8 Surprising Facts About Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Patrick Aventurier, Getty Images

While Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were considered the apex of the 1980s action movie hero, genre fans found a more graceful alternative in Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Belgian-born actor and martial artist used his flexibility to great effect in action classics like 1988’s Bloodsport, 1989’s Kickboxer, and 1994’s Timecop. For more on the “Muscles from Brussels,” including his competitive fighting background and why he once challenged Steven Seagal to a real fight in Stallone’s backyard, read on.

1. Jean-Claude Van Damme was a ballet “nerd.”

Jean Claude Van Damme attends the Cannes Film Festival.Francois Durand/Getty Images

Kicking out of his mother’s womb on October 18, 1960 in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, the future Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg. (He used the stage name “Frank Cujo” before settling on Van Damme.) A self-described “nerd,” Van Damme studied karate and ballet in his youth, the latter for five years. He said his father encouraged him to take karate in order for the bespectacled Van Damme to be able to toughen up. But Van Damme also said ballet greatly aided his martial arts ability and screen presence.

“I was always attracted to ballet because of the dexterity, the stretching, the grace, and the fact that you are able to control without showing any pain on your face,” Van Damme told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. “I mixed the grace and the movement with the power of karate. It’s been a big help in my movies.”

2. Jean-Claude Van Damme worked as a bouncer for Chuck Norris.

Van Damme operated a gym in Brussels and had success in bodybuilding and modeling, but he wanted to act. Heading to Hollywood in his early 20s to pursue his dreams of stardom, Van Damme picked up bits parts in films like 1984’s Monaco Forever (he was officially credited as “Gay Karate Man”) and a future GIF-worthy scene in 1984’s Breakin’ while working as a cab driver, waiter, and bouncer, among other odd jobs. Most notably, he bounced for Woody’s Wharf, a bar owned by martial arts icon Chuck Norris. “American people are big people,” Van Damme told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. “I didn’t have any fight, thank God. I was a good schmoozer, simpatico and no incident happened.”

3. Jean-Claude Van Damme got his big break by throwing kicks at a producer’s head.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport (1988).Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

After a tense shoot on 1987’s Predator, in which Van Damme was cast as the titular alien but was replaced during production, the actor wanted to find a role better-suited to his talents. One day, he found himself crossing paths with B-movie producer Menahem Golan. Seizing the opportunity, Van Damme began launching kicks at Golan, stopping short of connecting. This earned him a meeting in Golan’s office, in which a shirtless Van Damme convinced Golan he was skilled, charismatic, and most importantly, cheap. Golan cast him in 1988’s Bloodsport, a martial arts tournament film ostensibly based on the real-life exploits of Frank Dux. Van Damme helped re-cut the film with screenwriter Sheldon Lettich and Carl Kress, an editor who worked on 1974’s The Towering Inferno. Bloodsport went on to make $65 million, turning Van Damme into an overnight star.

4. Jean-Claude Van Damme once threw a papaya at a producer’s head.

The success of Bloodsport led to steady work for Van Damme, who appeared in 1989’s Kickboxer, 1990’s Lionheart, and 1991’s Double Impact. In the latter, he played twins out to avenge the death of their father. But the production was troubled. In 2019, Van Damme told Yahoo! that the producer of the film was attempting to divert funds from Double Impact to 1991’s Stone Cold, an action vehicle for NFL star Brian Bosworth. Van Damme grew so upset that he threw a papaya at the producer’s head. “Thank God he ducked,” Van Damme said. “[It splattered] all over the wall. And he just ran away to the airport. I was crazy at the time. You just don’t touch my movie.”

5. Jean-Claude Van Damme once challenged Steven Seagal to a fight at Sylvester Stallone’s house.

According to Sylvester Stallone, a fight between the two action stars nearly happened off-camera. In 1997, Stallone invited both Van Damme and actor Steven Seagal to a house party at Stallone’s property in Miami, Florida. At some point, Van Damme expressed irritation that Seagal had previously claimed he could best Van Damme in a fight. Van Damme demanded Seagal follow him outside to settle it, which Stallone claimed Seagal avoided. Later, the two were at a nightclub when Van Damme again confronted Seagal, who slipped out “like Houdini,” according to Stallone.

6. Jean-Claude Van Damme knows his film titles can get repetitive.

Many Van Damme films have some variation of “death” or “dead” in the title, a fact Van Damme is well aware of. Promoting his Amazon Prime series Jean-Claude Van Johnson in 2017, the actor joked about the generic flavor of the films. “For a while, I was kind of forgotten there,” he told Rolling Stone. "'OK, Jean-Claude, what’s he doing?' Sudden Death, March of Death, Dead Dead Dead, and Double Dead, and what was the last one? Dead on Dead.” Van Damme's most recent live-action feature was 2019's We Die Young.

7. Jean-Claude Van Damme gave one of Time magazine’s Great Movie Performances of 2008.

At times dismissed for being more of a physical performer than an actor, Van Damme earned critical praise in 2008 for JCVD, a meta film in which he portrays himself dealing with both a bank heist and the torment of self-reflection. In one six-minute monologue, Van Damme lays himself bare. TIME dubbed it one of the great performances of the year.

8. Jean-Claude Van Damme has two statues dedicated in his honor.

In 2012, a statue paying tribute to Van Damme debuted in Brussels, Belgium in front of the Westland Shopping Center. The towering sculpture depicts Van Damme in a martial arts posture, ready to strike. Van Damme also has a second statue sporting his likeness, this one in the country of Azerbaijan. The piece, which features Van Damme doing his trademark splits, is located in the village of Vandam.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

FrontierBundles.com
FrontierBundles.com

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, FrontierBundles.com chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

FrontierBundles.com

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.