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Jean Claude Van Damme | From 21 To 56 Years Old

Jean Claude Van Damme | From 21 To 56 Years Old

An action movie hero and world-renowned martial artist hailing from Belgium, Jean-Claude Van Damme burst onto the Hollywood scene with classic martial arts films “Bloodsport” (1988) and “Kickboxer” (1989). Van Damme was suddenly a star and broadened his fan base from fight film fanatics to general action film fans with critically panned, but commercially successful blockbusters like “Universal Soldier” (1992) and “Time Cop” (1994). Unlike his more popular counterparts, Van Damme projected a softer character who was not as invincible as Schwarzenegger nor as unrefined as Stallone.

Van Damme’s vehicles in the 1990s like “Sudden Death” (1995), “Maximum Risk” (1996) and “Double Team” (1997) were fairly formulaic, requiring him to speak little but display as much of his muscular physique as possible – all of which eventually turned the actor into a caricature of himself and demoted the actor to the straight-to-video bin. Meanwhile, Van Damme hit rock bottom in his personal life when he sought help for his cocaine addiction and was diagnosed with manic depression, which he began talking about openly in 1998.

Though he was able to resurrect himself in private, Van Damme continued to struggle on the screen until he surprised everyone with a critically hailed performance as a fictional version of himself in the art house showbiz satire “JCVD” (2008). In the end, however, his appeal rarely went beyond his impressive physicality, as Van Damme continued trying to cross over to mainstream thrillers and dramas with little avail.