Jean-Claude Camille François van Varenberg (born 18 October 1960), professionally known as Jean-Claude van Damme (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ klod vɑ̃ dam], Dutch: [vɑn ˈdɑmə]) and as JCVD, is a Belgian actor and retired martial artist best known for his martial arts action films. His most popular projects include Bloodsport (1988), 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), Maximum Risk (1996), JCVD (2008), Jean-Claude van Johnson (2016 - 2017 series) and Lukas (2018).
Early life and education
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 and florist. His father is from Brussels and bilingual, and his mother is Flemish (Dutch-speaking). The Roman Catholic Van Damme's paternal grandmother was Jewish.
He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shōtōkan karate school. His styles consist of Shōtōkan Karate and Kickboxing. He eventually earned his black belt in karate at 18. 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 both Taekwondo and Muay Thai.
At the age of 12, 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; he later trained in full-contact karate and kickboxing with Dominique Valera.
At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976 to 1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in tournament and non-tournament semi-contact matches.
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 teammate Angelo Spataro.
On 8 March 1980, in Brussels, Belgium, Van Damme competed against his former teammate 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.
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. He was also named "Mr. Belgium" in a bodybuilding competition.
In 1980, Van Damme caught the attention of Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anderson and multiple European champion Geert Lemmens. Both men tabbed Van Damme as an upcoming prospect. Van Damme retired from competition in 1982.
In 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend Michel Qissi moved to the United States in the hope of working as actors. They did a variety of jobs to support themselves. Their first job working on a film as extras in the hip hop dance film Breakin' (1984), made by Cannon Films. They are seen dancing in the background at a dance demonstration.
Around that time he developed a friendship with action martial art movie star Chuck Norris. They started sparring together, and Van Damme started to work as a bouncer at a bar named Woody's Wharf, owned by Norris.
In 1984, he worked in the stunt team in the Norris action film Missing in Action which was also released by Cannon Films. That same year he also had a role in the comedy short film Monaco Forever (1984).
Van Damme's first sizeable role came when he was cast as the Russian villain in Corey Yuen' martial arts movie No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), starring Kurt McKinney, and released through New World Pictures. McKinney performs as Jason Stillwell, a U.S. teenager who learns karate from the spirit of Bruce Lee. Stillwell uses these lessons to defend his martial arts dojo against a Soviet martial artist played by Van Damme.
Van Damme's breakout film was Bloodsport (1988), based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux. Shot on a $1.5-million budget for Cannon. The film is about U.S. Army Captain Frank Dux (played by Van Damme), trained from his youth in the ways of ninjutsu by Senzo Tanaka, honors his mentor by taking the place of Tanaka's deceased son Shingo in the illegal martial-arts tournament Kumite in Hong Kong. It became a U.S. box-office hit in the spring of 1988. Producer Mark Di Salle said he was looking for "a new martial arts star who was a ladies' man, [but Van Damme] appeals to both men and women. He's an American hero who fights for justice the American way and kicks the stuffing out of the bad guys." This success would establish Van Damme becoming a regular action star for The Cannon Group alongside Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Sho Kosugi, and Michael Dudikoff.
Van Damme played another Russian villain, in Black Eagle (1988), opposite Sho Kosugi. In the film, Sho Kosugi is a martial artist and special operative for the U.S. government codenamed "Black Eagle", is summoned by his superiors after an F-111 carrying an experimental black ops laser tracking device was shot down over Malta by Russian forces.
After the success of Bloodsport, Cannon Films offered Van Damme the lead in Delta Force 2, American Ninja 3 or Cyborg, a cyperpunk martial arts movie directed by Albert Pyun. Jean-Claude van Damme stars as Gibson Rickenbacker, a mercenary who battles a group of murderous marauder along the East coast of the United States in a post-apocalyptic future. The film was a low budget box office success and led to two sequels, neither of which Van Damme appeared in.
Cannon used Van Damme again in Kickboxer (1989), playing a man who fights to avenge his brother who has been paralyzed by a Thai kickboxing champion (Qissi). It was highly successful, returning over $50 million on a $3-million budget. The film started the Kickboxer franchise. Van Damme did not appear in any of the film's four sequels, though he did return as a different character in the reboot series.
