What happened to Bloodsport star and martial arts icon Jean-Claude Van Damme? Here’s what he’s been doing, and why he disappeared from the spotlight.
What happened to Bloodsport star Jean-Claude Van Damme? The legendary martial arts icon has starred in dozens of action movies over the years, with his career hitting its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the Belgian actor hasn’t appeared in too many popular movies in recent years.
After playing the villain in 1986’s No Retreat, No Surrender, Van Damme got his first starring role in the 1988 cult classic, Bloodsport, a movie supposedly based on the true story of Frank Dux. In Bloodsport, Van Damme’s Frank Dux enters an illegal, underground martial arts tournament where he faces off against a group of diverse fighters from all over the world.
The fighting culminates in a dramatic showdown with the ruthlessly brutal Chong Li, played by Enter the Dragon’s Bolo Yeung. Van Damme’s talent for martial arts and performance as Frank Dux was what launched his career. In the years that followed, Van Damme typically played heroic, highly skilled martial artists. He took on lead roles in several more martial arts movies that were quite similar to Bloodsport, such as Kickboxer and Lionheart.
He also played the lead in a string of commercially successful films, including Universal Soldier, Street Fighter, Timecop, Hard Target, and more. During this time, Jean-Claude Van Damme was making one or two movies a year. So what changed? Van Damme claimed he was “blacklisted” when he tried to get studios to give him as much as money as stars like Jim Carrey. Van Damme says this happened when he turned down a major movie deal because he was holding out for something better (via The Guardian).
What is the Muscles from Brussels doing now? While Van Damme may be not making any big-budget films, he’s still starring in movies. In 2008, he played himself in JCVD. The role became the most critically-acclaimed performance in his career, as it showed a whole new side to the actor. But the most high-profile projects he’s made in the last few years are voice-over roles in films like Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3.
He will also be featuring in 2021’s Minions: The Rise of Gru. However, Van Damme still spends most his time in the action movie genre. And, on most occasions, he still plays the main protagonist. In 2016, he played himself for a second time in a short-lived TV series for Amazon, titled Jean-Claude Van Johnson.
Like before, Van Damme still makes one or two movies a year, but they generally go direct-to-video or are released in select theaters. Among his recent movies are Black Water with Dolph Lundgren, 2019’s We Die Young, and two movies in the new Kickboxer franchise, which is a reboot of the film that starred Van Damme himself in 1989.
When it comes to martial arts, the 59-year-old actor still demonstrates his fighting ability in his films. From time to time, he even goes into the splits, which became an important part of his image in Bloodsport. He famously did the splits again between a pair of Volvo trucks in a 2013 commercial. Van Damme may not be in the spotlight like he was in the 1980s and 1990s, but he’s still very much involved in martial arts and fighting bad guys as an action hero.