Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenburg, aka Jean Claude Van Damme, (1960-) is a Belgian action film
star nicknamed the "Muscles from Brussels
". He has starred in such films as Bloodsport
, and Universal Soldier
. Van Damme has had four wives, Maria Mellie Abastidas Rodriguez , Cynthia Derderian, Darcy LaPier and Gladys Portugues(twice and current
).He has three children, Kristopher, Bianca, and Nicolas. He has claimed to have been a European middleweight karate
champion, but has no hard evidence
of it. Champ or not, Van Damme's martial arts
performances on the silver screen
Van Damme was born on October 18, 1960 in Sint-Agatha Berchem, Belgium. He was a very strange, unpopular child. He was skinny and short. Although he never became tall (he stands 5'8"), his physical build has changed and has been the primary reason for his success in life.
In 1981, Van Damme came to America to make it big in the movie business. He tried to impress producers with his fake credentials as the European Middleweight karate champion, but could not land an American movie role. He spent the next three years in various menial jobs before 1984's comedy Monaco Forever. He played a minor role in that movie, listed in the credits as "Gay Karate Man". This provided a springboard for other beginning roles, including a starring role as Frank Dux in Bloodsport in 1988. Unfortunately, Van Damme also gained a reputation for being a bad actor; to this day Van Damme has not taken on any non-action roles in order to disprove his critics. His stunning martial arts abilities are enough for the roles he takes on.
Van Damme continued expanding his career with starring roles in Kickboxer, Universal Soldier, and Timecop. As he became more popular, people began to question his championship title. No record of his championship could be found, and Van Damme was caught in a lie. He and his lawyer tried to save face by pointing out that Van Damme did his own stunt work. This much was true. Van Damme has gained a somewhat notorious reputation for being very obsessed with his fighting scenes, to the point of severely injuring the actors he works with.
Van Damme has also tried his hand at writing, producing, and even directing. These efforts have been significantly less successful than his acting career. Van Damme was a writer and producer for 1991's Double Impact, a movie in which he played the roles of two twins.
Van Damme has had problems with substance abuse. In 1996, he made news of his cocaine addiction public and checked into a rehabilitation program which he would leave early. He again announced that he had a cocaine problem two years later. Van Damme was also arrested for DUI in 1999. It's believed that stresses from his movie career, as well as his four divorces, are what pushed him to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Though Van Damme may not actually be a martial arts champ, he performs well enough in movies to make a successful career out of it. It can be said with confidence that Van Damme will continue to star in high-grossing action films for years to come.