Birthday boy Jean-Claude Van Damme fought against many things: Against the "Karate Tiger", Dolph Lundgren, cocaine addiction and himself.
He lurks confidently in the corner of the ring. But he doesn't stand or crouch there, he does a split on the ring ropes and contemptuously looks at his opponents. Jean-Claude Van Damme was in his mid-twenties when he celebrated his breakthrough in "Karate Tiger" and established his eternal trademark. Virtually no film, no appearance, not even a Volvo commercial from then on managed without the Van Damme split, in which Otto Normalmann shot through the groin with stinging phantom pains just at the sight.
How good that "The muscles from Brussels" seem to be able to defy the laws of male anatomy even at the age of 60. Even if he rarely gets the opportunity to do so in the limelight.
Jump-start by Chuck Norris
The fact that Belgian muscle imports made it to Hollywood at all is largely thanks to another smack legend. With little money, even less experience and all the more ambition, Van Damme moved to the USA in the early 1980s as the newly minted Mr. Belgium to get started as an actor. A dream that too many soldiers of fortune usually wake up suddenly sooner than later. So does Van Damm.
Instead of the screen career as an action hero, he first had to sort out drunk people for several years as a bouncer. But fate was kind to Van Damme: The club in front of which he gave away his karate skills night after night belonged to Chuck Norris (80) and his then wife. Norris was so taken with the young Belgian that he got him a job as a stuntman in his film "Missing in Action". Van Damme had put his foot in the door of Hollywood – at that time without a balancing act.
The Van Damme era
1986 then his memorable appearance in "Karate Tiger", but not as the title hero, but as an antagonist Ivan Kraschinsky. It wasn't until 1988 that Van Damme was the hero of a US production for the first time in the beating "Bloodsport". This was followed by the action career of a US immigrant, which at the time was only overshadowed by that of Arnold Schwarzenegger (73). With the exception of a tiny guest appearance by Van Damme in Schwarzenegger's flick "Last Action Hero", the two only got into each other once and much later – in 2012 in "The Expendables 2".
With Dolph Lundgren (62), however, it banged earlier. In 1992, director Roland Emmerich (64) put the two edges on each other in "Universal Soldier". From then on, Van Damme was seen as a tough fighter on the screen at least once a year, from the video game adaptation "Street Fighter" (1994) to "Sudden Death" (1995) to "Maximum Risk" (1996) or "Double Team" (1997) alongside Dennis Rodman (59).
The crash and the supposed ascent
Who kicks high, threatens the low blow. Van Damme found this on his own well-trained body. His roles, which have always been the same, made him increasingly degenerate into a cliché, years of cocaine addiction did the rest: "The Hollywood system is a one-way street. You don't want to give up fame and luxury. I was constantly on the move and surrounded by dealers and lawyers. And I have him Lost sense of reality, "he told" Spiegel "in 2009.
Shortly before the interview, his new film "JCVD" had just come out, named after the acronym of his once so colorful name. He had already managed four marriages and had been in his fifth since 1999 (but this until today). At this point in time, his films had only been released as "Direct to DVD" for years. His career seemed to have retired early at 48.
In the tragic comedy "JCVD" Van Damme plays himself, mixes reality with fiction and deconstructs his entire work. The Jean-Claude Van Damme in it is no longer a hero, but a tired, worn-out wannabe who keeps his head above water with stupid B-movies.
It was precisely this ruthless soul striptease that Van Damme was to earn critical praise for his acting performance for the first time. "Time" critic Richard Corliss, for example, found his performance in the article "Jean-Claude Van Damme fucks his own ass" as "the" finest (…) performance I've seen this year, and I'm not joking " Big words in a year Heath Ledger played the Joker …
Not a great renaissance
However, Van Damme could not really capitalize on the unexpected favorite of the critics. The biggest production that followed was the action star class reunion "The Expendables 2" in 2012, at which Van Damme is said to have made an interesting entry condition for Sylvester Stallone (74). Only if Steven Seagal (68) does NOT participate, Van Damme will be there. For many years there has been a show fight between the two in which they verbally spanked each other as imitators.
Even as a series star, Van Damme was not granted a major renaissance in 2016. After only one season, the Amazon production "Jean-Claude Van Johnson" was over again. And so in the past few years he was only left with the B-movie division – with relevant works such as "Kickboxer: Die Vergeltung", "Kickboxer: Die Abrechnung" or "Kill'em all".
Van Damme has only greeted once in the recent past from all the digital and analogue headlines. In 2013, thanks to a commercial for Volvo, that was flanked by two trucks. What was he doing between the rear-view mirrors of the trucks? Guess what. Every man's bar remembers it.