JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME Biography - Other artists & entretainers


Biography » other artists entretainers » jean claude van damme


Born and Raised in Brussels, Belgium on October 18th, 1960, Claude Van Varenberg (adopting the name “Van Damme” from an early mentor) was a self-admitted “skinny, sensitive kid who loved classical music and painting,” among other childhood studies. At the urging of his father, he began early instruction in ballet and karate–foreshadowing a career that would later capitalize on the intertwined nature of both. Invited to join the Paris Opera as a dancer, the young Van Damme instead chose to focus on karate and body-building, quitting school to operate his very own successful fitness center, The California Gym in Brussels.


Though he quickly found fame in his native Belgium as a prized athlete and health club entrepreneur, his life would take another turn. Cast in the French-made film Rue Barbare (1984), an interest in acting awoke in him that would forever alter his life. He abandoned a lucrative business and local fame in search of a film career in Hong Kong. After little success breaking into the Honk Kong martial arts film industry, Van Damme felt it was time to take on Hollywood. Arriving on American soil in 1982, Van Damme possessed the requisite good looks and persistent attitude to succeed–unfortunately, he knew no languages other than French and Flemish. In corporating the elegance of ballet into his karate, Van Damme has transcended the brute force of the martial arts genre. Yet it was karate, the actor says, which helped him focus on and achieve his movie-making dreams.


Van Damme made his feature film debut starring in Cannon Film’s 1988 release Bloodsport. Its success and critical praise ushered in a wave of tiny budgeted action thrillers within two years, including the futuristic Cyborg (1989) and prison-set Death Warrant (1990). Numerous studio films followed, starting with the successful Double Impact (1991), which also marked his first foray into producing. Van Damme eventually earned the nickname “The muscles from Brussels” and soon enough, the actor’s involvement in his films grew even more. The 5′10″ actor made his writing debuts with Kickboxer (1989) and Lionheart (1990) and made his directorial debut with the 1996 box office flop The Quest. Over the past few years, his films have not fared well at the U.S. box office, with modestly budget action films like Double Team (1997) and Knock-Off (1998) all failing to reach their production costs. Replicant (2001), a sci-fi thriller about cloning, was the muscles from Brussels’ first film of the new millennium, and, while it skipped theatrical release around the world, it earned him the best reviews of his career. More recently, Van Damme’s movie career has hit a bit of a snag, with all of his recent films like The Order (2001), Derailed (2002) and In Hell (2003) bypassing theaters all together and debuting directly to video. Nevertheless, the success of this Belgian can be traced to his ability to appeal to all ages and genders and his larger-than-life image that captures the imagination of moviegoers worldwide.