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ByBarbara Pavone/Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 8:58 am EST
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Jean-Claude Van Damme — whose real last name is Van Varenberg — has had a (mostly) impressive career as a professional martial artist and an actor. Since the late '70s, the Muscles from Brussels, as he's known, has starred in over 70 films and counting. His love life, however, hasn't been as stellar.
JCVD repeatedly made headlines with his alleged infidelities, makeups, and breakups and has been married a total of five times. First, he said "I do" to Maria Rodriguez from 1980 to 1984. Then, he wed Cynthia Derderian in 1985, but they got divorced after just three months. His third marriage to Gladys Portugues lasted from 1987 to 1992 (although the two joined the illustrious crowd of celebs who married each other twice when they re-tied the knot in 1999). He was also hitched to Darcy LaPier from 1994 to 1997.
During all this time, JCVD had three children: Kristopher and Bianca Van Varenberg with Portugues and Nicholas Van Varenberg with LaPier. But if you think being the kid of a movie star is easy — think again. While all three have experienced ups and down with their father, Kristopher and Bianca have sure had a lot more ups than Nicholas. This is the untold truth of Jean-Claude Van Damme's kids.
JCVD's son inspired him to overhaul his career
Jean-Claude Van Damme and his fourth wife, Darcy LaPier, had a difficult relationship, to say the least. LaPier filed for divorce three times over the course of their marriage and when their son was born in 1995, Van Damme reportedly questioned if Nicholas was his child, according to Celebrity Net Worth.LaPier called it quits for real in 1997 and things only got worse for JCVD when LaPierclaimed that she was "too afraid" to be with her husband on account of his alleged "physical and mental abuse," as well as an addiction to cocaine. As a result, Van Damme seemingly lost all access to his young son.
Without revealing the specifics of the custody arrangement, the action star toldThe Sun [via Contact Music] in 2009,"The custody case is very painful. The legal system in California is crazy. For me not to see my kid is a disaster."
Clearly, Nicholas Van Varenberg suffered the effects of his parents' messy divorce, but it wasn't all for nothing, as he became the inspiration his dad needed to turn his life around. JCVD's career hit rock bottom and he retracted from the spotlight, but eventually found the motivation for a comeback thanks to Nicholas. As he also told The Sun,"The only way I can bring my son back is to be successful again as they were saying to him, 'Your father is a loser.'" Since then, JCVD has appeared in over 20 films.
Nicholas Van Varenberg's acting career stalled at the start
Nicholas Van Varenberg is the only one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's kids who hasn't had much luck following in his famous parents' Hollywood footsteps (His mother, Darcy LaPier was a Hawaiian Tropic model-turned-actress, too). While the Belgian actor has opened industry doors for all three of his kids, Nicholas is the only one whose career has yet to take off — but it's nor for lack of effort. Nicholas tried to emulate his father and become an actor, but unfortunately, things didn't really work out for him.
Van Damme's youngest child should have been set up for success, but as of 2020, he only had one acting credit to his name for playing Travis (a minor character) in Kickboxer: Retaliation, an action flick that only earned $4,537 at the US box office and just over $97,000 internationally. The moviewas released in early 2018, and by that summer, JCVD's production company, Rodin Entertainment, was teasing an in-development project starring Nicholas and his siblingsBianca Van Varenberg andKristopher Van Varenberg. The action-western, Three Coyotes, has yet to come to fruition, and while there's no official word on the status of the project, Nicholas was embroiled in the middle of a headline-making court case during this upstart period of his acting career, which possibly hurt his chances of landing future roles.
Did Nicholas Van Varenberg threaten to kill his roommate?
In September 2017, Nicholas Van Varenberg made headlines for allegedly holding up his roommate at knifepoint. According to court records obtained by AZ Central, the bizarre string of events began with Van Varenberg punching an elevator wall inside his Tempe, Ariz. apartment building. The apartment complex, which was located near Arizona State University's Tempe campus (Van Varenberg was a junior studying interdisciplinary studies at the time), had its own police officer who followed a trail of blood from the elevator to Van Varenberg's apartment. The then-21-year-old refused medical help for his bloody hand and the officer left. Then things got weird.
Van Varenberg reportedly berated his roommate for opening the door to police, and grabbed a "large knife" and "angled it toward his roommate standing approximately four feet away." A noise complaint sent police back to the apartment, but Van Varenberg refused to open the door. He taunted one officer, asking, "Do you guys want some fame or something or what?"
The unidentified roommate escaped after an hour. Police then lured Van Varenberg into the hallway by getting the roommate to challenge him to a fight. After a two-hour standoff, Van Varenberg was arrested and, according to TMZ, "booked for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful imprisonment, marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia". He was slapped with a $10,000 bond and reportedly bragged about his famous father, as well as his ability to pay the fine and leave the country.
A plea deal was a good deal for Nicholas Van Varenberg
Once Nicholas Van Varenberg was arrested, he told officers he had no recollection of ever punching the elevator wall and went on to deny threatening his roommate. He even went as far as to call him his "best friend,"AZ Central reported.
Van Varenberg's so-called BFF had a very different take on the night's events, however, telling officers that Van Damme's youngest son not only pointed a knife at him, but also told him to go into his room and not come out, and that if he did, his "parents will be at [his] funeral in two days." In other words:Van Varenberg allegedly threatened to kill his roommate. When officers asked if he'd like Van Varenberg to be prosecuted, he said yes, noting, "I'd love to be protected and safe."
