Interview with Dolph Lundgren
Yes, we rang a number, Dolph Lundgren answered and we spoke to him. This exclusive interview with Dolph Lundgren was the result.
Dolph Lundgren is an actor, director, martial artist and phone conversationist of some repute who once harboured the most famous flat-top in action movie history and used it to kill Apollo Creed.
He epitomized the uber-pumped action hero of the 1980s - getting his big break across from Sylvester Stallone in the brilliant Rocky IV - and still works in Tinseltown today having recently wrapped on his new movie, reprising roles alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING.
Movie critics might not have ever been too kind to Lundgren, but his jovial responses to our questions belie an intelligent, self-effacing character who has both a Masters degree in chemical engineering and back-street brawling, but shouts about neither.
We gave him a bell to talk about UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING and encourage him to shout about himself a bit more. If only for the next ten minutes.......
KB: Right, we don't have much time, Mr Lundgren, so let's crack on yeah?
DL: Let's go!
KB: Righto, captain. So, tell us, how cool was it going back to the Universal Soldier franchise after all this time? How much fun have yourself and JCVD had making UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING?
DL: It wasn't fun to start with because I didn't want to do it - I didn't like the original script. But John Hyams came on board and turned it into a psychological thriller/horror movie which I thought was interesting, and really different from the first 3 [of which Lundgren was in 2], so then it became fun. I got to have a little bit of fun as an actor and also there's some terrific fights in it. So even though I only worked for 2 or 3 weeks, it was good.
KB: Do you still enjoy doing fight scenes as much as you did 20 years ago?
DL: I guess I don't really, no, because I've done so many of them. But if they're well-choreographed, like the two I have in this film, and you're working alongside people like Andrei Arlovski (1) who's a beast in real life, and Scott Adkins (2) who's an incredible martial artist, then yes, it is fun. It has to be special now though, because I've done so many of these things.
KB: How does Van Damme rate among the tough actors you've worked with? Is he the hardest?
DL: He's certainly one of the most talented. But then you've got actors in these things and then you've got real fighters. When you're fighting Arlovski you have to really watch out because you know he can hurt you. Same thing with Randy Couture (3). I had a fight with him in a film called Rush and if he comes at you with something then you better be watching out, y'know?
KB: What about Van Damme? Does he give you the willies?
DL: Haha, no. Jean-Claude is an exceptional martial artist who knows all the moves and certainly contributes a lot to a fight, but on a different level. These real guys are different animals entirely when you're facing them.
KB: If you were hurt after doing a scene would you admit or not?
DL: Hmmm, well. if I can help it I don't!
KB: Crying is not allowed.
DL: Definitely not. If you get a real injury where you need to see someone or you need to get it wrapped up, then you better go tell someone, but if you're just a bit banged-up you just say "I'm fine!" and you carry on (4).
KB: Most people don't know you have a master's degree and a monster IQ (5). Who is the cleverest and the least clever actor you've worked with?
DL: Haha, well, most of my characters aren't the cleverest. The people I've played are some of the most moronic, violent people in the world, right?
KB: I'm not saying anything.
DL: Take Sly Stallone though. Some people think because he talks the way he does in Rocky and Rambo that he isn't smart, but he's a super-smart guy. He's well-read and he knows a lot about the business. Obviously, Arnold is the same. You don't get to be the Governor of California if you're not smart. But there is a stigma attached to playing big guys with big guns, sure. People think you're stupid because that's what you do.
KB: Some actions stars are less clever though, right?
DL: Sure! Plenty of them, but I won't mention any names. You don't have to be smart to be an actor, put it that way. In some ways it's better not to be smart or you can over-analyse things too much.
KB: What's the toughest ever role you've had to prepare for?
DL: In 1994 I did the movie, Pentathlon, so I had to train five sports - shooting, fencing, running, swimming, horseback riding - which was tough. I had to be good at all of them. But I can still do all the disciplines.
For Rocky IV I did six months' worth of training with Sly, six days per week, two big sessions per day, that was tough preparation.
Dramatically, I did a lot of work for the first Expendables because I knew it was a big shot to comeback and I had to cut it alongside guys like Mickey Rourke (6) and Sly, so I had to really think about that character and get him right.
KB: Can preparation be more fun than the movie itself?
DL: Yeah, most of the time it is actually. You don't have the pressure and you can go ride with the cops, go shooting with them or learn a profession you knew nothing about. I enjoy that part of making movies.
KB: What's the hardest sport you ever turned your hand to then (7)?
DL: Horseback jumping in Pentathlon (8). You guys call it showjumping, right? That was difficult. Horses don't like me for one: I'm a big guy, right? So they'd always give me the biggest horse. And those animals feel it when you're nervous, right? So I got thrown a lot of times. The producers would have stopped it had they known, but I didn't tell them.
