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Jean Claude Van Damme Facts Only Superfans Know About The Muscles From Brussels

During the 1980s and '90s, it seemed no action film was complete without Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking butt and doing splits on camera. JCVD was in numerous successful action and sci-fi movies during his tumultuous career, but he has since faded into the direct-to-DVD bin. Thus, there are a lot of cool stories about the King of Kicks that people either don't know or have long forgotten. Such as ...

He was originally cast as The Predator

The titular alien in "Predator" was initially meant to be played by none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme. He obviously didn't and ended up leaving the film when he found out that he was little more than a stunt man, and couldn't do any of his martial arts in his epic battle against Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently, stalking and clicking are poor artistic substitutes.

At the time of his departure, the Predator looked very different from how we know it today, and there was no way JCVD could have performed any spectacular stunts while wearing the suit. As he explained it to The A.V. Club, "My feet were in the cast of the alien. My hands were in the forearms, my head was in the neck. I was moving everything with cables. It was a very unsecure, very dangerous type of outfit." His movement would have been very limited and impractical, not to mention the fact that the story just didn't call for cool Van Damme-y movement.

JCVD was hired less for his agility and the fluidity of his movement, and more to play a special effect. This just didn't sit well with the Muscles from Brussels, so he walked after only two days of production, which is a theme that has played heavily throughout his career.

He had an affair with Kylie Minogue

It happens all the time — two people get together to work on an incredibly terrible movie (1994's "Street Fighter") and end up having an affair. It happened to Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, so why not Kylie "Cammy" Minogue and Jean-Claude "Guile" Van Damme?

It wasn't confirmed for the longest time, and the rumor mill was rampant for nearly two decades on whether or not the two got frisky while on set in Thailand. Van Damme had been asked about it for the previous 18 years and even walked out of an interview once, sick of being asked about it so often. Finally, in 2014, after years of speculation, JCVD finally admitted to it in an interview with The Guardian: "Yes. OK. Yes, yes, yes. It happened. I was in Thailand, we had an affair."

He then made it clear it was 10/10, would affair again: "Sweet kiss, beautiful lovemaking. It would be abnormal not to have had an affair, she's so beautiful and she was there in front of me every day with a beautiful smile, simpatico, so charming. I knew Thailand very well, so I showed her my Thailand. She's a great lady." And you're a great orator of euphemisms, Jean.

The affair wouldn't have been such an issue had JCVD not been married at the time to his fourth wife, Darcy LaPier. It isn't likely that his affair with Minogue led to his divorce, though, since LaPier didn't find out about it until he admitted to it in his interview. "I was shocked he would talk to the press about this all these years later to gain some notoriety," she said. "I didn't know about it, I have had my feelings hurt and I feel betrayed." Jean-Claude Van Damn, son. That's cold.

He has been married five times

Despite not being great at the whole "faithful" thing, JCVD has been married a total of five times. From 1980-84, he was married to Maria Rodriguez, after two years of dating. He then married Cynthia Derderian in 1985, but the two divorced the following year after only three months together. His third wife, Gladys Portugues, married him in 1987, but the two divorced in 1992. They would later remarry in 1999 — after 15 years, she would again file for divorce from the action star (though they reconciled shortly thereafter). Plus, he was married to Darcy LaPier from 1994-1997.

Through all of these marriages, JCVD sired son Kristopher and daughter Bianca with Portugues, plus another son, Nicolas, while married to LaPier. Kristopher is now an action star who has worked on many of his father's projects under the name Kristopher Van Varenberg (JCVD's birth surname) as well as Kris Van Damme.

His daughter, Bianca, has followed in her father's footsteps even more than Kristopher and is not someone you would want to mess with. That's because ...

His daughter could kick his ass (and yours)

Bianca Van Damme is certainly not someone you would want to mess with. Though she may not look the part, with her brown locks and full, model-esque lips, she is an extremely capable martial artist. "I want to show little girls and little boys that you can be physical and feminine. That you can cross your legs at the dinner table and then kick ass in a nice, feminine way." Protip: don't let her use your 206 bones to prove her point.

Growing up, she hated martial arts and was forced into it at the age of 7 by her bodybuilder mother, in order to help with self-discipline. Her interests at the time lay more on the side of ballet and speed skating, but an injury forced her into another path. She embraced martial arts and worked alongside her father in 2008's "The Shepherd: Border Patrol." She went on to film six additional movies with her father and continued to hone her craft.

She started her road in Hollywood as Van Varenberg, to help distance herself from her famous father, but eventually settled on her namesake and is now billed as Bianca Van Damme. While she hasn't competed professionally like her father did before his movie career kicked off, she's been training in martial arts for nearly 20 years and is just as quick and agile as her dad, which presumably is a much bigger "everybody underestimates me" chip on her shoulder.

