Dolph Lundgren is a Swedish actor, director, and martial artist. He belongs to a generation of film actors who epitomise the action hero stereotype, alongside Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. He received a degree in chemistry from Washington State University, a degree in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in the early 1980s, then a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia in 1982. Lundgren holds a rank of 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate and was European champion in 1980 and 1981. While in Sydney, he became a bodyguard for Jamaican singer Grace Jones and began a relationship with her. They moved together to New York City, where after a short stint as a model and bouncer at the Manhattan nightclub The Limelight, Jones got him a small debut role in the James Bond film A View to a Kill as a KGB henchman. Lundgren's breakthrough came when he starred in Rocky IV in 1985 as the imposing Russian boxer Ivan Drago. Since then, he has starred in more than 40 movies, almost all of them in the action genre.
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Hey, this is Dolph. I'm in Manhattan right now. I'm on a terrace overlooking Central Park, and I'm ready for your questions.
My new film is called SKIN TRADE, and it's available on VOD and iTunes and will be in select theaters starting tomorrow.
You can check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFJOfTk_gAY
Victoria's helping me out on the phone.
Update: Thank you to you, Victoria, and thank you to all of you for your questions. I hope you all enjoy SKIN TRADE, and I'd like to come back and talk with you all soon!
Hey Dolph! How am I hanging?
edit: I received gold for a dick joke two years in the making?! Thank you so much!
Hahaha! To the left! Hahaha!
Have the guys from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia reached out to you yet?
You know, yeah, they did.
And I think they included me, or my picture, or something in a clip of one of their episodes. But I haven't been on the show yet.
I was on WORKAHOLICS and some other shows.
But I haven't seen that Philadelphia show. But I guess there's some character named after me or something?
I'd love to be on it. Let's hope so.
Hi Dolph. I'm curious as to what led you to getting your masters in chemical engineering? Was it a decision between chemical and something else? thank you!
My dad was an engineer, he was an electrical engineer, and my older brother was a chemical engineer, so that's why I pursued engineering, even though my original plan was to be a doctor. But I got into medical school, and there was a HUGE backlog, you had to wait a year to begin studying, so that's why I went into chemical engineering.
Have you returned to break reddit again?
I guess I must break you...I guess I must break reddit? I don't want to break it. I'm having fun chatting with fans. I wanna keep it going!
Hi, Dolph! What was it like to be a part of the James Bond franchise as one of your very first roles?
It was interesting. I mean, it was overwhelming - first I was in the Bond Movie set, it was very impressive. I remember they shot at the Eiffel Tower, and in those days, you could just rent the Eiffel Tower for 2 days, close it down and shoot a movie, I don't think you can do that anymore. And I met Roger Moore, and a few other people. And I played a small role, literally 2 minutes I was gone, but that got me a little taste of the whole show business experience, in and around the set.
If you had actually fought Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers when Rocky IV was being filmed, who would have won? Who would win if you fought now?
Ha ha ha!
Well, I guess I'd have a pretty good shot at both chances.
You know, boxing, a lot of it is about how hard you can hit. So I guess I have an advantage over both those guys. I mean, for actors they're pretty good. But I'd bet my money on myself for that fight.
Hey Dolph, in Showdown in Little Tokyo, when you were eating sushi off those naked ladies, was that real?
Yeah. I think both the sushi and the ladies were real, as far as I imagine! Ha ha ha! This was the 80's, where you could do different things in the movies than today!
Is it true that you can smell crime?
Some of my characters can... but I try to smell so nobody rips me off!
I've been working on it! Ha ha ha!
Greetings Mr. Lundgren,
Being a very accomplished Kyokushin fighter, what do you think about the state of martial arts today and what is your opinion of MMA?
I am a huge admirer of your work on and off screen. Thank you for your time.
Well, I think that martial arts are still alive and well.
It's different today, because people have a lot of other things that compete with martial arts - like gym classes, aerobics, Zumba, you know, the... what do you call it... all of these special workout CDs on the internet. So I think it's more difficult to keep your focus today.
