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Born on Oct 18 1960, Jean-Claude Van Damme is the son of Eugene Van Varenberg and Eliana Van Varenberg. “The Muscles from Brussels” originally known as Jean-Claude Van Varenberg, started martial arts at the age of 11. His father Eugene Van Varenberg introduced him to martial arts when he saw his son was physically weak. Jean-Claude started with Shotokan Karate and later studied Kickboxing, Taekwon-Do, and Muay Thai. He won the European professional karate association’s middleweight championship as a teenager, and also beat the 2nd best karate fighter in the world. His goal was to be number one but got sidetracked when he left his hometown of Brussels.
He came to Hong Kong at the age of 19 for the first time and felt insured to do action movies in Hong Kong. So in 1981 Van Damme left Hong Kong and moved to Los Angeles, where he was trying for 5 years. He took English classes while working as carpet layer, pizza delivery man, limo driver, and thanks to Chuck Norris he got a job as a bouncer at a club. Norris gave Van Damme a small role in the movie Missing in Action (1984), but it wasn’t good enough to get anybody’s attention. Then in 1984 he got a role as a villain named Ivan in the low-budget movie No Retreat, No Surrender (1986).
Then one day, while walking on the streets, Jean-Claude spotted a producer for Cannon Pictures, and showed some of his martial arts abilities which led to a role in Bloodsport (1988). But the movie, filmed in Hong Kong, was so bad when it was completed, it was shelved for almost two years. It might have never been released if Van Damme did not help them to recut the film and begged producers to release it. They finally released the film, first in Malaysia and France and then into the U.S. Shot on a meager 1.5 million dollar budget, it became a U.S box-office hit in the spring of 1988. It made about 30 million worldwide and audiences supported this film for its new sensational action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.
His martial arts assets, highlighted by his ability to deliver a kick to an opponent’s head during a leaping 360-degree turn, and his good looks led to starring roles in higher budgeted movies like Cyborg (1989), Lionheart (1990), Double Impact (1991) and Universal Soldier (1992). In 1994, he scored with his big breakthrough $100 million worldwide hit Timecop (1994). But in the meantime, his personal life was coming apart. A divorce, followed by a new marriage, followed by another divorce.
It began to show up in his career when his projects began to tank at the box office – The Quest (1996), which he directed; Maximum Risk (1996) and Double Team (1997). The three films made less than $50 million combined.
In 1999 he remarried his ex-wife Gladys Portugues and restarted his lost career to attain new goals. With help from his family he faced his problems and made movies like Replicant (2001), Derailed (2002), and In Hell (2003) which did averagely in box office terms, but he tried to give his fans the best, his acting in those movies got better, more emotional and each movie was basically in different action tones.
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