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Jean-Claude Van Damme Turns 60

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At least for the past three decades, it has been a must to have a video cassette, DVD or clips of an action movie and definitely one or several by Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The Jean-Claude Van Damme in movies is a man that conducts nearly impossible missions ranging from rescue, combat, and man to man tangles. His action packed movies are a great entertainment in homes and several video shacks around the third world.

Jean-Claude Van Damme turns 60 years old today on October 18.

Who is Jean-Claude Van Damme?

His professional kickboxing record was 18-1 with 18 KOs.

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 Walloon (French-speaking) from Brussels, and his mother is Flemish (Dutch-speaking). Van Damme’s paternal grandmother was Jewish.

He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shotokan karate school. His styles consist of Shotokan 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.

 

Martial arts career

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; later training in full-contact karate and kickboxing with Dominique Valera.

Semi-contact karate career

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 was a member of the Belgium Karate Team when it won the European Karate Championship on 26 December 1979 at La Coupe Francois Persoons Karate Tournament in Brussels.

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 fellow teammate Angelo Spataro.

1980 Forest National match

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.

Kickboxing and full-contact karate career

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 even 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.

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 Jean Claude Van Damme: 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.

 

In 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend Michel Qissi moved to the United States in the hope of becoming action stars. They were both cast as extras in the film, Breakin’. Van Damme also had a non-speaking part as a Secret Service agent who carries a polio-crippled President Franklin Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy) out of a pool in the 1988 TV miniseries War and Remembrance. After a small part in Missing In Action, Van Damme was next cast in the film No Retreat, No Surrender, as the role of the villain, Ivan the Russian. Van Damme worked for director John McTiernan for the 1987 film Predator as an early (eventually abandoned) version of the titular alien, before being removed and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.

Breakthrough and career in the 1990s

His breakout film was Bloodsport, based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux. Shot on a $1.5 million dollar budget, it became a U.S. box-office hit in the spring of 1988. He then starred in the smaller budgeted film Cyborg. His last role for 1989 was Kurt Sloane in the successful Kickboxer. In this film, his character fights to avenge his brother who has been paralyzed by a Thai kickboxing champion (Qissi). The following year he starred in the film Lionheart. The film is about a French Legionnaire who deserts his post to return to Los Angeles after his brother is murdered, and enters the underground fighting circuit to raise money for his brother’s family.

Double Impact 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. He then starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the action film Universal Soldier. While it grossed $36,299,898 in the U.S., it was an even bigger success overseas, making over $65 million, well over its modest $23 million budget, making it Van Damme’s highest-grossing film at the time. Van Damme followed Nowhere To Run and Hard Target with Timecop in 1994. In the film, Van Damme played a time-traveling cop, who tries to prevent the death of his wife. The film was a huge success, grossing over $100 million worldwide, and remains his highest-grossing film in a lead role to date. He starred in the poorly received Street Fighter that same year.

His further projects started to fail at the box office. Sudden Death (1995); The Quest (1996), which he directed; Maximum Risk (1996), Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) were box-office flops. The 1999 film Universal Soldier: The Return, also a box-office flop, was Van Damme’s last theatrically released film until 2008. In 2003, Van Damme employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar’s “Kiss My Eyes.”

2000s and return to theatrical films

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.” Van Damme indicated while promoting the film, he experienced a period of homelessness “sleeping on the street and starving in L.A.”

Van Damme reprised his role as Luc Deveraux in the 2009 film Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

The 2010s

He was offered a lead role in Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 film The Expendables. Stallone called Van Damme personally to offer him the role, but Van Damme turned it down. He scheduled a series of film projects for 2011, including another Universal Soldier movie. On 30 June 2011, Van Damme confirmed his participation in The Expendables 2, which was released on 17 August 2012. He voiced Master Croc in the 2011 animated film Kung Fu Panda 2 and reprised the role in Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016. That same year Van Damme 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. 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”.

Van Damme returned to the Universal Soldier series with Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, which again co-stars Dolph Lundgren. He starred in the thriller Enemies Closer, which reunited him with Timecop and Sudden Death director Peter Hyams. Van Damme indicated that Stallone might include him in The Expendables 3, in which Van Damme would play Claude Villain, the brother to his Expendables 2 character Jean Villain. The casting of Mel Gibson as the film’s villain, however, made this less than likely. Van Damme ended up not featuring in the film. In 2015 he features in a new situation comedy television series JC 1er which is set to broadcast on French television channel Canal+.

He appeared in the 2013 comedy Welcome To The Jungle directed by Rob Meltzer, in a role as a workplace team building trainer opposite Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Kristen Schaal, Megan Boone, and Dennis Haysbert.

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