Also successful was Death Warrant (1990), the first script credit for David S. Goyer. In the film, Van Damme plays a police detective going into a prison facility at California as an undercover cop in order to find out who stands behind a mysterious series of murders, and finds himself locked up with his nemesis; Christian Naylor, a psychotic serial killer who calls himself "The Sandman" whom sets out to exact revenge upon him after getting into prison.
He followed it with Lionheart (1990) aka Wrong Bet, where he played a French Legionnaire who deserts his post to return to Los Angeles after his brother is murdered, in order to take care of his wife and child. After a successful escape he gets involved as a fighter in a street fight gambling ring in order to support them.
Lionheart was directed by Sheldon Lettich who had co-written Bloodsport, and who claimed the film was "the first movie to demonstrate that Van Damme was more than just a flash-in-the-pan "Karate Guy" who would never rise above simplistic low-budget karate movies." It also featured rear nudity from Van Damme which Lettich says "became a very memorable moment for the ladies in the audience, and for the gay guys as well. Showing off his butt (clothed or unclothed) almost became a signature trademark of his after that."
Double Impact, directed by Lettich, 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 and was very popular.
In 1992, Van Damme starred in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year in the sci-fi action picture Universal Soldier directed by Roland Emmerich for Carolco. Van Damme (as Luc Deveraux) Dolph Lundgren (as Sergeant Andrew Scott) and play U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War who are sent to secure a village against North Vietnamese forces. However they end up shooting each other dead after Devereaux discovers that Scott has gone insane and has resorted to mutilating the villagers and barbarically cutting off their ears, taking an innocent girl and boy hostage. They are later reanimated in a secret Army project along with a large group of other previously dead soldiers and sent on a mission as GR operatives. At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Van Damme and Lundgren were involved in a verbal altercation that almost turned physical when both men pushed each other only to be separated, but it was believed to have only been a publicity stunt. Universal Soldier opened in theatres on 10 July 1992, a moderate success domestically with $36,299,898 in US ticket sales, but a major blockbuster worldwide, making over $65 million overseas, which earned the film a total of $102 million worldwide, on a $23 million budget.
After making a cameo in Last Action Hero, Van Damme starred in Nowhere To Run (1993) alongside Rosanna Arquette, based in part on a script by Joe Eszterhas. The film was the first in a three-picture deal between Van Damme and Columbia Pictures and his fee was $3.5 million. Columbia said the film is "true to his audience and goes beyond his audience." However it was a box office disappointment.
More successful was Hard Target (1993) for Universal, the first American film from director John Woo. In the film he stars as Chance Boudreaux, an out-of-work Cajun merchant seaman who saves a young woman, named Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler), from a gang of thugs in New Orleans. Chance learns that Binder is searching for her missing father (Chuck Pfarrer), and agrees to aid Binder in her search.
Also for Universal he did Timecop (1994), playing a time-traveling cop, who tries to prevent the death of his wife. Directed by Peter Hyams, the film was a huge success, grossing over $100 million worldwide, and remains his highest-grossing film in a lead role to date.
Van Damme starred in Street Fighter (1994), written and directed by Steven E. de Souza for Universal and based on the video game. The film focuses on the efforts of Colonel Guile (Van Damme) to bring down General M. Bison played by Raul Julia, the military dictator and drug kingpin of Shadaloo City who aspires to conquer the world with an army of genetic supersoldiers, while enlisting the aid of street fighters to infiltrate Bison's empire and help destroy it from within. It was poorly received critically. Though a commercial success, making approximately three times its production cost.
Van Damme and Hyams re-teamed for Universal' on Sudden Death (1995). Van Damme plays a French Canadian-born firefighter with the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau who suffered a personal crisis after he was unable to save a young girl from a house fire. Now removed from active duty, Darren has become demoted to being fire marshal for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, where a gang of terrorists are holding U.S. Vice President and several other VIPs hostage in a luxury suite during a game.
He appeared in the TV show Friends in the two parts episode called The One After the Superbowl. The star studded episode also included Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak, Julia Roberts, Fred Willard, and Dan Castellaneta. In the episode two of the leading ladies of the show meet him, and compete for his attention.
Van Damme turned director for The Quest (1996), which he directed; Roger Moore co-starred. The plot, set in 1925, revolves around a martial arts tournament in the mysterious "Lost City", located deep in Tibet, with martial artists from around the world fighting to earn the winner's prize, the "Golden Dragon", a valuable statue made of solid gold.
