Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors (2011)

by guest contributor Volcan Kacar

DVD cover

DVD cover

Some know him as the ‘Muscles from Brussels’ and others know him simply as Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Once a kickboxing champion, now a big time action hero performing his own signature heavyweight 360 helicopter kicks!  But have you ever wondered how the Van Damme spends his free time?  This ITV fly-on-the-wall documentary takes you behind the action, behind the roundhouse kicks and behind the fame…In “Behind Closed Doors”, we see a family man consisting of a wife, two kids and eleven dogs!  Van Damme, for the first time, has given permission for a camera to follow him everywhere and see how he prepares to re-enter the kickboxing ring once again for the first time since 1982. We journey through how he copes with the movie-star lifestyle and observe his highs and lows. We also finally get a real understanding from the man himself on why and what triggered Jean-Claude’s troubled past with drugs leading to his downfall in life. In this documentary we don’t just see Jean-Claude Van Damme, we see Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg -the man behind the muscle…


Starring in this reality TV show, is the man himself Jean-Claude and his wife, former professional female bodybuilder, Gladys Portugues, his aspiring actor son, Kristopher Van Varenberg and also actress daughter, Bianca Van Varenberg are also documented. Narrating the entire documentary is Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ Jason Flemyng.

The Episodes

Episode 1: “Lucky”

In the first episode, Jean-Claude takes us down memory lane to a church that had a profound emotional and inspirational effect on him. It was the church that called him and where he had an epiphany as a young child.  Also, while filming in Romania, he finds a stray dog and adopts it.

Episode 2: “Birthday”

Jean Claude celebrates his 50th birthday and reflects on his life.  He and his wife, Gladys, reminisce in front of their LA home. Remembering the time when Jean-Claude’s career skyrocketed and he became famous.  We even see the diner that Jean-Claude took her on their first date. It is not long before Jean-Claude is back on the road flying all around Europe. First stop is recording in Belgium for a TV show to celebrate his 50th birthday. Second is to France for a radio interview where things get hot and heavy with a fan. Last stop is Ukraine where he meets his club owner old friend and buys very expensive caviar.

Episode 3: “Dubai”

Wanting to be a champion once again Jean-Claude wants to enter the ring once again and make a Rocky style comeback. However at the age of fifty and his opponent an Olympic champion and half his age Jean Claude has a long journey to rebuild his body. To get back into shape he re-joins his old trainer, Claude Goetz, who taught him everything he needed to know. After an emotional reunion Jean-Claude heads to Dubai for more business and some water sports!  Relaxing in the scorching sun, Jean-Claude explains how he had become blacked listed by Hollywood after becoming too cocky. Universal Studios offered him a three-film contract with each film paying him two million dollars.  He demanded twenty million –they refused.

Episode 4: “Attila”

Finally we see some behind-the-scenes action and how Jean-Claude conducts himself on movie sets. Filming his latest movie, Weapon, things seem to go smoothly. After many rehearsals for an intense and close combat fight scene, during filming he gets lost in the moment and throws some enthusiastic punches that leaves the co-star pretty banged-up.  After wrapping up the last scenes and feeling bad about the punches JCVD flies to the Ukraine for a charity fashion show. After being hounded by the press, he cannot enjoy the event.  Things get worse when JC thinks he’s escaped the paparazzi to find out they’re hot on his tail and follow him to the club, only to discover the club has organised a belated birthday party for him hosted by Ukrainian pop star, Inna. Harassed by the paparazzi and press they slowly begin to push him to boiling point!

Episode 5: “Road Trip”

Christmas is one of the only times JCVD can finally relax and see his family and dogs. However, his daughter Bianca, is bringing her boyfriend to stay for the holidays. The poor fellow now has to spend the holiday at his girlfriend’s parents’ house with a dad that happens to be a kickboxing dynamo! Being on his best behaviour, JCVD wants to test the boyfriend and decides they should go to the gym together. A truly terrifying experience for the boy being goaded and pushed to his limit by JCVD! How will the boyfriend survive?

Episode 6: “Hong Kong”

After hearing that the film that made Jean-Claude famous, Bloodsport, is being remade without him, he has an emotional breakdown, bringing him to tears and losing his temper. He reminisces on the time when he had nothing but the one movie that he put his entire heart and soul into that made him famous. He tells us about the moment he first met Gladys and fell in love straight away…

Episode 7: “Booder”

With JCVD’s son hoping to fellow in his father’s footsteps, Jean-Claude has a sit down with Kristopher and has a heart-to-heart. Telling Kristopher the tales of his own troublesome lifestyle mixed-up in drugs and getting too caught up in fame can make anyone become foolish he warns. The temptations of the Hollywood lifestyle will always be there but Kristopher realises, he has to be strong.

Episode 8: “Ceremony”

Jean-Claude is a national hero to the Belgian people. Everywhere he goes, people know who he is and ask for autographs. Today, Jean-Claude is invited to present an award live on Brussels television. However, years of movie-set explosions, firing blank rounds at bad guys has made our hero quite deaf and embarrassingly on live TV, he walks off stage…Enjoying a family meal in Chinatown, Kristopher invites a secret guest to the dinner as the seniors recollect the days of their youth.


Jean-Claude allows a film crew to follow him and film his personal life, his home, family and even work. Behind Bloodsport, the 360 degree kicks, Universal Soldier and the monika, Muscle from Brussels, we experience a totally different view of Jean-Claude!  From working on movie after movie and moving from one location to another, we see how hard and devoted our action hero is.  However it is not all work for Jean-Claude, we also see him cracking jokes with cast and film crew and relaxing in his private world.

One of the most emotionally gripping moments that really made me respect Jean-Claude was seeing him breakdown. I’ve always grown up thinking that he was an iron man…that he was unbreakable. To see how much he still wants to make movies after twenty years and how hurt he can get for not getting roles…Bloodsport is what made him the man he is today and it is truly heart breaking to see that producers thought it would be best to replace him. To me this is like watching Rambo: First Blood Part II without Sylvester Stallone or Die Hard without Bruce Willis. To my mind, I cannot conceive these movies without them and Bloodsport was Jean Claude’s baby, but they took that away from him. Seeing him cry and describe the days of twenty hour shoots and no CGI, really reminded me how much more I respect him not only as an actor but as a true action hero in his own right.

“My first Bloodsport was the real Bloodsport. No CGI, no cable, no trampoline, they were real hits. We worked twenty hours a day and we did the last fight scene in half a day. They need three weeks for fights nowadays” – Jean-Claude Van Damme


  • Kristopher Van Varenberg crashed the stunt car into his father’s camper while performing a stunt.
  • It is rumoured that the documentary team took out some remarks that Jean-Claude said about Steven Seagal
  • Jean-Claude had always wanted a documentary made, to follow him around and see his life but for some reason, he always backed-out at the last minute!


TV Show Rating: 8/10

Guest Contributor

All our guest contributors share an unrivalled passion for all things martial arts; movies, books, and in some cases practising various forms too!

1 Comment
  1. Excellent review, sir! My feelings exactly on the “Bloodsport” reboot. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a passing of the torch sort of story taking place twenty years later, with JC training the next fighter to compete in the Kumite, preferably Scott Adkins! From what I’ve heard about the reboot, it has so little to do with the original premise of “Bloodsport”, that it’s essentially a name-only “remake”.

    “The story will follow an American who goes to Brazil to recover from the violence he has experienced in Afghanistan who gets involved in a martial arts contest.” As Dr. Evil would say, Riiiiiiight.

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