Swedish actor, director and martial-artist Dolph Lundgren has remained a prominent part of the action movie world for over 20 years now. Following his bravura debut in the James Bond movie ”A View to a Kill”, Sylvester Stallone hand-picked the towering Swede to play Russian fighter Ivan Drago in ”Rocky IV”. Lundgren’s acclaimed turn as the indestructible Drago led to starring roles in such action-heavy vehicles as ”Masters of the Universe”, ”Red Scorpion”, ”The Punisher”, ”Showdown in Little Tokyo” and ”Universal Soldier”.
For the past decade or so Lundgren’s spent most of his time starring in and directing direct-to-DVD fare like ”The Defender” and ”Missionary Man” but now, thanks to his ”Rocky IV” co-star, the actor is getting the opportunity to plant his mug on the big screen again – co-starring in the all-star action blockbuster ”The Expendables”.
CLINT MORRIS caught up with the original Frank Castle to talk “The Expendables”.
You’re bringing the old school action movie back Dolph!
Yeah! The Expendables is definitely a testosterone-fueled action fest!
And you look as fit as ever in the film, you still work out every day?
I was actually about ten pounds heavier in the film, because I wanted to be able to stand next to Terry Crews – whose arms are absolutely huge – so I worked out even more than usual. There are a few big guys on the film so I wanted to try and compete with them, ya know? But as for training every day, yeah, pretty much and I’ve always done a lot of martial arts. I’ve actually been training a lot more lately because I’m trying to get my fourth-degree black-belt.
Do you tend to work out more when you’re on a film though?
Yeah, it depends on the role. In this case, knowing I was going to be acting opposite big guys, I did a bit more than usual. I worked a lot on my arms, through the use of weights, because I knew that’s what the audiences would be looking at mostly. I always work out, but I try and tailor it a little bit to the picture I’m doing – for instance, if I’m doing a martial-arts movie I’ll do a fair bit of sparring. I’m also currently working on a Fitness book, so I’m doing a lot of different types of training in my research for that.
In a recent interview, Jean-Claude Van Damme joked that, now he’s of middle-age, he can’t do half the stuff he use to do. Do you find age is limiting you, too?
Yeah, but I think it’s about becoming more consistent. As one gets older it’s harder to stay in shape, so you can’t slack off. But yes, nothing’s as easy as it use to be [Laughs]
Did you get damaged on the set of The Expendables?
Not too much, no – took nowhere near the beating I did on Rocky. I did get punched a few times by Jet Li, when we were doing our big fight sequence. Oh, I did have to have some elbow surgery.
Oh, just a little bit of elbow surgery? You make it sound like a scratch!
It was nothing, much. I got off pretty easy on this film.
You’ve been directing films yourself for a while. Did you sometimes feel the urge to wrestle the megaphone off Sly?
[Laughs] No, but he was gracious involve to involve me in the creative process. When he was writing the script we would go over what he’d written together, and I’d throw my five cents in, and we would constantly come up with new lines – stuff that plays on that whole Ivan Drago/Rocky Balboa thing. But no, Stallone doesn’t need any tips from me – he’s done more action movies than anyone. He’s actually done more action films than Clint Eastwood.
Did Sly write the role for you?
Well, I dunno, but the script did describe the character as being this big Scandinavian guy, so it sounded somewhat like me.
You and Stallone had obviously stayed in touch since the days of Rocky IV?
Yeah, we’ve never talked about working together but we’ve been working for the same producers the last couple of years so we’d run into each other. It was always good to catch up and talk about this and that. I was really surprised when he came to me with the script for The Expendables. I was so pumped that he’d offer me the opportunity to work with him again.
What some of these filmmakers that are using 3D seem to forget is that the cinematic experience doesn’t start and stop with the visuals – sound is just as important. As a filmmaker, do you consider sound as important a tool as the vision?
Yes, totally. On The Expendables, for instance, Sly spent a considerable amount of time on the sound – mixing and so on. It’s a painstaking task trying to find sounds for all of the elements and effects sequences. I remember Sly was looking for the sound of a truck; he’d have to have worked his way through the sounds of a hundred different engines, until he found an 8000-horsepower dragster he liked. There’s a lot more to sound engineering than people think.
The Expendables is your first theatrical release in many years. Do you think it’ll be a big boost to your career?
I hope so. I’ve done a lot of direct-to-DVD movies – some great, and some not-so-great – so it’s a nice change. It’s very difficult to get your film on the big screen these days, so I jumped at the opportunity to do a film that was going to get a theatrical release.
What about you and Sly doing a buddy-cop movie together? That could work!
That would be cool! Ya know, I think Stallone might be thinking of doing an Expendables sequel, so I’d likely get the opportunity to work with him again on that. Stallone’s one-of-a-kind – he will do stuff that I’d probably be too embarrassed to do, like Over the Top; he’s a real risk-taker.
As you are! Didn’t you start in a totally different career?
I actually studied there in Australia. I got my masters degree in Chemical engineering. I studied at the University of Sydney in the early ‘80s.
And you came back to Australia years later to do The Punisher, right?
Yeah, I did. I got to come back and work for about five months. It’s a cool place.
No, I’ll tell you what’s cool… The Expendables is one of the only 2D films on release at the moment!
It is! Personally, I’m not a huge fan of 3D, I know it’s a cool thing and all, but I just don’t go for it. It seems to be just a ploy to get more money out of the box office. A lot of filmmakers are using it so they can get the squeeze on [the competition], whether their films lend themselves to the medium or not. I guess I’ll have to change my stance on that sooner or later, though.
Because aren’t you doing a 3D Universal Soldier sequel soon? That was announced a few months back in the press?
Well, I haven’t seen a script yet. I don’t even know who’s in it. It’s hard to say whether it’s going to be any good. My character has died twice now, how are they going to bring me back a third time?
The Expendables commences Thursday