Maximum Risk (1996) was his following film for Columbia, the first American film from Ringo Lam, and his first collaboration with Van Damme. He plays Alain Moreau a French cop in Nice. A dead body of someone that looks exactly like him, is discovered. It turns out, that it is the twin brother Alain never knew he had. Tracing his brother's steps back to New York City, Alain discovers that he was a member of the Russian Mafia, who was chased down and killed when he attempted to get out. Now Alain is mistaken for hiim, who was also mixed up in a series of affairs concerning the FBI and the Russian mafia. With his only real ally being Mikhail's fiancé Alex Bartlett (Natasha Henstridge), Alain sets out to avenge his brother's death.
Van Damme's first box office bomb since he became star was Double Team (1997), a buddy film with NBA superstar Dennis Rodman. It was Hong Kong's director Tsui Hark American debut for Columbia and his first collaboration. Van Damme plays counter-terrorist agent Jack Quinn, who is assigned to bring an elusive terrorist known as Stavros to justice. Things become personal when Stavros kidnaps Quinn's pregnant wife after his own lover and child were killed in an assassination attempt that went awry. Aiding Quinn in his rescue is his flamboyant weapons dealer Yaz (Dennis Rodman)
Van Damme tried a costume action movie, Legionnaire (1998) co-written by Lettich. He plays Alain Lefevre a French boxer in 1920s Marseille, France. Alain is forced by local crime boss Lucien Galgani to take a dive in a fight. Galgani's girlfriend is also Alain's ex-fiancée whom he left standing at the altar. The two hatch a plan to run off to America together. Hence he does not take a dive in the fight, but just as the escape plan is about to succeed, Alain's friend is killed, and Katrina is captured by Galgani's men. But Alain has shot and killed Galgani's brother. Desperately needing a new escape plan, Alain signs up for the French Foreign Legion, and is shipped to North Africa to help defend Morocco against a native Berber rebellion. Despite a $35 million budget, it was not released theatrically in the US, only overseas.
Van Damme then made his first sequel, Universal Soldier: The Return, (1999). The film takes place seven years after the events in the first film, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude van Damme), now an ordinary human after having had his cybernetic implants removed, is a technical expert who is working for the US government with his partner Maggie (Kiana Tom), who has been through countless hours of combat training with him. They work to refine and perfect the UniSol program in an effort to make a new, stronger breed of soldier that is more sophisticated and intelligent to reduce the use of normal, human soldiers in the battlefield. All of the new Unisols, which are faster and stronger than the original UniSols, are connected through an artificially intelligent computer system called SETH (Self-Evolving Thought Helix). When SETH discovers that the Universal Soldier program is scheduled to be shut down because of budget cuts, it takes action to protect itself. Killing those who try to shut off its power, and unleashing a platoon of super soldiers, led by the musclebound Romeo (Bill Goldberg).
In Inferno (1999), Van Damme plays a veteran soldier sick of life, wandering the desert looking for a reason to die. An incident with a few thugs from the nearby town who steal Eddie's motorbike and beat him almost to death, starts in Eddie a flame for revenge.
Replicant is the second collaboration between Van Damme and director Ringo Lam, and the fifth time that Van Damme has starred in a dual role. It co-stars Michael Rooker. The film is about Edward "The Torch" Garrotte (Van Damme) is a serial killer who has a penchant for killing women and setting them on fire. All of his victims are also mothers. Detective Jake Riley (Rooker) is a Seattle police detective who has spent three years chasing him. A secret government agency hires Jake as a consultant on a project. They make a clone of Garrotte from DNA evidence, who has genetic memories from Garrotte and a telepathic link to him. They need Jake's help to train him in order to find Garotte.
The Order is a 2001 American action film co-starring Charlton Heston, Vernon Dobtcheff, Ben Cross, Sofia Milos... It is directed by Sheldon Lettich, and written by Van Damme. In this film he stars as Rudy Cafmeyer a thief and smuggler of valuable historical artifacts. Rudy's father is archaeologist and museum curator Oscar "Ozzie" Cafmeyer (Dobtcheff) is kidnapped upon an important archaeologist discovery.
