Jean-Claude Van Damme is a famous Belgian personality with a strong character best known for his martial arts action movies. Today, at 60 years old, he is still making headlines.
1. The way towards success
Jean-Claude Van Damme started his career as a bodybuilder and then became a worldwide acclaimed actor. When he was a child, he started practicing karate and gained his black belt. Later on, he started lifting weights and earned the title of Mr Belgium bodybuilding. In 1982, he moved to the United States, where he met Chuck Norris and Lou Ferrigno and started playing a few small cinema roles. He won his first major role in the movie “No Retreat, No Surrender,” in which he played the role of the villain Ivan the Russian. In that same period, the actor changed his name from Jean-Claude Van Varenberg to Jean-Claude Van Damme. A few months later, his career skyrocketed when he met the movie producer Menahem Golan, who cast him in Bloodsport, a martial arts action moviethat became an international success.
During the 1990s, Van Damme appeared in several American movies, such as Cyborg by Albert Pyun, Kickboxer by Mark DiSalle, and Lionheart by Sheldon Lettich. In 2010, the actor was presented with the medal of Knight of the Order of the Crown by Fadila Laanan, the Belgian Minister of Culture of the French Community. In October 2012, Van Damme unveiled his life-size bronze statue in Anderlecht.
2. A statue in Azerbaijan
But this is not the only statue of the Belgian action hero. Even in a village in Azerbaijan, there is a statue in his honor. The statue stands in the village of Vandam and was designed by Azad Aliyev, who depicted Van Damme doing the splits in across two tree stumps. The reason why Azerbaijan hosts a statue of the Belgian actor is not clear. According to a post by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Belgium, it was inspired by the village name “Vandam,” which sounds like the actor’s last name.
3. Some more facts about him
- Van Damme joined the Centre National De Karate when he was just 12 years old and gained his black belt when he was 18 years old.
- From the age of 16, he also started practicing ballet (yes, ballet!), an art which gave him balance, discipline, and flexibility.
- His first job as an actor was an extra part for the 1984 hip hop dance movie “Breakin’” where he can be seen dancing in the background of a dance scene.
- He has been married five times to four different women. His current wife, who he has married twice is Gladys Portugues, a former bodybuilder.
- In 1988, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started taking medication.
- He has lost only one single kickboxing match in his life.