He was a successful martial artist (and ballerina) long before he became an actor

JCVD didn't just get off a bus in Los Angeles and find work in Hollywood, like so many people have tried to do. He was an active fighter for years before finally breaking into the film industry. His fight record stands at 18-1 in kickboxing, with all 18 wins attributed to knockout. In semi-slash-light contact fights, he holds 44 wins to 4 losses, so his skills in the ring are well-known.

Many have attributed his fighting style and graceful movement to his training in ballet. Yes, the Muscles from Brussels is a trained danseur (That's what a male ballerina is called — don't feel bad, we had to look it up too), but you probably shouldn't try mocking him for taking part in something most often associated with women — you wouldn't want to make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

He was the inspiration for Mortal Kombat and Johnny Cage

When Midway released its popular fighting game "Mortal Kombat" in 1992, few people realized that the game was initially intended to be an homage to none other than JCVD. Shortly after the success of "Universal Soldier," the producers approached Midway Games with the hopes of making a game based on the movie. Midway wasn't interested, but they did want to work with JCVD, so they worked out a deal with him to make a game more akin to his film Bloodsport. Unfortunately, the deal fell through, and they never finished working on the project.

They eventually turned their idea into "Mortal Kombat," and based the Johnny Cage character on Van Damme. JCVD and Johnny Cage share some similarities — their appearance is similar, as is their back story. Cage is a narcissistic Hollywood actor, not unlike the subject of this article, and his initials of J.C. mirror those of Mr. Van Damme as well. Obviously, since the licensing deal fell through, the character was modeled after another actor, leaving Johnny Cage more of an homage to the Muscles from Brussels, rather than a direct representation of him.

He burned a lot of bridges in Hollywood

Sometimes, we let our egos get the best of us — this can cause a lot of problems when trying to work well with others. A lot of actors have this problem when they experience a string of success, and JCVD is no exception. Fresh off the success of "Timecop," he was offered a three-picture deal worth $12 million per film. $36 million is certainly nothing to kick at, but JCVD felt his star power deserved the financial rewards of, say, Jim Carrey, who was commanding $20 million per film at the time. Problem is, when he mentioned this over the phone, they simply hung up on him. So ... that's a maybe?

Recalling that particular incident years later, he admitted, "I was completely f**ked up and I made a bad mistake and I was on the blacklist in Hollywood for years."

Even when he did take on a project, he was notoriously difficult to work with. Coming from the world of professional fighting, it was difficult at first for him to not make contact with his on-screen opponents. Twice, while filming "No Retreat, No Surrender," he knocked out his co-star, Peter Cunningham. He could also be something of a diva –  he left "Predator" after only two days and would get into arguments with producers and directors if he was supposed to lose a fight on camera.

There was even a rumor going around Hollywood that he refused Sylvester Stallone's offer to appear in "The Expendables" because he didn't want to lose a fight to Jet Li. JCVD denies this, indicating that he was hard at work editing a recent film, and that's why he wasn't able to make the film. He did end up appearing in the sequel, playing the bad guy, and he was actually happy to lose that fight.

He had a cocaine addiction that nearly killed him

One of JCVD's biggest problems once his career began to take a nosedive was due to the stuff he was snorting up his nose. He has admitted to having a 10-gram-per-day cocaine habit, which cost him around $10,000 a week. By 1999, he had racked up a DUI charge and even tried rehab, but left after only seven days. He eventually relapsed a few years later and continued his destructive habits.

During this time, JCVD made some rather horrible films and even did an unnecessary sequel to "Universal Soldier." Most of his work went direct to DVD, and few people ever saw them. Here's a fun challenge: See if you can name anything JCVD filmed between 1999 and 2008 without Googling. Probably you can't — he made 14 films during this time, and they were all bombs. These poor career choices earned him the nickname "Jean-Claude Van Desperate" — for Hollywood types, that's pretty clever.

It wasn't until he starred in his namesake film, "JCVD," in 2008 that he started to make a comeback. He had finally kicked his cocaine habit and was reflecting on his own life. The film was well-received and helped to bring him back into the Hollywood mainstream.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He was suicidal and diagnosed bipolar

JCVD's substance abuse problem has been linked to his bipolar disorder, which went undiagnosed for years. Before he was diagnosed, he would turn to training for help. "When I didn't train for a couple of days, I felt so low and nothing could make me happy." Except for drugs, unfortunately.