The following year he starred in Derailed, co-starring Tomas Arana, Laura Harring, Dayton Callie, Nikolay Binev, etc. Van Damme plays NATO operative Jacques Kristoff who is summoned into action, upon the theft of extremely valuable and dangerous top-secret container from the Slovakian government.
In Hell is a 2003 American prison action film directed by Ringo Lam. It is the third collaboration between Jean-Claude van Damme and Hong Kong film director Ringo Lam. Van Damme plays an American working overseas in Magnitogorsk, Russia. When he hears his wife being attacked over the phone, he rushes home, but is too late to save her. The man who killed his wife, buys the judge and is found not guilty for lack of evidence. Taking the law into his own hands and kills him, and for this, he is sentenced to life in prison. The general who runs the prison amuses himself by betting on organized fights between his prisoners to fill his pockets, where Van Damme is eventually forced to compete.
That same year, Van Damme employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar's "Kiss My Eyes."
His 2004 film was Wake of Death, an action film directed by Philippe Martinez. Ringo Lam was the original director, but he left the project after a few weeks of filming in Canada. It co-stars Simon Yam, Valerie Tian, Tony Schiena, etc. Van Damme stars as a gangster who decides to become legit to spend more time with his wife. However, it proves to be a fatal mistake. Kim's father, Sun Quan (Yam), is a Chinese Triad. Once Sun Quan discovers where his daughter is, he kills Cynthia, her parents, and many of the workers in the restaurant at which they're dining without provocation. However, Sun Quan is not alone in his attempts to avenge his wife, as a French mobster has a vendetta against him.
He played himself in the French film Narco (2005), he appears as an imagined version of himself, when one character who idolizes him as the ultimate 'Karate man', imagines a conversation where he acts as that character's conscience.
He followed it with Second in Command (2006), where he plays Commander Samuel "Sam" Keenan, a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL, is sent to the Eastern European nation of Moldavia to become the new security attaché at the U.S. Embassy.
He reunited with Lettich for The Hard Corps (2006) co-starring Raz Adoti, Vivica A. Fox, and Peter Bryant. Van Damme plays Phillip Sauvage an American soldier suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through his former commanding officer, he gets to work as a bodyguard for former World Heavyweight boxing champion and now successful businessman, where his adventure begins.
The Exam (2007), is a Turkish comedy-drama film directed by Ömer Faruk Sorak, about five Turkish high school students preparing to sit for the university entry exam, who enlist the services of a professional thief, played by Jean-Claude van Damme, to steal the papers.
Until Death (2007), also with Fellows. Jean-Claude van Damme plays a corrupt police detective addicted to heroin whom everybody hates at the workplace. After being shot in a gunfight he falls into a coma. Months later he recovers and decides to use his second chance at life.
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." While promoting the film Van Damme indicated that he had experienced a period of homelessness "sleeping on the street and starving in L.A."
In The Shepherd: Border Patrol (2008), he plays a border patrol is up against a highly dangerous drug smuggling operation.
He then reprised his role as Luc Deveraux alongside Dolph Lundgren in the 2009 film Universal Soldier: Regeneration, directed by John Hyams (son of Peter Hyams). The film was released theatrically in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and directly to video in the United States and other parts of the world. Since its release, the film has received better than average reviews for a straight-to-DVD franchise sequel.
In 2010, Van Damme directed himself in the barely released Full Love.
In 2011, Van Damme voiced the Master Croc in the computer animation film Kung Fu Panda 2, alongside Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Gary Oldman, Michelle Yeoh, Victor Garber, and many more. In the film, Po and the Furious Five (heroes of the previous film) battle an evil peacock named Lord Shen who has a powerful weapon that he plans to conquer China with. They eventually meet his character who helps them in their quest.
That same year he played in Assassination Games, alongside Scott Adkins. The film is about an assassin named Flint (Adkins), who after a drug dealer puts his wife in a coma, assassin Flint retires. When a contract is put out on the drug dealer, Flint comes out of retirement, only to find that another assassin, Brazil (Van Damme), is also on the job due to the money. The two assassins reluctantly partner in order to combat corrupt Interpol agents and gangsters.
He starred in his own reality TV show Behind Closed Doors (2011). The show showcases his family life, his personal trouble, and an upcoming fight. 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 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.
He worked with Joe Hymans again on Dragon Eyes (2012) then 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.
