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BIOGRAPHY Jean Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme's life story has the perfect makings for a mid-afternoon soap opera. Growing up he was by all reports, a very awkward child. He was short, thin, wore glasses and was in the ballet. It's hard to believe that this nerdy little kid would grow into a martial arts super star who would sport the nick name "Muscles from Brussels". By the way, Jean-Claude Van Damme does not like his nickname.  "It's like I'm known as a shellfish", he once said.

On 18 October 1960  in Berchem-Sainte Agathe, Belgium, mister Eugene van Varenberg  and Eliana van Varenberg did get a son: Jean-Claude van Varenberg. (Later he changed his name into Van Damme . That name he borrowed from a friend to have a more 'power full' name when he moved to the US). Jean-Claude Van Damme was the 2nd of two children. He has an older sister.

Van Damme training in his young years Jean-Claude Van Damme can be called an actor, though it's more accurate to describe him as a bodybuilder and kickboxer. It evidently wasn't in the genes; Van Damme's father was an accountant and flower salesman. He started martial arts at the age of 11, his father introduced him to martial arts when he saw that Van Damme was physically weak. Jean-Claude started with Shotokan Karate. He later studied Kickboxing, Taekwon-Do, and Muay Thai. Van Damme won the European professional karate associations middleweight championship as a teenager(??), where he thrilled one and all with his 360-degree leap-kick. He also beat the 2nd best karate fighter in the world. Cashing in on his fame, the 18-year-old Van Damme launched the California Gym in Brussels. 

Jean-Claude Van Damme came to the United States in 1981. When he finally flew to L.A., he had $7,000 to his name and spoke only French and Flemish. His claims of being a European Champion were thoroughly researched and found to be false(??). Howard Hanson, President of the World Karate Association, only found evidence of Jean-Claude Van Damme competing in 1 amateur bout and writers from Black Belt Magazine have labeled him "a complete fraud." Though no proof of Van Damme's champion status was ever presented, Van Damme's lawyer, Martin Singer, made a public statement defending his client: "There are records to document his martial-arts acclaim. He's the one who does those splits on chairs. He doesn't have a stunt man do that.

"Upon arrival, Van Damme attempted to make it into the movies. Unfortunately, the movie business didn't welcome him with open arms and his first experiences of working in America were as a chauffeur, carpet layer, and pizza delivery driver.  Jean-Claud Van Damme cast in his first feature, the 1983 French film "Rue Barbere", he clashed with the director and either quit or was fired (depending on whose version one believes). 

Van Damme in action: No retreat, No surrender Thanks to Chuck Norris he got a job as a bouncer at a nightclub. Chuck Norris also gave Van Damme a small role as a gay hitchhiker in the movie "Missing in Action", but it wasn't good enough to get anybody's attention. 

Then in 1986 he got a role as a villain named Ivan in the low-budget movie "No Retreat, No Surrender".  These small roles fueled Van Damme's desire and he began signing movie deals with anyone who was willing. Though his popularity skyrocketed, Van Damme was locked into several low budget contracts.

After approaching Menahem Golana, producer for Cannon Pictures outside a Beverly Hills restaurant, Van Damme demonstrated his unique contribution to the martial arts genre: executing a karate kick to his opponent's head during an impressive 360-degree leap. Suitably impressed, the producer hired him for "Bloodsport". But when it was completed, "Bloodsport" was so bad they shelved it for almost two years. It might have never been released if not Van Damme helped re-cut the film and begged producers to release it. They released the film, and the miracle happened. "Bloodsport", shot in Hong Kong on a meager 1.5 million dollar budget, became a US box-office hit in the spring of 1988. It made about 30 million world and audiences supported this film for only one reason. Its star was sensational. Jean-Claude Van Damme, the skinny, goofy kid who loved classical music and dreamed of movie stardom, had made it. This helped Van Damme ; to partially achieve his goal to become a movie star.

Jean-Claude Van Damme estimates that he earned an average of $70,000 per picture for his first seven leading roles, a collection of films that starts with "Bloodsport" and moves on through "Black Eagle," "Cyborg," "Kickboxer," "Death Warrant," "Lionheart" and "Double Impact." It wasn't until "Universal Soldier" in 1992, that he would receive his first real Hollywood paycheck for $1 million. From then on, he made no less than $3 million per picture, peaking at $6.2 million with "Street Fighter."

Unlike the other contemporary popular action heroes, Van Damme projected a softer character. He was not as invincible as Schwarzenegger nor as unrefined as Stallone. Also, his impressive physicality (in nearly every Van Damme film, he executes a masterful split) set him apart. Yet, he was not as mainstream as the others. There is a finite fan base for a Van Damme film and while some of his movies have been money-makers, none have achieved blockbuster status in the USA. On the other hand, worldwide his appeal is unchallenged.

Van Damme in KickboxerVan Damme's vehicles in the late 1980s and early 90s were fairly formulaic, requiring him to speak little, display as much of his muscular physique as possible and kick butt. At the same time, the actor was shouldering more and more responsibilities, moving into second unit work and providing storylines (Kickboxer, 1988) and later producing (Double Impact, 1991) and even directing (The Quest, 1996). Although savvy enough to ally himself with Hong Kong masters, like John Woo (Hard Target, 1993), Ringo Lam (Maximum Risk, 1996) and Tsui Hark (Double Team, 1997 and Knock Off 1998), the results have been minor entries in the directors' filmographies.

