Jean Claude Van Damme (born October 18, 1960)
Calling himself the "Fred Astaire of karate," Jean Claude Van Damme thrills his film audiences with his ability to deliver a kick to an opponent's head during a leaping, 360-degree turn. It is said that his fight scenes are so intense that he won't film them in the U.S. for fear of being sued.
Having dropped out of school at the age of 16 to concentrate on his karate, he won the European Professional Karate Association's middleweight championship when he was in his late teens. He received his black belt in Shotokan karate from Claude Goets in 1978 and briefly studied kickboxing in Paris with French karate king Dominique Valera. He won numerous tournament championships on the European karate circuit. Van Damme went on to study classical ballet for five years, and eventually put the combination of his athletic abilities to work in the martial arts action films for which he is famous.
Van Damme works as an actor, director, writer, model, and producer, making such films as: Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Double Impact, Universal Soldier, Nowhere to Run, Timecop, Maximum Risk, Legionnaire, The Order, and Derailed.
Born Jean Claude Camille François Van Varenberg on October 18, 1960, in Flanders, Belgium, and raised in Brussels, Van Damme came to the US in 1981, with no English and no friends. He worked as a chauffeur, a carpet layer, a pizza deliverer, a trainer, and a bouncer, before he finally started to find roles in very low-budget films. He finally got his break when he made Bloodsport, a film shot in Hong Kong on a meager $1.5 million budget, which was so bad that he finally helped to recut it himself, and begged producers to release it. When they did, it became the US box office hit of that summer, and Van Damme was a star.
Van Damme has been married four times, and has three children. He has his own production company, Long Road Productions (also known as 777 Films Corp).