He starred as the main villain in Simon West' The Expendables 2 against Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The story of the second installment in The Expendables film series follows the mercenary group known as "the Expendables" as they undertake a seemingly simple mission which evolves into a quest for revenge against rival mercenary Jean Vilain (Van Damme), who murdered one of their own and threatens the world with a deadly weapon. The film was a success. it grossed over $310 million worldwide.
Also in 2012 he starred alongside Scott Adkins, and Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. In the film, a young former military man named John (Adkins) awakens from a coma and finds out that his wife and daughter were murdered in a home invasion, and goes on a personal vendetta against the man behind the incident which revealed to be Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) the nefarious Universal Soldier from the first two films who now became a powerful terrorist military leader.
Six Bullets (2012) is action film where he stars. It is directed by Ernie Barbarash and co-stars Joe Flanigan, Anna-Louise Plowman, and Charlotte Beaumont. Veteran mercenary Samson Gaul (Van Damme) is retired from combat when his actions resulted in the deaths of helpless victims, but now he's the last hope for a desperate father. Mixed martial artist, Andrew Fayden (Flanigan) knows how to fight, but alone he's unprepared to navigate the corrupt streets of a foreign city to find his kidnapped daughter. Together, these two try to stop a network of criminals that prey upon the innocent. U.F.O. (2012) is a British science fiction film about an alien invasion where he had a supporting role. It was written and directed by independent British filmmaker Dominic Burns, and co-stars stars Bianca Bree, Sean Brosnan and Simon Phillips.
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".
In 2013, he played the main villain in Enemies Closer an American action thriller film directed and photographed by Peter Hyams, and starring, Tom Everett Scott and Orlando Jones. It is Hyams' third directorial collaboration with Van Damme, following 1994's Timecop and 1995's Sudden Death.
On 13 November 2013, Volvo Trucks released an advertisement on YouTube that shows Van Damme doing the splits while perched with each of his feet on the outer rearview mirrors of one semi-trailer truck and one box truck moving backwards, which Van Damme describes in the commercial as "the most epic of splits". The video quickly went viral around the web, receiving more than 11 million views in three days, 35 million in the first week. It was dubbed as the epic split.
Swelter is a 2014 American action film where he plays one of the leads. It stars Lennie James, and co-stars Grant Bowler, Josh Henderson, and Alfred Molina. James plays a sheriff in a small town who has a dark past that he can not remember, only to have to confront it when his ex-partners show up looking for stolen money they believe he has.
Pound of Flesh (2015) he starred in the action thriller film directed by Ernie Barbarash. Co-starring Darren Shahlavi, Aki Aleong, John Ralston, Jason Tobin and Philippe Joly. The story takes place in Manilla, Philippines, to donate his kidney to his dying niece, Deacon, a former black-ops agent, awakes the day before the operation to find he is the latest victim of organ theft. Stitched up and pissed-off, Deacon descends from his opulent hotel in search of his stolen kidney and carves a blood-soaked path through the darkest corners of the city - brothels, fight clubs, back-alley black markets, and elite billionaire estates.
He returned to his voice role of Master Croc in the Kung Fu Panda franchise for the third installment. Many of the same cast returned as well as new ones such as Bryan Cranston, J. K. Simmons and Kate Hudson.
Kickboxer: Vengeance is a 2016 American martial arts film directed by John Stockwell. It is a reboot of the original where Van Damme was the lead. Only this time he plays the master and Alain Moussi plays the students on quest to avenge his brother. It co-stars Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, Georges St-Pierre and Darren Shahlavi.
In 2018 he returned to his role in Kickboxer: Retaliation a sequel to the reboot. Many of the same cast returned as well as new ones such as Christopher Lambert, Ronaldinho, Mike Tyson and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. The film received positive reviews.
Black Water (2018) is an action thriller film directed by Pasha Patriki. It co-stars and Dolph Lundgren in the fifth collaboration between both actors  as well as the first time they appear together as on-screen allies.
In August 22 of that same year he starred in Julien Leclercq' The Bouncer. He plays Lukas antihero, struggling through life to nurture his eight-year-old daughter, and working in nightclubs as a doorkeeper to provide his income. When he gets involved in a fight, he ends up in jail, while his daughter gets placed under the care of social services. He is then asked by the police to infiltrate a criminal organization. In return, he would regain custody of his daughter.
