Stefanos Miltsakakis, a legendary actor who gained fame in Hollywood for his fighting ability has passed away at the age of 59.
The Hollywood Reporter shared the news that Miltsakakis — best known for starring alongside or fighting against martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme — reportedly died in his sleep at his Santa Monica, California home on Jan. 10.
The sad announcement was made by Miltsakakis’ personal manager of many years, Stephen Brown, who said, “He was a mentor to so many of us who were blessed to have known him.”
The star is survived by his sister as well as a nephew and niece. He will be buried beside his father in his hometown in Greece.
Greek-born fighter and action star
Born in Provatonas, Greece, Miltsakakis moved to the United States as a child and began fighting at a very early age. He recalled in a 2011 interview, “I remember fighting as soon as I started to walk. I mean, it was just the circumstances. I grew up in a place (where) children would just fight with each other and wrestle all day long. It was a different time, a different era, a different place.”
In 1984, he qualified for the Greek Olympic wrestling team, but had to be replaced after suffering a knee injury. Miltsakakis also trained in various martial arts, including Brazilian-style jiu-jitsu, in which he competed on the world stage.
However, it was his choreographed fights on the big screen that really gained fame for the 6-foot-1, 220-pound muscle-bound “bad guy” whose roles varied from bar bouncers to Russian thugs to championship fighters.
Ironically, his first big break in Hollywood came in the form of a comedy, when he starred as in 1989 hit Weekend At Bernie’s as a bodybuilder named Klaus who helped manipulate as if alive the dead star of that film at a party.
Jean-Claude Van Damme’s nemesis
His career really took off, though, after he paired with Van Damme for the 1989 film Cyborg, and went on to fight against or alongside the popular star in four other action films, Lionheart, Maximum Risk, The Quest, and Derailed.
Miltsakakis also starred in a number of other films that highlighted his fighting abilities, and he continued to hone his mastery of mixed martial arts by training with some of the top masters of various styles in his era.
The actor’s final movie role came in 2018’s Den of Thieves with star Gerard Butler, in which Miltsakakis played a bar bouncer.
Action movie and mixed martial arts fans will certainly miss Miltsakakis, who died too soon at just 59 years of age.