Mullets, High Kicks And Loads Of Denim – A Celebration Of Jean-Claude Van Damme

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Mullets, High Kicks And Loads Of Denim – A Celebration Of Jean-Claude Van Damme

Today is Jean-Claude Van Damme's birthday, so it seems like as good a time as any to find out how he went from Belgian ballet dancer to action hero.

Van Damme's love of martial arts began when he was just 10 years old, when he took up Shotokan karate. As well as karate, kickboxing, muay Thai and taekwondo, Van Damme also spent five years studying ballet.

He enjoyed a successful career as a kickboxer, winning an impressive 18 of his 19 fights by knockouts - but soon the bright lights of Los Angeles came calling and Van Damme moved to the US from his native Belgium in 1981 with dreams of becoming an action hero.

He was an extra in Breakin' and a TV mini-series called War and Remembrance, and he almost played the predator in Predator, before being replaced Kevin Peter Hall.


However, his big break came in 1988 with the movie Bloodsport, when Van Damme was 27. He spent the rest of the '80s and most of the '90s doing the splits for paparazzi and starring in other successful films such as Kickboxer, Cyborg, Timecop and Double Impact - where he played estranged twin brothers and it is definitely worth a watch for combined comedy value.

He also starred in the critically slated movie adaption of Street Fighter, alongside Kylie Minogue, with whom he had a short romance. But, whatever you do, don't ask him about this:


Despite having a few decent films under his belt, Van Damme fell victim to his own ego when he demanded $20million for a three-movie deal, like Jim Carrey. Van Damme told the Guardian: "I was fucked up, man. But you know, it was not about the money. I was making movie after movie, and in between movies I was doing promotion. I was tired. Everything I was touching was making money. Jim Carrey was being paid a fortune. And I wanted to play with the system. Like an idiot. Ridiculous."

By the end of the '90s, Van Damme had reportedly picked up a serious cocaine habit. The media reported he was on 10 grams a day, and worked his way through five marriages - two of which were to the same woman. As well as this, the work was drying up.

After his hard-partying lifestyle caught up with him, Van Damme tried rehab, which didn't work for him, and he was eventually diagnosed as bipolar. On giving up his cocaine habit, Van Damme said he went cold turkey and chose to sweat it out in the gym rather than give rehab another try. He's been clean ever since.

Thirteen years of straight-to-DVD action movies followed, before he made his return in JCVD, in which he plays a fictionalised version of himself. Now, if you haven't seen this film yet, then you really need to. After several years of critics going in on him for his acting skills, Van Damme received glowing reviews for his performance in JCVD, with Time magazine saying he was worthy of an Oscar and calling it the second best performance of the year. In case you're wondering, they chose Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight as their favourite.


Fast forward to 2010 and, naturally, Van Damme was offered a role in The Expendables, but he turned it down due to other filming commitments. He did however pop up in Expendables 2 and has appeared in both Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3. And, how could we forget those Coors commercials?

Credit: Coors

He's also come out with absolute pearls of wisdom in his years of interviews. I actually think he might be trolling us all. He's previously said: "Air is beautiful, yet you cannot see it. It's soft, yet you cannot touch it. Air is a little like my brain."


He has also said: "My wife is not my best sexual partner, but she's good with the housework." And then he has gone back to air again. He explained: "When I walk across my living room from my chimney to my window, it takes me 10 seconds, but for a bird it takes one second, and for oxygen zero seconds."

Happy birthday, JCVD

Featured image credit: PA

Topics: birthday

Claire Reid
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