Unlike the other contemporary popular action heroes, Van Damme projected a softer character. He was not as invincible as Schwarzenegger nor as unrefined as Stallone. Also, his impressive physicality (in nearly every Van Damme film, he executes a masterful split) set him apart. Yet, he was not as mainstream as the others. There is a finite fan base for a Van Damme film and while some of his movies have been money-makers, none have achieved blockbuster status in the USA. On the other hand, worldwide his appeal is unchallenged.
Van Damme's vehicles in the late 1980s and early 90s were fairly formulaic, requiring him to speak little, display as much of his muscular physique as possible and kick butt. At the same time, the actor was shouldering more and more responsibilities, moving into second unit work and providing storylines (Kickboxer, 1988) and later producing (Double Impact, 1991) and even directing (The Quest, 1996). Although savvy enough to ally himself with Hong Kong masters, like John Woo (Hard Target, 1993), Ringo Lam (Maximum Risk, 1996) and Tsui Hark (Double Team, 1997 and Knock Off 1998), the results have been minor entries in the directors' filmographies.
Van Damme is a self-promoter. He has often given startlingly candid interviews, often timed to the release of new films. His personal life has elements of a soap opera played on a very public stage.
Jean Claude has
been married five times and divorced four. His first wife
was Maria Rodriguez from Venezuelan. She was born in born 1954
separated in 1981 when Van Damme moved to the US.
The second wife was Cynthia Derdian. Jean Claude married her for one year in 1985. He met her while he was working in her father's carpet store.
Number three was Gladys Portugues. Married her in 1986. She was a bodybuilder. They separated in July 1992.
On 3 February 1994 van Damme married for the fourth time, now with Darcy La Pier. She worked as a model and was born in 1965. She won the Hawaiian Tropic beauty-contest, representing the state of Oregon in 1985.
Though van Damme often refers to himself as a loving and devoted husband, Darcy LaPier filed for divorce, claiming the "Muscles from Brussels" terrorized her and their son, Nicholas. She also stated instances of mood swings and physical abuse, which she attributed to his cocaine addiction. Among LaPier's other claims: Van Damme threatened to kidnap their son and leave the United States; he threatened to kill one of her lawyers; and he once assaulted her so badly that she needed to go to the hospital. In Sun Valley, Idaho, LaPier called 911 after an argument with him. No charges were filed. In 1996 their divorce was finalized and a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge granted LaPier custody of their son and Jean Claude was ordered to pay $27,000 a month in child support and $85,000 a month in spousal support. It was one of the largest litigated child support awards ever handed. On the other hand, once in Bali, Van Damme claims, LaPier attacked him with an end table. Anyway. Darcy LaPier does not like Van Damme anymore.
Van Damme's parents did not approve of LaPier. "We told him, marriage, don't do it," says his father. "Not a good woman for you," his mother warned him. Van Damme's mother, a vital, statuesque woman who used to run a flower shop in Brussels, is very positive about his son. "Jean-Claude is a very family man," she once said. Jean Claude visited the family in Europe as often as he could (his older sister, Veronique, owns a hair salon in Belgium) and flew them to his various movie sets around the world.
The stress of Hollywood combined with his failed marriages
has apparently taken a toll.
After his 1995 movie "Sudden Death", Van Damme
plummeted at the box-office. Every movie he made after 95'
plugged and the stress lead Van Damme to cocaine. After 95' he
was in the media but only because of his drug usage and other
personal problems that he had. In 1996 Van Damme announced that he
was battling a cocaine addition and admitted himself into a
thirty-day substance-abuse program at the Daniel Freeman Marina
Hospital in Los Angeles. He had only completed seven days of the
program when he checked himself out. It would seem that the
seven days of treatment weren't enough and in 1998 Van Damme
announced that he had relapsed.
Cocaine was not his only vice; he has also been in an ongoing battle with the bottle. In October of 1998 a drunken Van Damme had kissed an unwilling female at an Australian nightclub. The police questioned Van Damme, but no charges were filed. On September 23,1999 Van Damme was arrested for drinking and driving in West Hollywood. Though Van Damme has had his share of bad luck, one of the most amusing instances was his confrontation with his former bodyguard, Chuck Zito, in the New York topless nightclub, Scores. It seems that Van Damme was bad-mouthing Zito when the ex-bodyguard confronted him. Van Damme stood up, removed his glasses and prepared to demonstrate his champion martial arts ability. Though spectators couldn't agree whether it took one punch or two, the result was indisputable, Van Damme was out for the count.
In 1998 Van Damme realized that it was time to stop the drugs and problems and get control over his life once again. With help from his family he got control over his life, faced his problems and in 1998 he made the movie "Knockoff", although it wasn't a success, Van Damme still tryed and filmed two straight to video movies "Desert Heat" and "Legionnaire", and although "Universal Soldier: The Return" went to theatres it too wasn't a success, but Jean-Claude gave his fans what they wanted to see, his acting in those movies got better and each movie was action packed.
In 1999 Jean Claude remarried to Gladys Portugues. He has three children Kristopher (1987, mother Gladys Portugues), Bianca (1990, mother Gladys Portugues) and and Nicholas (1995, mother Darcy Lapier)
In 2001 Jean Claude van Damme entered the fashion world with a line of eponymous denim clothing. "It's going to be a great business. It's a very special, unusual line and I'm proud of it." van Damme said to a reporter. In the same year, he'd also made an unusual movie: The Replicant. Normally we always see the 'good guy' van Damme, but in this flick he played the hard serial killer. Van Damme hoped this movie was his great comeback. But in the United States, it did not screen in theatres. Van Damme: "It is a pity. But it was a choice of the producers. Simply, by deciding on this formula, they were certain of the money they would gain. I am very proud of this film."
Now Van Damme continues makes films like The Order, Derailed, the SHU and The Monk.
Who knows what will follow...