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Birth Name: Jean-Claude Van Varenberg
Birthdate: October 18, 1960
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Occupations: Actor, Director, Writer, Model, Producer
Quote: "I am the Fred Astaire of karate." --Los Angeles Times, August 20, 1991

Claim to Fame: High-intensity action movies

Significant Other(s):
Wife: Maria Rodriguez; first wife; Venezuelan; born 1954; separated 1981 when Van Damme moved to the US
Wife: Cynthia Derdian; married for one year in 1985; met while he was working in her father's carpet store
Wife: Gladys Portugues, bodybuilder; married 1986; separated July 1992; divorced; reconciled after his separation from La Pier; remarried Van Damme June 1999
Wife: Darcy La Pier, model; born 1965; Hawaiian Tropic beauty-contest winner representing the state of Oregon in 1985; previously married to Hawaiian Tropic mogul Ron Rice in a highly publicized lavish wedding while still married to a man in Portland, Oregon; married Van Damme February 3, 1994; filed for divorce June 7, 1996; reconciled; filed again for divorce December 19, 1996; reconciled a second time; filed divorce petition again in November 1997, alleging Van Damme physically abused her and was addicted to drugs

Father: Eugene Van Varenberg, florist
Mother: Eliana Van Varenberg
Sibling: Has one, older
Son: Kristopher Van Damme, born 1987; mother, Gladys Portugues
Daughter: Bianca Van Damme, born October 1990; mother, Gladys Portugues
Son: Nicholas Van Damme; born October 10, 1995; mother, Darcy LaPier


Won the European Professional Karate Association's middleweight championship in his late teens

His fight scenes are so intense that he won't film them in the U.S. for fear of being sued

Dropped out of school at age 16
Karate with Dominique Valera
Ballet for five years after taking karate


Jean-Claude Van Damme, also known as "The muscles from Brussels", 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, 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 and moved to the United States in search of movie stardom.

The move wasn't immediately successful. He took English classes while working as carpet layer, limo driver, and thanks to Chuck Norris he got a job as a bouncer at a club. Chuck Norris also gave Van Damme a small role in the movie "Missing in Action", but it wasn't good enough to get anybody's attention. Then in 1984 he got a role as a villian named Ivan in the low-budget movie "No Retreat, No Surrender". 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. His realistic fight sequences in such cult favorites as "Bloodsport" and "Kickboxer" became legendary, and Van Damme was headed for mainstream features.

He is one of those incredible success stories that conjures intense images of the underdog overcoming impossible odds and improbable circumstances in order to live out his dream. Van Damme moved to the USA in 1981, didn't speak English, didn't know anyone,and only had 2,000 dollars to his name, which he lived on for almost 5 yrs. In that time he was searching everywhere and everyone for a role in a movie. Then one day, while walking on the streets, he spotted a producer for Cannon Pictures, and showed some of his abilities to him. The next day Van Damme went to the producer's office and he gave Jean-Claude the leading role in "Bloodsport". But when it was completed it was so bad they shelved it for almost two years. It might have never been released had not Van Damme helped recut 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 U.S 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. After the success of "Bloodsport", Van Damme went on to make a list of hit movies, and who would have thought he would later end up on drugs.

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 1998 Van Damme realised 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 tryed 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 gave his fans what they wanted to see, his acting in those movies got better and each movie was action packed.

Jean-Claude lives with his wife and three children, has made over a dozen hit movies, and his name is known around the world.

But what made Jean-Claude Van Damme a candidate for superstardom? The 5-foot-11,180 pound actor/martial artist has it all. He's muscular; charismatic on screen, charming off screen: skilled martial artist; intelligent, speaks English, French, German, and Spanish, has a great family and he's not just an actor but a artist.

Bio written by Damian Grajeda © 2001 (used without permission from