the Jungle Storm Rothschild Limited release
2013 Enemies Closer Xander Limited release
2013 Swelter Stillman Direct-to-video
2015 Pound of Flesh Agent Deacon Lyle Limited release; also executive producer
2015 Jian Bing Man Himself Cameo
2016 Kung Fu Panda 3 Master Croc Voice role
2016 Kickboxer: Vengeance Master Durand Limited release
2017 Kill 'Em All Philip Direct-to-video
2018 Kickboxer: Retaliation Master Durand Limited release
2018 Black Water Agent Scott Wheeler Limited release; also executive producer
2018 The Bouncer Lukas Limited release
2019 We Die Young Daniel Limited release
2021 The Last Mercenary Agent Richard Brumère / The Mist Streaming releases
2021 Haters Unknown
2022 Minions: The Rise of Gru Jean Clawed Voice role
2024 Darkness of Man Russell Hatch

Music video

Year Title Role Performer Notes Ref.
1992 "Body Count's in the House" Himself Body Count Uncredited cameo
1994 "Time Won't Let Me" Himself The Smithereens

Video game

Year Title Voice role Notes Ref.
1995 Street Fighter: The Movie Colonel William F. Guile Live action full-motion video


  1. "What Happened to Jean-Claude Van Damme?". 5 February 2023.
  2. "The Action Fix: Celebrating an Action Icon's Birthday van Dammage!". 19 October 2022.
  3. "Jean-Claude van Damme Was a Bouncer at Chuck Norris' Bar, Here's How Much He Was Paid". 8 July 2023.
  5. Karate black belt Archived 5 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "How Jean-Claude van Damme Became a Real Martial Artist and Black Belt". 13 March 2023.
  8. "Standardized Tournaments And Ratings System Historic Kickboxing Ring Records" Archived 1 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine. The Star System. 8 March 1980. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  9. "CNK – Centre National de Karaté". Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  10. Kim, Jae-Ha (14 April 1989). "Van Damme gets his kicks from acting now, not karate". Chicago Sun-Times.
  11. Grobel, Lawrence (1 January 1995). "Playboy interview". Playboy.
  24. 'I tried to play the system'
  25. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Jean-Claude van Damme's library (19 November 2015). "Van Damme (JCVD) - First ever screen appearance in 1979" – via YouTube.

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