The Meeting 1960 - 1972 A timid and apprehensive child
October 1960. This large European city is the capital of a kingdom of
10 million inhabitants, Belgium, enclosed between France, Germany and
Holland. That's the place where Jean-Claude Van Varenberg is born and
grows. He is timid and not very sure of him.
At school, the child is especially
motivated by drawing and sport, the studies do not interest him much.
He prefers to observe and read: the muscular heroes of comic strips
fascinate him, but they seem to him so inaccessible!
is twelve years old when his father takes him to Claude Goetz, graduate
trainer of karate. The courses of Goetz are effective but hard and
reserved to adults. The young teenager is not gifted, he is stiff and
apprehensive. But he wants to progress at all costs and his savage
determination does not escape to his trainer.
The Fights 1972 - 1980 A physique and a character forged by karate
The young van Varenberg suffers a lot; he gives up several times
but he feels an inexorable strength in him which binds him to his
future. Body-building for hours and hours, repeating jabs in the air
with weights in his hands, stretching and splits, endurance, karate
moves: training with Goetz is almost like ****!
At seventeen years, Jean-Claude has developed physically and has more self- esteem. Sensible
to classical music, he takes dancing lessons during four years, but
karate remains his main priority. He succeeds in controlling his fear
and takes part in many demanding fights. His opponents fear his speed
and the strength of his legs.
won the European in teams in 1979, Jean-Claude takes part in the World
Championship in Wako, Florida. Amazed by the USA, that he discovers for
the first time, our young karateka skips training. He gets defeated by
the Belgian Teugels who becomes Vice-Champion of the World.
A few months later, Jean-Claude takes his revenge and beats Teugels in
less then two minutes. A strenuous training, and a rage to win : the
young Van Varenberg will remember the lesson.
The Quest 1980 - 1987 Some failures but the will to believe in it
Attracted by America, Jean-Claude gets back to the USA in 79 and 80,
but in California this time. He decovers the famous "Gold Gym” and
meets the one who will become his first wife : Melly. Back in Belgium,
he decides to open a Bodybuilding gym in Brussels : the "California
Gym”. The bodybuilding gym is a big success. Jean-Claude trains for
hours, he muscles up naturally till he weights 99 kg and he lifts 166 kg
at the bench!
But his projects are elsewhere : the movies! How to get there? He
multiplies his contacts in Brussels, Paris, in vain. There is only one
way : the United States …. 1982 – The young Van Varenbergh finds himself
in Los Angeles, he doesn’t know a word of English, doesn’t have any
references… His name being quite hard to pronounce, Jean-Claude opts for
Van Damme. He works out very much, but he has to find work to survive :
cab driver, pizza deliveries, dance teacher, etc…
For four years, the young Belgian tries to meet producers and big actors
: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris. The latter gives him a
bit-part in "Missing in Action I”. Other little parts are offered to
him, as in "No Retreat No Surrender”. But Jean-Claude knows he can do
much better. He then decides to risk it all.
The Success 1987 - 1995 A new star is born
1986, Menahem Golan is one of the best-known producers in Hollywood.
Jean-Claude decides to force his way in, in his own personal style : as
Golan leaves a restaurant, Jean-Claude performs a lightning "mawashi”
inches from his face. Impressed, the producer
invites him to his office the next morning. Jean-Claude will have to
wait for six hours before being received and convincing Golan to take
him on. But he leaves dazzled : they have given him the scr1pt of a
movie! The Title : Bloodsport.
The budget for
Bloodsport is unfortunately quite limited and a couple of months later,
Golan, disapointed, wants to release the film in video. But Jean-Claude
doesn’t give up : he re-edits the movie himself and convinces his
producer to release the movie in the theatres, without any advertising.
becomes immediately a huge success in the whole world. Van Damme
imposes his impressive style of fighting, combining shotokan,
taek-won-do and kickboxing. Jean-Claude is entirely happy : he finally
is a real actor, and Gladys, his second wife, gives him a son : Kristopher.
movies follow each other quickly for the man called "The Muscles from
Brussels”. Black Eagle, a class B movie in which he takes a second role,
comes out in 1988, shortly before Bloodsport.
next year, Cyborg, another science fiction adventure and especially
Kickboxer, a spectacular action movie, make him take part in more and
more scenarios and finalize fighting choreographies.
Full Contact and Death Warrant (1990), Jean-Claude confirms his
charisma as actor, his physical qualities and his gifts as a scenarist..
Double Impact (1991) is a spectacular movie and a personal challenge for the star since he has to play twin brothers.
the impressive Universal Soldier (1992), Jean-Claude acts in two very
beautiful movies in 1993, Nowhere To Run and Hard Target, which show his
talents as dramatic actor. One year later, he comes out with Timecop,
Street fighter and Sudden Death!