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Jean Claude Van Damme in 'Jean Claude Van Johnson'. (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

“I used to be super famous.” So says Jean-Claude Van Damme, who takes on his most challenging role yet in Jean-Claude Van Johnson: himself.

The new show premieres in full on Amazon Prime today (Friday 15 December), and promises to reveal a whole new side to the “Muscles from Brussels” as he turns to covert black-ops assignments as a means of reviving his career.

The whole thing is very surreal, made all the more perplexing by just how much of this down-on-his-luck version of Van Damme we should believe. Is it all a clever self parody? Or a genuinely disgruntled star’s vanity project? The answer is left deliberately unclear.

Below are ten other shows that toy with the image of our favorite stars.

10. Bill Murray in Zombieland (2009)

“Mad zombie disease” has taken over the entire population in America in this movie by forthcoming Venom director Ruben Fleischer, but things get really crazy when the Lost in Translation star suddenly turns up as a fictional survivor version of himself.

(Photo: Columbia Pictures)
(Photo: Columbia Pictures)

9. Jean-Claude Van Damme in Friends (1996)

Jean-Claude Van Johnson is not the first time Jean-Claude has played himself by any measure. He popped up as a love interest for Monica (Courteney Cox) in Friends episode “The One After the Super-Bowl (Part 2)”, and then again in JCVD, a 2008 Belgian crime drama in which he plays a semi-fictionalized version of himself where he’s a down-and-out action star.

(Photo: NBC)
(Photo: NBC)

8. Emma Watson in This is The End (2013)

Sure, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and a surprisingly forward Michael Cera get thrown together when the apocalypse comes to Hollywood in this superlatively self-indulgent outing, but things really take a strange turn when a kick-ass Hermione turns up toting an ax.

7. Warwick Davis in Life’s Too Short (2011 – 2013)

The Willow and Harry Potter star plays a self-aggrandizing version of himself in this series from exec producers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, as he desperately tries to hustle his way back into the spotlight as Britain’s go-to little person.

6. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip (2010 – )

Having appeared together in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, the two comedians play themselves once again in this series about two actors driving around beautiful parts of the world and eating five-star meals. No, really. That’s all there is to it. Meanwhile, that leaves them plenty of time to compare impressions.

5. Cate Blanchett in Coffee And Cigarettes (2003)

This film by director Jim Jarmusch features 11 vignettes of well-known actors and other artists playing themselves or some version thereof. Bill Murray waits on the Wu-Tang Clan, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits get on each others’ nerves, and Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes discuss Nikola Tesla. Only one star plays two characters, however, and that’s our Cate, who plays herself plus a fictional and non-famous cousin named Shelly.

4. John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich (1999)

We can only imagine how it must have felt for John Malkovich when he first received the script for Charlie Kaufman‘s debut film. Not like we have a portal into his head or anything. No. That would be silly.

3. Matt LeBlanc in Episodes (2011 – 2017)

Say it ain’t so: According to this series about two British writers transplanted to L.A., Joey from Friends is a sex-crazed, egomaniacal Hollywood star who’s somehow managed to waste most of his money. The show is the brain child of David Crane, who previously co-created Friends and must have some insight on the matter…

2. Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 – )

This one is more than a little meta: Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and the inspiration behind Jerry’s brilliantly neurotic friend George Costanza (Jason Alexander), plays himself as he goes about life after the sitcom. There’s no laughter track, and there’s no slap bass, but in season seven, Larry finally gets a chance to play the role of his lifetime: George.

1. Daniel Radcliffe in Extras (2006)

Many stars played themselves in Ricky Gervais‘s much-anticipated follow-up sitcom to The Office, but none so hilariously as the boy-wonder behind Harry Potter‘s titular wizard. Still only 17 at the time, he sent himself up as a horny teenager obsessed with women and sex — our first indication that he had range and a thriving career ahead of him.

(Image: BBC)
(Image: BBC)
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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.