"I love challenges. If you don't have any and can do whatever you want, then it's probably time to die."
Jean-Claude Van Damme (born Jean-Claude Camille
François Van Varenberg) is a Belgian martial artist, best known for his Action Hero
films. Nicknamed "The Muscles from Brussels," he was a hot darling during the advent of 80s and early 90's Summer Blockbuster
action films, before Jackie Chan
and Jet Li
took center stage in America.
Before venturing into films, he had a career in the martial arts competitions. He also did some bodybuilding and studied ballet for five years.
Starting with couple minor roles in Breakin
', Monaco Forever
and Street of the Damned
, his first major role in movies was Ivan, the champion of the villains in No Retreat No Surrender
. He later found his Star-Making Role
, which highlighted his legitimate martial arts skills along with his flexibility (a man being able to do full leg splits is fairly rare). Reputedly had a feud with Steven Seagal
, which came to a head when Seagal (falsely) claimed Van Damme had lied about his achievements in martial arts. According to Sylvester Stallone
, this came to a head at a party at his Miami home in 1997, when Van Damme offered to fight Seagal, who fled to a nightclub.
His early films tended to recycle certain plot elements, like his character unknowingly having a twin brother or attending a martial arts competition for the sake of a fallen friend.
Tropes applicable to the man:
- Adam Westing:
- Amicable Exes: He and his ex-wife remain close best friends, and he has promised that if she ever needs him, he'll be there to protect her. Aww...
- Badass Grandpa: Fifty-three years young and still capable of pulling off something like this
- Captain Ersatz: Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat games is modeled after him.
- The Cast Showoff: His early films featured him doing the full leg split at least once.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander
- Cunning Linguist: In addition to French and English, he also speaks German and Spanish.
- Dumb Muscle: How popular media likes to stereotype him as.
- Embarrassing Nick Name: Reportedly does not like being called "The Muscles from Brussels."
- Extremity Extremist: His fighting style is usually focused on kicks.
- Fake Nationality: As usual with the foreign action stars. Most famously in Street Fighter.
- Gender Bender Middle Name: Camille is a unisex name in the French language, although it does tend to be more frequently used on men in somewhat traditional social circles. He himself finds it feels "old-fashioned, like the smell of a piece of Provence furniture."
- Gratuitous English: Particularly prone to this trope in his French-language interviews due to his propensity to codeswitching, which only compounds his Cloud Cuckoolander reputation among the guys who primarily know him as "that funny Belgian who delivers IceCreamKoans in Frenglish". Most famously, using the word "aware" to convey the idea of self-awareness (maybe).
"Tu regardes à l'intérieur de toi et tu deviensnote aware of your own body!"
"Manger des cacahuètesnote , it's a really strong feeling."
"J'ai perdu le touch, j'avais plus le feeling de la vie... [...]La drogue, c'est comme quand tu close your eyes et que tu traverses la rue..."note
- Mr. Fanservice: Guaranteed to show off his perfect ass in most films he stars in.
- Of his own admission, he may be perfectly comfortable with showing off his ass but full frontal is a whole different story, quote, "I wouldn't want to lose all my fans."
- Nice Guy: By all accounts in Real Life, apparently.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
- Shirtless Scene: Nearly every movie features him at least shirtless a minimum of once. Several movies have shown him completely nude. It helps that he has a very nice body.
- What Could Have Been:
- He was originally set to portray the first Predator, when the original intention with the character was supposed to be quick and ninja-like. He was not very happy with the working conditions (hot suit in hot conditions) and the fact his face would never been seen led him to leave and be recast.
- He was offered a role in the first The Expendables, but he refused.
- After seeing the film he regretted the decision, so he appeared in the second one.
- He was also considered to play Gambit in the first X-Men film, the main villain of Rush Hour 3 and Michael Ceritto in Heat.
Van Damme's partial filmography:
- Bloodsport (1988) — As Frank Dux, who is compelled to enter an underground fighting tournament after the death of his sensei.
- Kickboxer (1989) - As Kurt Sloane, who seeks revenge against a brutal kickboxer who paralyzed his brother from the waist down.
- Cyborg (1989) — Jean-Claude Van Damme being awesome on a post-apocalyptic future. One of director Albert Pyun's most commercially successful films.
- Lionheart (1990) — As Lyon, who enters American underground fighting circuit after the death of his brother to help his family.
- Death Warrant (1990) — As Louis Burke, a homicide cop sent to prison undercover to investigate a series of murders. Seen today, the film has quite a lot of Narm Charm
- Double Impact (1991) — Van Damme's characters find out that they are twin brothers and must avenge the death of their parents.
- Universal Soldier (1992) — He is pitted against Dolph Lundgren. And it's awesome.
- Hard Target (1993) — Jean-Claude is the Most Dangerous game for the villains. Oh and it's directed by John Woo.
- Street Fighter (1994) — As Guile. Casting a man with thick Belgian accent as a very American character is only one of the film's So Bad, It's Good highlights.
- Time Cop (1994) — Van Damme's most commercially successful film.
- Sudden Death (1995) — Die Hard in a hockey stadium, notable for being filmed almost entirely within the Mellon Center (with the building's huge retractable dome used as part of a plot point), as well as being the debut of the Pittsburgh Penguins' mascot, Iceburgh.
- The Quest (1996) — He also directed it. The movie wasn't a hit and didn't get very good reviews but it was praised for featuring actual martial artists and (more or less realistic) fighting styles across the world.
- Maximum Risk (1996) — Van Damme's character finds out that he had a twin brother and must avenge his death.
- Double Team (1997) — An anti-terrorist agent must un-retire to stop a terrorist alongside Dennis Rodman.
- Universal Soldier The Return (1999) — Van Damme is once again Deveraux, who oversees an updated UniSol project that inevitably goes haywire.
- Desert Heat (1999) — An ex-soldier off to visit a friend gets shot by bad guys and his bike stolen. Son of a bitch must pay.
- In Hell (2003) — An American gets sent to a Russian prison for killing his wife's murderer. Directed by Hong Kong director Ringo Lam, it's one of the few films where Van Damme's fight scenes are few but also actually quite realistic.
- Wake Of Death (2004) — An ex-cop takes on the Triads after his wife is brutally murdered.
- Second In Command (2006) — A Navy SEAL commander battles communist insurgents in Moldova.
- Until Death (2007) — A drug-addicted cop falls into a coma after a gunfight and upon his recovery decides to use his second chance at life. A nice departure from Van Damme's usual Action Hero roles.
- JCVD (2007) — A self deprecating parody. His most critically praised film.
- Universal Soldier Regeneration (2009)
- Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) — He is the voice of Master Croc. Feel free to explode if you want to. Master Croc does a split kick, naturally.
- Universal Soldier Day Of Reckoning (2012)
- The Expendables 2 (2012) — Of course. He's playing the villain, in a departure from the norm.