Van Damme is a self-promoter. He has often given startlingly candid interviews, often timed to the release of new films. His personal life has elements of a soap opera played on a very public stage. 

Jean ClaudeJean-Claude Van Damme has been married  five times and divorced four. His first wife was Maria Rodriguez from Venezuelan. She was born in born 1954 and they separated in 1981 when Van Damme moved to the US. 

The second wife was  Cynthia Derdian. Jean-Claude Van Damme married her for one year in 1985. He met her while he was working in her father's carpet store. 

Number three was Gladys Portugues. Married her in 1986. She was a bodybuilder. They separated in July 1992. 

On 3  February 1994 Van Damme married for the fourth time, now with  Darcy La Pier. She worked as a model and was born in 1965. She won the Hawaiian Tropic beauty-contest, representing the state of Oregon in 1985.  
Though Van Damme often refers to himself as a loving and devoted husband, Darcy LaPier filed for divorce, claiming the "Muscles from Brussels" terrorized her and their son, Nicholas. She also stated instances of mood swings and physical abuse, which she attributed to his cocaine addiction. Among LaPier's other claims: Van Damme threatened to kidnap their son and leave the United States; he threatened to kill one of her lawyers; and he once assaulted her so badly that she needed to go to the hospital. In Sun Valley, Idaho, LaPier called 911 after an argument with him. No charges were filed. In 1996 their divorce was finalized and a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge granted LaPier custody of their son and Jean ClaudeJean-Claude Van Damme was ordered to pay $27,000 a month in child support and $85,000 a month in spousal support. It was one of the largest litigated child support awards ever handed. On the other hand, once in Bali, Van Damme claims, LaPier attacked him with an end table. Anyway. Darcy LaPier does not like Van Damme anymore. 

Van Damme's parents did not approve of LaPier. "We told him, marriage, don't do it," says his father. "Not a good woman for you," his mother warned him. Van Damme's mother, a vital, statuesque woman who used to run a flower shop in Brussels, is very positive about his son. " Jean-Claude Van Damme is a very family man ", she once said. Jean-Claude Van Damme visited the family in Europe as often as he could (his older sister, Veronique, owns a hair salon in Belgium) and flew them to his various movie sets around the world. 

The stress of Hollywood combined with his failed marriages has apparently taken a toll. After his 1995 movie "Sudden Death", Van Damme plummeted at the box-office. Every movie he made after 95' plugged and the stress lead Van Damme to cocaine. After 95' he was in the media but only because of his drug usage and other personal problems that he had. In 1996 Van Damme announced that he was battling a cocaine addition and admitted himself into a thirty-day substance-abuse program at the Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Los Angeles. He had only completed seven days of the program when he checked himself out. It would seem that the seven days of treatment weren't enough and in 1998 Van Damme announced that he had relapsed. 

In 1998 Van Damme realized that it was time to stop the drugs and problems and get control over his life once again. With help from his family he got control over his life, faced his problems and in 1998 he made the movie "Knockoff", although it wasn't a success, Van Damme still tried and filmed two straight to video movies "Desert Heat" and "Legionnaire", and although "Universal Soldier: The Return" went to theatres it too wasn't a success, but Jean-Claude Van Damme gave his fans what they wanted to see, his acting in those movies got better and each movie was action packed.

In 1999 Jean-Claude Van Damme remarried to Gladys Portugues. He has three children Kristopher (1987, mother Gladys Portugues), Bianca  (1990, mother Gladys Portugues) and and Nicholas (1995, mother Darcy Lapier). Also he filmed the movie "Desert Heat", which is also known as "Inferno".

Dammage7: Van Damme's clothing line. OK. Looks cool... In 2001 Jean-Claude Van Damme entered the fashion world with a line of eponymous denim clothing. "It's going to be a great business. It's a very special, unusual line and I'm proud of it." Van Damme said to a reporter. But till now we did not see to much 'great business'. For fans it's hard to find (or impossible?) to get any Van Damme clothing. Only Jean-Claude Van Damme himself wears cool jeans now and then. The clothing line is named Dammage7.  The website that was launched by the introduction is now disappeared...

Also in 2001 he'd made an unusual movie: The Replicant. Normally we always see the 'good guy' Van Damme , but in this flick he played the hard serial killer.  Van Damme hoped this movie was his great comeback. But in the United States, it did not screen in theatres. Van Damme : "It is a pity. But it was a choice of the producers. Simply, by deciding on this formula, they were certain of the money they would gain. I am very proud of this film". After Replicant he made "The Order" which was filmed in Israel. 


After the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, September 2001, Van Damme made a film with the with the topic terrorism. "Derailed" was filmed in Germany in the year 2002. Van Dammestars as a secret agent assigned to put a stop to the activities of a group of terrorists, who are on a train moving full-steam towards Berlin. Also his son Kristopher has in role in this movie. In 2003 followed "The Savage", and he had a role in a music video clip from Bob Sinclair, called "Kiss my eyes". In this clip he is dancing with a lady, and on their way they are accidental breaking windows, doors, statues and much more. At the end of the clip they figured out what a mess they made. Then Van Damme says: "a lot of Van Dammage"

Next projects to come are After Death, Cover Play. There are rumours for Streetfighter 2, Sudden Death 2 and much more. 

Who knows what will follow...



Sources:
 - Hollywood.com
 - IMDB.com
 - Allmovieportal.com
 - AmasMagazine.com
 - E! Online,
 - US Magazine, October 1998

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