What the Hell Happened to Jean-Claude Van Damme?
In the late 80s and early 90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme was part of a wave of martial artists turned movie stars. Movies like Van Damme’s break-out role, Bloodsport, were cheap, easy to make and usually provided a great return on investment. Van Damme in particular seemed poised to break out of low budget movies into legitimate movie stardom. But instead, the action movie craze subsided and Van Damme was cast aside along with the other action heroes of the time.
What the hell happened?
Van Damme was born in Belgium. His full name is Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg. His father was an accountant. At the age of 10, he enrolled in a Shotokan karate school. At the age of 15, Van Damme began a career in competitive martial arts. At the age of 17, he began competing in full-contact events which were new to Belgium.
At the age of 16, Van Damme took up ballet. Van Damme described ballet as an art form and an intense sport. “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.”
Ever the Renaissance Man, Van Damme also took up body building. During his body building career, Van Damme was dubbed “Mr. Belgium”. It’s unclear what exactly that title means. Although it sounds like an official body building title like Mr. Universe, there is no indication any one else has ever won it. Some have suggested that the Mr. Belgium moniker was more of an unofficial nickname made up for Van Damme than an actual title from a competition.
Van Damme competed in full-contact martial arts events from 1977-1982. During his career, he had a record of 18 victories (all by Knock Out) and 1 defeat. Only one opponent ever knocked Van Damme down in a match. Van Damme went on to knock that opponent out in less than a minute.
In 1984, Van Damme broke into movies. His first role was in the movie, Monaco Forever. Charles Pitt starred as an American jewel thief trying to set up a robbery in Monaco. Along the way, he encounters several characters including “Gay Karate Man” played by Van Damme:
Next: Breakin’ and Predator
Posted on January 12, 2014, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged bloodsport, cyborg, jean-claude van damme, kickboxer, predator, street fighter, The Expendables, Timecop, Universal Soldier. Bookmark the permalink. 101 Comments.