Van Damme was the first choice to play the Predator (film), but after few days shot, he left the film then it eventually went to Kevin Peter Hall. After the film was a success, Van Damme appreciated the movie and said that he has no regrets about this movie
In 2012, a statue of the actor was unveiled in Anderlecht, Belgium. The artwork, which depicts a younger incarnation of the Muscles from Brussels in a fighting pose, was commissioned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Westland Shopping complex. The unveiling took place on Boulevard Sylvain Dupuis and was attended by Van Damme, his parents, Wallonia-Brussels culture minister Fadila Laanan and nearly 2,000 fans. Van Damme said the statue "represented the dream of a Brussels kid" and was "for all the children who want something bad", adding that "if you believe in something strongly enough, it can come true".
In 1997, Frank Dux, the martial artist whom Van Damme portrayed in Bloodsport, filed a lawsuit against Van Damme for $50,000 for co-writing and consultation work Dux did on the 1996 film The Quest. According to the lawsuit, Dux also accused Van Damme of lying to the public about his martial arts fight record, stating that when Dux tutored Van Damme while Van Damme was laying carpet for a living, Van Damme exhibited a lack of martial arts skills. Van Damme's lawyer, Martin Singer, responded, "There are records to document his martial arts acclaim. Why, just look at his movies; he didn't get those roles on his acting ability! He's the one who does those splits on chairs. He doesn't have a stuntman to do that."
In October 2011, Van Damme, along with other celebrities including Hilary Swank, Vanessa-Mae and Seal attracted criticism from human rights groups for attending an event in Russian federal subject Chechnya's capital Grozny on the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov on 5 October. Human rights groups, who had urged the celebrities to cancel their appearances because of abuses carried out under Kadyrov, criticised the celebrities for attending the event. Human Rights Watch released a statement which said, "Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses. It's inappropriate for stars to get paid to party with him [...] And getting paid to be part of such a lavish show in Chechnya trivializes the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses there."
Public image and influence
In the French-speaking world, Van Damme is well known for the picturesque aphorisms that he delivers on a wide range of topics (personal well-being, the environment, etc.) in a sort of Zen franglais.
The original video game Mortal Kombat was conceived as a fighting game based on Van Damme. Creators Ed Boon and John Tobias had originally wanted to star Van Damme himself in the game. That fell through as he had a prior deal for another game under the auspices of the Sega Genesis platform. Ed Boon and John Tobias eventually decided to create a different character for the game named Johnny Cage, who is modelled after Jean-Claude van Damme, primarily from Van Damme's appearance and outfit in the martial arts film Bloodsport. In the German version of Donkey Kong 64 website, DK greatest hero is Jean-Claude van Kong.
In January 2017, Van Damme featured in an Ultra Tune television advert which was part of a controversial series of ads. Two women were confronted in a car park by a gang of youths in a threatening manner, Van Damme appears to defend them and then the mood lightens and they take pictures with the star.
By the mid-1990s, the stress of the constant filming and promotion of his films, as Van Damme explains, led him to develop a cocaine habit, on which he spent up to $10,000 a week, and consuming up to 10 grams per day by 1996. He was arrested for driving under the influence in 1999. Attempts at drug rehabilitation were unsuccessful, and he resorted to resolve his addiction via quitting cold turkey and exercise. In 1998, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 2011, he discussed the condition on the British reality show Behind Closed Doors, saying, "Sometimes you're gonna like me, and sometimes you're gonna hate me. But what can I do? I'm not perfect ... I'm an extreme bipolar, and I'm taking medication for this ... When I was young, I was suffering those swing moods. In the morning, the sky was blue [when I was] going to school, and to me, the sky was black. I was so sad."
Van Damme has been married five times to four different women. He was married to his third wife, bodybuilder Gladys Portugues - with whom he has two children: Kristopher (born 1987) and Bianca Brigitte (born 1990) - until 1992, when he began an affair with actress Darcy LaPier, whom he married in February 1994. From this marriage, they had a son named Nicholas (born October 10, 1995). That same year he had an affair with his Street Fighter co-star Kylie Minogue during filming of that movie in Thailand. LaPier, who was pregnant at the time with their son, did not become aware of this until Van Damme publicly admitted it in 2012. After leaving LaPier, Van Damme remarried Portugues in 1999.