Despite all of his denials, Van Varenberg eventually agreed to a plea deal in order to receive a lesser punishment of 18 months probation, AP News confirmed. In October 2018, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and the charges of "kidnapping, possession or use of marijuana, and possession or use of drug paraphernalia" were all dismissed.
Did JCVD use Nicholas Van Varenberg's mom for a publicity stunt?
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Jean-Claude Van Damme and Darcy LaPier divorced in 1997, so when, in 2012, he decided to open up about an extramarital affair he had during their marriage, the confession raised eyebrows — especially LaPier's.
It was 15 years since they had split and yet, JCVD seemed to be thinking about her because he admitted to cheating on a pregnant LaPier with Kylie Minogue on the set of 1994's Street Fighter. Perhaps not unjustly, she instantly accused him of seeking attention. "I was shocked he would talk to the press about this all these years later to gain some notoriety," she told FOX News, admitting she hadn't known about the transgression before.
Telling the outlet that she felt "hurt" and "betrayed," LaPier noted she was more worried about the impact the news would have on Nicholas. "There is a lot of water under the bridge between us, but the fact is I was pregnant with our son at the time," she reasoned. "He's almost 17 now and I wouldn't want him finding out all of this and being hurt by it too."
Kristopher and Bianca Van Varenberg's mom could kick your butt
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Do not mess with Gladys Portugues. Kristopher and Bianca Van Varenberg's mother (who married Jean-Claude Van Damme not once but twice) is a beast in her own right. In fact, she was one of the most popular professional female bodybuilders of the '80s. Her nickname? The Tigress.
While taking part in the prestigious Ms. Olympia competition, which is organized by the International Federation of Bodybuilders, Portugues landed in the top 10 twice, ranking 7th in 1984 and 8th in 1985. She also became the face of personal fitness when she penned two successful workout books — 1986's Hard Bodies and 1988's Hard Bodies Express Workout. Following her bodybuilding career, Portugues tried her hand at acting, although briefly. First, she portrayed a bodybuilder in 1986's The Morning After, which starred Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges, then she was cast as a waitress in 1987's It's Alive III: Island of the Alive.
To this day, Portugues has fond memories of her bodybuilding past and often shares throwback photos on her Instagram. Like in April 2019 when she posted a photo from 1984's Ms. Olympia competition, writing, "When I was young vibrant and tough #trainedhard".
Is Kristopher Van Varenberg the fortunate son?
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Kristopher Van Varenberg has fared much better in the acting department than his younger brother. His first (uncredited) gig came in 1992's Universal Soldier in which he played a young version of his father's Luc Deveraux character. Two decades later, Hollywood.com confirmed that Kristopher had signed on to act alongside his dad in three films. Apparently trying to show off his diverse talent on the big screen, Kristopher was cast in a mix of genres, namely, the comedy Welcome to the Jungle,the thriller Enemies Closer, and the action movie Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.
When British TV show This Morning asked Jean-Claude Van Damme about helping his son break into the biz, he proclaimed [via Hollywood.com], "I have to [help him] because here's the problem — it's not easy to get launched in the film business and me, as a father, if I can help my son to become famous — and my daughter — I think, why not? I think it's cool I can use some of my name to help them. If they are no good they will not survive."
Unfortunately, it seems Kristopher might need dad's help forever. Despite his IMDbprofile featuring 15 acting credits, only two of the films — 2012's The Philly Kid and Frenchy, which was in post-production as of January 2020 — haven't also starred his father. And so far, he's only landed the leading role in one flick: Frenchy.
Bianca Van Varenberg wants to 'kick a** in a nice, feminine way'
Considering the fact that Bianca Van Varenberg is the daughter of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Gladys Portugues, you might think that she was born with an unfaltering love of bodybuilding and martial arts. Surprise: That couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, when she was growing up, Bianca hated the idea of martial arts. Speaking with Page Six, she revealed, "My parents let us do our own thing. When I was young, my mom pushed me into martial arts for self-discipline. I was seven and like, 'I can't stand it.' I stuck with ballet and [ice] skating."
As a teen, she was all about speed skating and even hoped to compete in the Olympics until an injury forced her out of the sport. "My whole life was skating," she recalled. "Then all of a sudden, I needed to find something new." Wouldn't you know it, that something new ended up being martial arts.
But she's doing things her own way. "I want to show little girls and little boys that you can be physical and feminine," she explained. "That you can cross your legs at the dinner table and then kick a** in a nice, feminine way."
Can Bianca Van Varenberg escape her dad's shadow?
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As both a martial artist and an actor, she may be following in the family business, but Bianca Van Varenberg is trying her best to carve her own path. Bianca first appeared on the big screen opposite her dad in 2008's The Shepherd: Border Patrol, but rather than resting on her laurels, she approached the gig with a critical eye. "I didn't like what I saw on-screen when I watched my first film," she told Page Six. "I realized that if this was what I was going to do, I needed to do it right."
So she worked hard to get better, then she dropped her dad's famous last name. Initially billed as Bianca Van Varenberg, she decided to change her stage name to Bianca Bree. The latter is a play on her middle name, Brigitte. Explaining her decision, she told Page Six, "It's complicated. I always have people coming up and telling me how much they love my dad. It's nice to hear, but it's like, what does that have to do with me?"
Since 2008, she has appeared in 10 films, five of which were her father's. But even as she's trying to make it on her own, Bianca and JCVD's bond is stronger than ever. "Our relationship definitely had its ups and downs, but now we're cool," she admitted. "We talk and we hang out, but it's not like I'm calling him being like, 'Hey Dad, let's grab a bite and talk about life.' We'll go to the gym and kick and stuff."