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Van Damme career guide.


Disgruntled fan!
Van Damme career guide:

Jean Claude Van Damme was made for the movies. This former European middle weight Karate champ, who can do the splits and can jump in the air, spin 360 degrees, and kick someone’s teeth out with precision accuracy, had it made from his first break into showbiz. Some debate raged early in his career as to his martial arts achievements. People scoured the karate championships record books for a Jean Cluade Van Damme championship winner, but failed to find anything, little realising he was not always known as Van Damme. In fact Jean Claude fought under his birth name of Van Varenberg and had an excellent record and reputation for quick knockouts.

Certainly in the 80’s when guys like Stallone and Shcwarzenegger gave rise to the buff, muscular action hero, Van Damme was in good shape. With his eyes on Hollywood he continued pumping weights in the gym (reportedly he can bench 166kg). Following a number of small roles Van Damme’s first break came as a villain in the cult hit, No Retreat No Surrender. The film did well and Van Damme was promptly offered a role in the sequel, he turned it down though, advising Kurt Mckinney to do the same, he did. Van Damme was then looking for his next role, having turned down one offered to him on a plate. It was a chance meeting with a Cannon executive one day walking the streets that got him his major breakthrough. Delivering a now trademark helicopter kick, the producer had no hesitation in signing up Van Damme for the low budget Bloodsport. Signs looked bleak when the first cut of the film came back. The film was set to be shelved however Van Damme took to the editing suite himself to try and salvage the film. In the end his work paid off, the film was shot for a paltry $1.5mill budget and raked in $30mill worldwide, not to mention becoming a huge video hit.

Van Damme was on his way. Over the next few years he found himself assigned to a string of low budget pictures. Firstly Black Eagle, then Kickboxer, followed by Lionheart, Death Warrant and Double Impact. Each film was highly successful, making plenty of revenue on the small budgets, yet Van Damme wasn’t yet a big household name. At this time he had a small following of martial arts fans while guys like Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Seagal were getting more recognition and certainly bigger pay packets. Double Impact, Van Dammes second collaboration with friend and director Sheldon Lettich, made plenty of money. It was a huge hit and at this point it was time to take a gamble on Van Damme. Carolco then offered Van Damme the big (for the time) budget action film Universal Soldier. This film, while not as expensive as some of the Sly and Arnold projects was still a big budget movie and eclipsed Seagal’s current highest. At 22 million this films was nearly twice what was previously spent on a Van Damme movie. The project, initially developed as a Stallone vehicle also co-starred action man Dolph Lundgren. At the time Lundgren was arguably the bigger name, however he was a star on the decline while Van Damme was on the rise. Reportedly Van Damme made his first million pay check, and Lundgren apparently earned more for his role. Indeed Van Damme had not actually made that much money himself up until this point, while Lundgren came to the project a millionaire. Van Damme combined his way past Lundgren by the end of this movie and was now a hot property. The film made over $100 million worldwide, and was similarly a huge hit on video too. Van Damme found himself up with the big boys. His next film seemed like a step down, but perhaps more likely to test the water. Nowhere to run was budgeted at $15 million, the producers clearly wary of sending Van Damme out to play on his own. However the movie was a hit, not Universal Soldier standard but still a hit. He then did John Woo’s first major HW film, Hard Target, another big hit. It was then that he was given his first major solo project and that was his biggest hit, Timecop. The film had a budget of $28mill and a novel idea to combine with some Van Dammage. The film was Van Dammes most well received film by critics at that point, and clearly the public liked it too, it was huge hit. The film made well over $100 million round the world. Van Damme had the world at his feet now, he was steadily rising while Stallone, Seagal and even Schwarzenegger were beginning to falter. His next film had potential to be huge. Van Damme was offered the lead in the video game-movie adaptation of StreetFighter, the hottest game of the time..He naturally accepted. The film however was critically mauled. It was inaccurate, poorly made and poorly directed by screenwriter Steven De Souza. Plenty of money was spent on the film, $35 million, it was estimated, but it lacked accuracy, conviction and class. Fans were let down and when making a film with a ready made fan base, you cannot let them down. Van Damme found this out. The film still made plenty of money though, $100 million worldwide, but fans had been burnt. Van Damme again made a tidy profit with Sudden Death, however since Timecop his grosses were in steady decline. He then made his directorial debut, retreating the old ground of Bloodsport and Kickboxer but not matching the success.

