Dolph Lundgren isn't the first name that springs to mind when you think "chemical engineer," is it? You might be surprised to know that the guy who has made a career out of playing muscular bad dudes in movies has a masters in that field from the University of Sydney, and he was also a Fulbright scholar to MIT. However, he dropped out after two weeks to pursue acting full time, and that's left us with his performances in everything from Rocky IV to The Punisher to Universal Soldier.
He'll also be going toe to toe with Sylvester Stallone once more in The Expendables, but we found him returning to his Universal Soldier roots at Fantastic Fest in Austin with a sneak peek at Universal Soldier: A New Beginning. Read on beyond the break for the full interview, including an homage to Rocky IV that you'll see in onscreen.
Cinematical: Rocky came back. Rambo came back. Universal Soldier is now back. Did you think you would be revisiting this role 17 years after the fact?
Dolph Lundgren: You know I didn't because I was chopped up into little pieces last time. There's the magic of movies.
The power of the pen.
Yeah. I haven't done any sequels. I have been in a lot of movies. Like Rocky ... Stallone has done a lot of sequels with the Rockys. He is one of the first guys who started doing it. But this one kind of came out of left field. But having seen the picture, I just saw it for the first time just now with you, I am glad I did it because I think John [Hyams] did a terrific job. There is something cool about the original concept that kind of has legs. And I think I have a feeling that it will travel beyond this picture and maybe other media as well. So it was fun for me.
It looks like they can bring you back whenever they want now.
Well that is it, you see. I mean that is what I felt at the end. Yeah, I died and it was kind of cool. It was a good death scene. It was actually one of the better sequences of the film, I thought myself. Not just me, but the whole thing. Then at the end when they zipped those guys up, I said, "Yeah, OK. I get it. OK. He just lost his head. No big deal."
Did you have to think about it for a while? Were you sure you wanted to come back?
It took me a long time to decide to do it because I was working with some other pictures. I was directing a movie. I had The Expendables that I had to work on, that I had to prepare for. And also, I didn't like the original director. I can't remember who it was. It doesn't matter. And even the first script wasn't that good. But not until I met John and saw his work did I really consider it. John had a cool idea, and I knew that between him and his dad that they were going to make sort of a real effort at making a real movie, not just doing some exploitation thing because it is a concept I can be sold on. I really felt that they were serious about it. And even so, it was hard for me to commit because I had so much else going on. But I am glad I did it.
You have been directing quite a bit and writing. How has that been? Have you been really enjoying that?
Yeah. I never went to film school. I never had any formal education. I kind of just learned on the set, I guess. You know, rewriting scripts and working with directors. I suppose if you do enough movies, not all actors, but I think a lot actors, when you star in enough movies, big or small, then you just figure, "Ah, I might as well see what it is like and try it out." I like it because I think it is more stimulating in a different way than acting. Acting, you get the rush as you do it and as you prepare. It is like going to the analyst or something. You get rid of a lot of crap inside. But when you direct, you get a chance to affect the audience and learn about technical matters and music. Yeah. It is stimulating. I like it.
What has it been like working with Stallone again?
It was terrific. It was really exciting. And that is a really big movie, and I forgot what it was like to work on a big movie. I mean a really big movie when nothing is left to chance. Everything is done until it is perfect. So yeah. Stallone wrote a really good role for me. And he pushed me as an actor as well, which is interesting, because he is not intimidated by anybody. And he has the sort of clout to basically not let you off the hook as an actor. And I think that is important sometimes to be reminded of how you can perhaps do things you don't think you can do.
Do we get to see you guys onscreen together?
Oh yeah. There is a group of guys in The Expendables and he is the boss, and I am one of his kind of old friends. And we have this love/hate relationship in the movie where I am kind of the guy who is crazy enough. He goes from like the good guys to the bad guys back and forth. So there is a betrayal and kind of a lot of stuff going on between me and Stallone. So that was really film to be onscreen with him.
Does he give any little nods to Rocky IV?
You know ... well not really. But the first scene we shot was a scene when he is [xx] and then we are talking in the car, and he gets out and I am standing right there like this. And I am looking down at him.
Right, like the Ivan / Rocky staredown. There's a big height difference.
When he fires me. So there is the staredown. I am looking at him and he basically throws me out, and I get pissed off and push him. So it has that kind of "in the ring" kind of thing. So I actually did it in the take. I hadn't planned to do it, but I did it. And I could hear the crew kind of go, "Oooh!" back there, like, "What's he doing!" Then Stallone says, "Push me harder next time!"
He has kept Rocky alive, and Ivan didn't die in Rocky IV. What if he wanted to bring him back? Would you be up for doing that all over again?
Put those Russian boxing ... those Soviet boxing trunks on again? I don't know. It would feel very strange. I really think that it would be nice not to have to do it. Keep Ivan doing ...
Working on a farm or something.
Yeah. Exactly. That is it. Pumping gas in Siberia somewhere.
He has been exiled. A lot of people don't know, and somebody brought this up tonight, that you have a masters degree in chemical engineering. You were a Fulbright scholar at MIT. What if you hadn't given that up and pursued acting? What do you think you would be doing today?
Well, you know. My older brother is an engineer. He works for an oil company. He has his own company actually. I don't know. I am trying to use it now a little bit because I am getting involved a little bit in environmental causes back in Sweden. I suppose I would have worked for a big corporation, had two or three kids, and been really boring. I don't know.
It seems like tonight everyone thinks you made the right choice.
Yes, I'm hoping to keep my day job for awhile.