JCVD was finally diagnosed with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder in 1998, and he began to take sodium valproate — a mood-stabilizing drug — to help him with his condition. He's been very open about his disorder in interviews and was expressive while playing himself in "JCVD," where he exposed himself as a broken man.

Like others with this condition, he was even suicidal at one point, but was able to get the help he needed. As he put it, "I didn't have any reasons to live ... I was not excited about anything. Then you have to find back your self-esteem. And then, slowly, every piece of yourself becomes precious again ... It's not the drugs, it's a problem with yourself, which you have to cure." After he finally kicked his cocaine habit (cold turkey, at that), he started to move forward. This also helped him reconcile with his third wife (the one he remarried) and he's been dealing with his condition positively ever since.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

He's worth $40 million despite not being in a major blockbuster in over a decade

For most people who have five marriages under their belt, a major cocaine habit costing up to $10K a week, and a string of duds at the box office, that would all equal "broke." That's not the case for JCVD, who still has an estimated net worth of $40 million. While he hasn't made many great movies since his heyday in the '90s, he's continued to work constantly since that time. He has been off drugs for nearly two decades and has devoted much of his life to his career and getting back on top.

He no longer commands the $8 million per film salary he once did, only pulling an estimated $100,000 per movie. However, he tends to make several films a year, so he's still pulling in more money than most working-class Joes. Along with his $40 million net worth, he also has a house valued at just under $10 million, a separate home and gym valued at around $3.5 million, and a McLaren 375 P1s valued at $1.15 million.

Even with his celebrity status experiencing problems over the past 20+ years, JCVD has done very well for himself, and he continues to work hard at rebuilding his image, celebrity status, and name in Hollywood. Also, even without money or fame, he can still beat you senseless.

He's had a rough relationship with his youngest son

Van Damme doesn't have a perfect relationship with all his children, unfortunately. He had been estranged from his youngest, son, Nicholas, for years. Van Damme had an ugly divorce with Nicholas' mother, Darcy LaPier, who worked to keep father and son separate for years. But in the past few years, things were starting to look up — Van Damme's other two kids, Bianca and Kristopher, used Facebook to connect the star with his then-17-year-old son. Van Damme even took the time to get his son in his film, "Kickboxer: Retaliation." As Van Damme put it in an interview with tabloid The Sun, "The UFO spaceship took away the mother and kids and now we are all safe. Now everything is back together." Why would he say such a thing, even jokingly? Because you don't get kicked in the head for 40 years without tossing at least a little word salad.

Sadly, it appears the estrangement didn't do wonders for young Nicholas' psyche, because in September 2017, he was arrested for allegedly threatening his roommate with a knife. According to The Independent, this roommate says after police had arrived to investigate reports that Nicholas had punched an elevator, he held a knife to the roommate, angry that he let cops in the house. He's been charged with unlawful imprisonment, aggravated assault, and marijuana possession. Van damn, son.

His interviews can be unpredictable and confusing

Van Damme has interesting ways of speaking and thinking. This often pours over into his interviews and press conferences, where he tends to utter just the weirdest turns of phrase you've ever heard. Some choice nuggets (as compiled by BuzzFeed) include, "Air is beautiful, yet you cannot see it. It's soft, yet you cannot touch it. Air is a little like my brain," and "A cookie has no soul, it's just a cookie. But before it was milk and eggs. And in eggs, there's the potential for life." Sometimes, as he did with The Sun, he'll follow his off-the-wall up with, "Belgium jokes, I got ya." That way you know he doesn't really believe cookies are soulless.

That said, try not to ask him the same questions everyone else asks — he hates that, as he'd rather talk about how he gets non-sexual orgasms from walking on the beach. (Yes, he said that.) According to The Independent, he cut off a July 2016 press conference in Australia after reporters kept asking him questions he's sick of. He stormed out, saying, "Sorry guys, I cannot do this anymore. ... Those questions you've been asking me, they've been asking me ... for the last 25 years: Kylie, 'How's your training,' 'How's your this,' 'How's your that?' So I'm coming to Australia to maybe do something kind of different with the audience." He then wrapped up his interview by exclaiming, "What the f**k is going on with Australia?" Sounds like someone needs a cookie.

He was in a French sitcom

You probably don't think "sitcom" when you think Jean-Claude Van Damme. But the French apparently do, because in 2015, the French TV channel Canal+ announced Van Damme would star in a sitcom called "J-C 1st." According to the French site Tele 7, the 12-episode series (it doesn't appear to have made it past the one season) followed Van Damme as a guy tasked with running Belgium after the country fails to form a government of its own. How an entire country fails to govern itself, and why they chose a kick-obsessed musclehead to be their leader, is beyond us. Perhaps, as "Mystery Science Theater 3000" was so fond of reminding us, it's just a show, so relax.

