The name Jean-Claude Van Damme immediately brings to mind a martial arts legend, but there’s more to the “Muscles from Brussels” behind the scenes. Professionally known as Jean-Claude Van Damme, but born Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg in Brussels, Belgium on October 18, 1960 to Eliana and Eugene Van Varenberg, his story begins.
Martial arts training began at the age of ten when his father enrolled him at the Shotokan Karate School, and at age eleven he joined the Centre National De Karate in Belgium. Under the guidance of Claude Goetz, Van Damme trained for 4 years, landing a spot on the Belgium Karate Team. His training for full contact karate and kickboxing under Dominique Valera started his competitive career in 1976 in Ingelmunster, Belgium, where he was a member of the Belgium team winning the European Championship on December 26, 1979, in Brussels.
Moving to America in 1982 hoping to be an action star, he was cast as an extra in the film Breakdance:The Movie in 1984. Several small parts in a miniseries War and Remembrance, the movies Missing in Action and No Retreat,No Surrender followed before his box office hit Bloodsport in 1988. Films Cyborg and Kickboxer were released in 1989, but the film Universal Soldier in 1992 was a hit, grossing over 65 million in the U.S. and overseas, the highest grossing film at that time. Nowhere to Run and Hard Target preceded his 1994 release of Timecop, grossing over 100 million worldwide, making it his highest grossing film in a lead role to date.
Along with his movie career, Jean-Claude Van Damme married 5 times and divorced 4 while fathering 3 children. Kristopher, his son, and daughter Bianca with third wife Gladys Portugues, and a son Nicholas with his fourth wife Darcy LaPier. His first marriage to Maria Rodriguez ended when he moved to the United States, and his second marriage to Cynthia Derderian lasted only a year. Van Damme remarried his third wife, Gladys, in 1999.
Through it all, his net worth is a whopping 10 million dollars to date.