It was reported at round this period in his career Van Damme turn down a 3 picture deal with Universal to pursue other avenues, and similarly his personal life was effecting his choices and his performance. Van Damme has made no secret of his drug problems throughout the mid-late 90’s and they contributed to his career toppling quite dramatically. Van Damme then made a trilogy of films with HK directors, firstly the decent Maximum Risk followed by the pretty poor Double Team and Knock Off. None of these expensive productions did well and Van Damme was at the height of his drub problem. In Knock Off Van Damme is heavily double in the film for his action and fights and was apparently not in the best shape physically. Not in the sense of putting on lots of weight but simply the effects of partying all night and filming all day. It was Van Damme’s next film, Legionnaire a markedly different kind of movie and an interesting choice that actually proved Van Damme’s first real major disaster. Despite the lavish production and also a good performance from Jean Claude, the film ended up going Straight to Video in the states. A shame really because this was a decent effort by Van Damme. Van Damme next filmed Desert Heat, another big budget film. Also soon after he shot Universal Soldier The Return, a last ditch and very expensive attempt to salvage his career. Sadly the film was bad, lacked the presence of both Roland Emmerich and also Lundgren as bad guy. The film tanked. Shortly after Desert Heat got it’s release, straight to video. Van Damme’s theatrical career was over.

At this point Van Damme was clearing up his act. He wanted to salvage his career, which still was garnering plenty of money on video. In 2001 after a spell out of the business, Van Damme returned and re-teamed, with Ringo Lam. The made Replicant, Van Dammes best in a few years and although it went straight to video it was actually better than Schwarzenegger’s cloning themed actioner 6th Day. Van Damme was unable to follow this video hit with top projects and delivered the disappointing film The Order (the subject of poor producers) and the dire film Derailed marking a career low in quality. It seemed Van Damme had it best in Replicant working with Ringo Lam, he again did a film with Lam, In Hell, which was a massive hit on video and similarly ranking as one of Van Dammes best. Ditto to his next Wake Of Death, an interesting departure for Jean Claude doing a 70’s style revenge flick. In both films Van Damme impressed with his acting, but particularly in Wake Of Death when JC gave a very accomplished performance. Van Damme had come through his rough period, and matured as a person and it was showing in his movies.

At this point Van Damme has plenty of promising projects on the horizon. Second In Command promises to deliver some classic Van Dammage that was held back in his previous two films. Followed by two more collaborations with Sheldon Lettich: Hard Corps and a sequel to Bloodsport. Following that Van Damme may be appearing in Asterix 3, a $93mill sequel to the monster French hits, which should get him some huge exposure in Europe. Still Van Damme is in good shape, in good health and is delivering to his fans.

Van Damme’s movies on a 5 star scale:

Bloodsport- ***½
Timecop- ***½
Universal Soldier- ***
Hard Target- ***
Kickboxer- ***
Wake Of Death- ***
Double Impact- ***
Maximum Risk- ***
AWOL- ***
In Hell- ***
Sudden Death- **½
Legionnaire- **½
Replicant- **½
Death Warrant- **½
Knock Off- **
Desert Heat- **
Double Team- **
The Quest- **
The Order- **
Nowhere To Run- **
No Retreat No Surrender- **
Streetfighter- **
Universal Soldier: The Return- **
Cyborg- **
Black Eagle- *
Derailed- *


Disgruntled fan!
He was a champ. It;s long since been proven. ALthough funnily enough co-action man Don The Dragon Wilson didn't believe JC, he challenged him to a bounty match, which JC declined (probably busy doing proper movies while Wilson was flapping about in Bloodfist. Would have been a good fight though.
Don "The Dragon" Wilson vs. Van Damme would be an awesome fight, although i think Van Damme would win. anyway, nice job supertom.