- NAME: Jean-Claude Van Damme
- OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Martial Arts Expert
- BIRTH DATE: October 18, 1960 (Age: 53)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium
- AKA: Frank Cujo
- Full Name: Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg
- Nickname: "The Muscles from Brussels"
- AKA: Jean-Claude Van Damme
- ZODIAC SIGN: Libra
Best Known For
Belgium-born action-film star Jean-Claude Van Damme has showcased his patented splits and acrobatic kicks in such movies as Bloodsport.
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Jean-Claude Van Damme was born on October 18, 1960, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Belgium. A champion martial artist and bodybuilder as a teenager, he used his physical abilities to become the star of such American action flicks as Bloodsport (1988) and Double Impact (1991). Van Damme endured personal and professional difficulties beginning in the 1990s, but has since regained some of his star power.
Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg was born on October 18, 1960, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium. A skinny child, he began studying Shotokan karate at age 11, and also eagerly took to weightlifting and ballet. As a teenager, Van Damme won the middleweight championship of the European Professional Karate Association and was named "Mr. Belgium" in a bodybuilding competition.
Jean-Claude Van Damme opened a gym in Brussels and earned some modeling work, but he was enthralled with the idea of becoming a film star. After briefly attempting to break into the thriving martial-arts movie industry in Hong Kong, China, he moved to Los Angeles, California, in the early 1980s to pursue his Hollywood dreams.
Originally calling himself "Frank Cujo," Jean-Claude Van Damme received bit parts in feature films and worked as a cabdriver, waiter, aerobics instructor and nightclub bouncer as he tried to make a name for himself in Tinseltown. He was featured in the 1986 martial-arts flick No Retreat, No Surrender, but his big break came after he displayed his ability to perform a jumping, 360-degree "helicopter kick" to B-list producer Menahem Golan, who cast the unknown actor in Bloodsport (1988). The low-budget film grossed a surprising $35 million at the box office, and Van Damme followed with another successful starring role in Kickboxer the following year.
Over the following decade, Van Damme filled the big screen in such action flicks as Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Time Cop (1994), Sudden Death (1995) and Maximum Risk (1996), overcoming his limited acting chops with his acrobatic kicks and patented splits. He made his directorial debut with The Quest (1996), but Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) were flops, and by the start of the 2000s most of his movies landed in the straight-to-video bin.
In 2008, Van Damme resurfaced as a fictionalized version of himself in the part-satirical, part-confessional JCVD. His performance drew positive reviews and triggered something of a revival for the former action star, who went on to reprise a familiar role in Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010) and voice the character of Master Croc in Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). In 2012, Van Damme was back in his element as part of the veteran butt-kicking ensemble featured in Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables 2.
Van Damme became addicted to cocaine and sleeping pills while at the height of his stardom in the 1990s, and was arrested for DUI in 1999. He was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder during this period, though his condition improved after he began taking medication and got his personal life in order.
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Action movie stars are the heroes and heroines who get our adrenaline pumping. Early action stars include Douglas Fairbanks, the swashbuckling adventurer of the 1920s and '30s; John Wayne, the famous gunslinger of the 1940s and '50s; and Sean Connery, who played the debonair spy Bond—James Bond—in the 1960s. By the 1970s, however, a new maverick action star had hit the silver screen, with rogue cops played by Steve McQueen in Bullitt and Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, as well as the military mercenary Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). By the 1980s, action movies were literally exploding on screen, with big budgets and big stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard), leading to today's action-packed blockbusters. Here's a look at some of Hollywood's most famous action movie stars, who have kicked some major butt on the big screen.
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