So when I watch horsejumping now I know how tough it is. It's not just you, like any other sport, you're controlling another sentient beast underneath you. It's tough.
KB: Speaking of sentient and non-sentient beasts. What was behind the scenes like on Expendables? Was it green tea and chit-chat or was it big cigars and arm wrestling?
DL: Bit of both. Big cigars, certainly. I don't smoke them too much nowadays, but there was some of that. A little bit of healthy competition too, keeping healthy and looking good and not being showed up too much by the other guys.
KB: Have you ever lost an arm wrestle?
DL: I think I may have done yes. I've not done too much arm wrestling, but yeah, me and Sly had this weight coach on Rocky IV from Slovakia who was a bit like an orang-utan, you know, arms down to his knees who'd eat a plate of pasta at 5 in the morning then go lift 200 kilos. He had hair everywhere and he was pretty good at arm wrestling. He beat me once.
KB: What one exercise should a busy man do every day?
DL: If you're gonna pick one then you can't really go wrong with a push-up. You can do it pretty much anywhere and it works your abs and it works your butt and your upper body. You can't go far wrong with that, huh?
KB: Indeed. How much time do you spend in the gym compared to your pec-popping heyday?
DL: I spend a little bit less but I try to be smarter about it and do different types of workouts: strength training once or twice a week; rehab once or twice a week, which is more balanced stuff working the core; and I'll do cardio once or twice a week.
So not much less time but also I'm more disciplined now. I don't drink as much.
KB: What's you drink of choice?
DL: Tequila and beer. And expensive wine. I don't like to get a headache.
KB: What is your party trick?
DL: Singing Swedish drinking songs usually goes over pretty big, especially if you wait till everyone else is drunk. So they appreciate my singing.
KB: How much of your film memorabilia have you actually kept?
DL: I haven't kept that much but I've got the He-Man sword and the armour, and I have the Punisher outfit. Both of which are pretty cool.
KB: What's next on your bucket list?
DL: I want to get my helicopter licence. In the States it's easy to learn to fly. So in my filming downtime that would be cool.
KB: Lastly, what's the worst thing about getting older?
DL: Taking more care of your health. Doing less crazy stuff. You have to be more balanced. When you're younger you can take more liberties.
KB: Keep believin', Dolph.
DL: Thanks KB.
** UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is released on DVD, Blu-ray and limited edition 3D & 2D steelbook from 11 February, 2013**
[Interview by Stuart Messham]
(1) Andrei Arlovski is a Belrussian Mixed Martial Artist, former ultimate Fighting Championship Heavyweight Champion and the only man ever to knock our Roy Nelson.
(3) Couture is the first fighter to hold two UFC championship titles in two different divisions, Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight. And holds the most title reigns, with five.
(4) Lundgren (reportedly) has an IQ of 160. He has a masters in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and speaks five languages (Swedish, English, German, French and Japanese).
(5) Stallone wasn't so lucky on Rocky IV, he ended up in hospital for nine days in total during the fight filming. He said in an interview in EW: "I had just seen the Hagler-Hearns fight where these two consummate professionals disliked each other so much they just went at it like two amateurs. Just hammering each other. They didn't care what happened. Blood, knockdowns, it was chaotic. It became one of the great fights of all time. So I said to Dolph, "We practiced one thing, [but] let's just go at it for the first 15 seconds. I want you to try to knock me out. Just bomb away." Well, he did. And he gets me in the corner, and he's bombing away, and I'm tryin' to slip the punches and then he comes with this uppercut in my chest, and I went: That hurt. Okay. Cut. Let's finish the rest of the day. That night, I felt this thumping. It was hard to breathe. I went to the emergency room. My blood pressure was like 290, and they put me on a low-level flight to St. John's Hospital where I was put into intensive care because the pericardial sac around my heart was swelling and impeding the beating of my heart. I was there, like I said, for nine days surrounded by nuns. Not good. And Lloyd's of London said, "Ah, we believe he's faking it. This accident is not in keeping with boxing. Usually this kind of pericardial swelling is the result of head on collisions, when the steering wheel hits you in the chest." I said, "Well, have you seen Dolph Lundgren? That's a truck. That's a steering wheel. That's a head on collision." So they took the film and broke it down frame by frame. They honored the insurance claim.
(6) Lundgren knew Rourke pretty well. He owned a club with Frank Stallone (Sly's brother) on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood called Black and Blue where Rourke used to hang out a lot. Drinking got done.
(7) Lundgren holds a rank of 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate and was European champion in 1980 and 1981.
(8) Lundgren trained with the U.S. pentathlon team in preparation for the role and later served as the Team Leader of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Modern Pentathlon team during the Atlanta Games.