There doesn't appear to be any footage of the show online, which is a shame. But just use your imagination to think of Jean-Claude Van Damme trying to run a foreign government by himself, and you'll probably have a grand old time.

He wants to fight professionally again

Van Damme retired as a professional fighter in 1982, both because his acting career took over and because at some point, every fighter gets too old to have their head kicked in for real. But in recent years, Van Damme has expressed interest in fighting again, despite being well over 50 years old. But he doesn't want to fight just anyone: he has a specific somebody in mind.

Around 2010, Van Damme started expressing interest in returning to kickboxing, to face then-37-year-old Somluck Kamsing, who won gold in the 1996 Olympics. Why would he want to do such a thing? To hear Van Damme tell it, it's because "it's kind of dangerous, but life is short." But to hear ESPN theorize in an article about this potential fight, Van Damme wants — or wanted — to turn his comeback into a reality show. In today's world, if it's not on reality TV, it's not reality.

The fight hasn't happened yet, though Van Damme keeps trying to promote it. As reported by Vice, in one weird case (weird for Van Damme, even), he jumped into the ring during one of Kamsing's fights and began fanning him with a towel. This almost resulted in a disqualification for Kamsing, as it meant too many cornermen, but one left to allow the movie star to freely be weird. Whether the fight ever happens is still a mystery, but it sounds like a reality show would be a slam dunk either way.

He was sued by a guy who claims he can't fight

While people may not agree on Van Damme's acting ability, most everyone can agree he's a great fighter who would kill any of us if we stepped up to him. But as it turns out, there's at least one person convinced Van Damme can hardly fight a lick: the guy who inspired Van Damme's first major film.

As the Las Vegas Sun reported, in 1997 Frank Dux, the kickboxer who Van Damme portrayed in "Bloodsport," sued Van Damme for $50,000 (later upped to $1.5 million). He said the star didn't pay him for helping co-write his 1996 movie "The Quest." During the suit, Dux made sure to dig at Van Damme, saying the man has no idea how to fight. As he claimed, "I asked Jean-Claude to do a simple forward roll [when tutoring him for "Bloodsport"], and he landed on his head." As for that legit kickboxing career, the one with footage to back it up, Dux insists "Van Damme ... lied to the public that he was a martial arts champion."

Unfortunately for Dux, the lawsuit went nowhere. The next year, a jury cleared Van Damme, saying the star didn't owe anyone anything. Dux was optimistic about an appeal, saying, "If you remember 'Rocky,' he didn't win his first fight either." But it doesn't seem like Dux ever filed the appeal, which is like Rocky staying retired and working with Adrian at the pet shop instead.

Jean-Claude Van Damme wanted to fight Steven Seagal

If you've ever gotten into a debate with someone about who would win in a fight, you know it's pretty much all talk. Whether it's Superman vs. Thor or Bruce Lee vs. Jet Li, odds are you'll never truly know the answer. Of course, there are times in life when it's possible for fans to find out who might win in a hypothetical fight because the subject of that very debate got drunk and angry at a little get-together.

The 1980s and '90s saw Jean-Claude Van Damme rise to the top of his game, but he wasn't alone. Those decades were packed with films from Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal, and many others. According to Stallone, the "who would win in a fight" debate nearly found an answer when Van Damme and Seagal came close to blows at a party. Stallone recalled the event in an interview with FHM (via Express): "At a party in my home in Miami in 1997, Van Damme was tired of Seagal claiming he could kick his a**, so he offered Seagal outside into my backyard. Seagal made his excuses and left. But Van Damme, who was berserk, tracked him down at a nightclub and offered him out again. Again, Seagal pulled a Houdini — Van Damme was just too strong. Seagal wanted none of it."

He worked as a bouncer for Chuck Norris' bar

In his early 20s, Jean-Claude Van Damme was a successful bodybuilder and model in Brussels, Belgium, but he wanted to get into acting. He packed his bags and moved to Hollywood in pursuit of his dream, but learned very quickly what every aspiring actor learns: You don't step off a bus and become a star. Like so many who came before (and after) him, Van Damme had to work odd jobs to pay the bills while auditioning for roles.

According to Biography, the Muscles from Brussels waited tables, taught aerobics, drove a cab, and had some minor roles. His first foray into filmmaking with a credited part came via 1984's "Monaco Forever," where he played Gay Karate Man (as Jean-Claude Vandam). Another gig he had during his early days was working as a bouncer at Woody's Wharf, a bar owned by Chuck Norris.

