Jean-Claude Van Damme

Born in Agathe, Belgium, on Oct. 18, 1960, athletic action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme was practicing martial arts by age 11 and went on to win a string of competitive honors, including the European Professional Karate Association's middleweight championship, and even studied ballet to improve his form.

His dreams of becoming a movie star began to take shape when he moved to America and was cast as a Russian in No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), which led to high-profile but formulaic roles in films such as Bloodsport (1988), Kickboxer (1989), Double Impact (1991) and The Quest (1996).

Despite his catchy nickname as "the Muscles from Brussels," Van Damme hasn't experienced the same degree of crossover success as fellow strongmen Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- but he's come close with the high-grossing hits Universal Soldier (1992) and Nowhere to Run (1993).