Van Damme is a skillful martial artist, but that doesn't mean he was looking for a fight while working as a bouncer for Norris. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he explained that "American people are big people. I didn't have any fight, thank God. I was a good schmoozer, simpatico, and no incident happened." Not only did he work as a bouncer for Norris, but he trained with him three days a week, which likely helped Van Damme become the martial artist he is today.

He has a black belt in karate

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that Jean-Claude Van Damme is a trained fighter. The man has been doing split kicks since his first days on the silver screen, but he has more than a passing interest in martial arts — he has a black belt in karate. Van Damme began learning karate when he was 11, and he credits karate with his becoming a movie star. 

In an interview with Martial Arts Professional, Van Damme explained, "Karate made me what I am. I mean, karate, first of all, transformed me from a very anxious person. I'm very emotional and sensitive. Karate brought me good physical abilities, and then karate brought me the dream of being a movie star." Karate gave Van Damme an outlet, and he went from a skinny kid to a man referred to as the Muscles from Brussels. 

Like many who study martial arts, he was enthralled by the impact earning a black belt had, and he worked hard to get his. Van Damme didn't take his knowledge of karate to Hollywood and build his career; he incorporated karate with ballet. This helped him stand out among the competition — after all, not many people can do a perfect split on the ground and in mid-air while pulling off a roundhouse into a guy's face! "I mixed the grace and the movement with the power of karate. It's been a big help in my movies," Van Damme told Chicago Tribune.

There's a statue of him in Belgium

Fans of the "Rocky" franchise likely know that there's a statue of the Italian Stallion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but Sylvester Stallone isn't the only action star with his likeness cast in bronze. Jean-Claude Van Damme received similar treatment, not once, but twice. Van Damme is one of Belgium's most famous exports, and in 2012, his native country honored the Muscles from Brussels with a statue, marking the 40th anniversary of the Westland Shopping center.

Van Damme was present at the unveiling of the statue, depicting him in a life-size combative pose wearing shorts. Van Damme is a pretty popular guy around the world, and he has more than one statue made in his honor. Still, it's unlikely most of his fans are aware that a second statue can be found in a village in Azerbaijan. The statue is located in Vandam and depicts the martial artist doing his legendary split with his feet atop two tree stumps.

It's unclear when the statue was erected, but Van Damme commented on it, offering his thanks to the sculptor, Azad Aliyev, in a Facebook post. There's no clear indication of why Aliyev sculpted Van Damme for the village of Vandam. Still, The Brussels Times posited that it might be due to the phonetically similar-sounding names: Van Damme and Vandam. There was another statue of JCVD in Munich, Germany, created to promote his Amazon series, "Jean-Claude Van Johnson," and it may no longer be in place.

He's inspired by Charlie Chaplin

If someone were to ask you who you thought inspired Jean-Claude Van Damme, it's doubtful you'd blurt out "Charlie Chaplin" at the top of your lungs. That's because the brilliant comedian and film pioneer has very little in common with Van Damme. It would make more sense to say "Chuck Norris" or another famous karate champion than Chaplin, but that's the correct answer. During an interview with Vulture, Van Damme was asked about the physical comedians he liked.

"People who don't talk? Chaplin was amazing. Also, guys like McQueen, that didn't talk much, or Bronson. Also, Bruce Lee. For comedy, Robin Williams. I loved Jerry Lewis when I was young. Even Jerry Lewis in that movie 'King of the Comedy' when he's not being funny," Van Damme shared. On the surface, some of his answers make more sense than others, but if you go back through his films, you can find numerous moments where he relies on wordless physical comedy.

He was homeless for a time

When Jean-Claude Van Damme left Belgium for the United States, he had $3,000 and a dream. Five years later, the dream was all he had left, and that presented several problems. During an interview with Martial Arts Professional, Van Damme explained that it was his dream that kept him going. "I came here to chase my dream. And I came to America full of confidence because of karate. Same way with the movie business. [If] one day I didn't succeed, tomorrow I will succeed. And I kept chasing my dreams and kept being in a good shape, physically and mentally."

After he ran out of money, Van Damme struggled through some hard times. He was forced to live in his car and sleep on the street, though it's unclear how long. He described his time then as akin to David Carradine's character in "Kung Fu," a martial artist wandering around helping people. Of course, JCVD wasn't solving people's problems like Carradine; he had his own to worry about.

He continued to focus on his dream of becoming a movie star, and that focus helped him achieve it. "All the time, I believed in my head that my dream will happen. Every day, I said thank you in advance for my success. And I was praying and praying and praying to God, which is all I could do. And guess what? It happened! The dream came true. I was very lucky!"