But there are some good martial artists, both in MMA and in K-1 as well.
And there's also another league called Glory -
Lifelong fan, Dolph. What can you tell us about working with the late Brandon Lee on Showdown in Little Tokyo? The guy seemed incredibly charasmatic and destined for a good movie career.
I wrote a paper at university about how that flick is one of the few exploring a bisexual man coming to terms with his orientation (Predator 2 is another). Take that as you like.
Well, Brandon was a special guy. We became good friends during the shoot of the picture. His mother was Swedish. So he was half-Chinese (because of Bruce Lee, his dad) and his mom was Swedish, and we both were martial artists. And I agree with you - had he lived, he would've become a huge star, maybe even bigger than his dad.
Hi, Mr. Lundgren! I’m a huge fan! Rocky IV, The Punisher, and Masters of the Universe defined my childhood. I just had a few questions:
I’ve read that you’ve worked for many years to bring Skin Trade to fruition. How important is this movie to you and to bringing more awareness to the rampant human trafficking going on in the world today?
Were you a fan of the Punisher or He-Man before you took those roles?
How much fun was it to yell “I have the power!”?
Has anyone ever yelled “DRAGOOOOOOO!!!” to you or around you?
How long have you been playing the drums?
Thank you so much for all the childhood memories and for letting Sylvester Stallone beat you to end communism, since we all know there’s no way he could have legitimately won. ;)
Well, thank you.
The cause of human trafficking, which is portrayed in SKIN TRADE, is very important to me. After working on this movie for more than a year, I'm now involved with an organization called CAST - Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. And the film has been a good experience. I feel good that it's being released. But the cause itself is even more important to me.
You know, I hadn't read THE PUNISHER comic. I knew a little bit about He-Man because I'd seen the cartoons. But you know, back in the day, playing a toy was considered a very risky decision that could jeopardize your career. But now, it's a big thing to be a superhero, from a comic book. But back then, it wasn't like that. I am glad I did both those roles. It turns out that people liked those m movies.
Hahaha. It was alright. I think I was thinking of going home and taking a shower after fighting the bad guy in the movie. They smeared me with like 2 pounds of Vaseline every day. It got hot.
I did it once, hahaha! Or maybe a few times!
You know, I started playing drums when I was about 10 years old. And I played them on and off. And then I shot a movie called COMMAND PERFORMANCE, where I played the drums, and I really enjoyed it. So hopefully I can play more drums in the future.
Hahaha! Well, thank you. It was a pretty good script, and he won at the end. And Rocky won at the end. You can't go to Russia and lose, so...
Do you have any funny story from filming Dark Angel (I
Come in Piece)?
Yeah, that was shot in Houston, Texas. And you know, it was a fun movie. It has these big aliens in it - and this was before CGI - so they had to make it all happen in-camera. They had these two big guys - one is an East German Olympic champion, Decathlon, and he's the BIGGEST guy I've ever fought. He was so athletic. They blew up like 10 cars in the parking lot, and he jumped from one roof of a car to the next, with explosions chasing him. Now that would be CGI, but back then, it was real - and they only had one shot! A real shot. Running for his life, with explosives chasing him, one car blowing up after another, and he jumped into water at the end. He did those stunts. I couldn't believe it.
Do you have any real close celebrity friends? Do you ever speak to Grace Jones anymore?
I don't have that many celebrity friends any more. I think the closest one I have is Stallone, and Schwarzenegger, and I'm pretty close with Statham and Snipes. And... um... some of the other EXPENDABLES, Mickey Rourke, we got pretty close. I haven't talked to Grace Jones for a while. Last time I saw her musta been in Cannes, a few years ago. But since I'm in New York, I'm thinking of giving her a call, at least talking to her.
Mr. Lundgren, what's the story behind this video of you singing Elvis' A Little Less Conversation, dancing, playing a drum solo, and doing martial arts? It's beyond awesome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wBq3wPBOXc
Also, GREAT interview with Creative Screenwriting the other day. It was nice to read an interview with you that wasn't just about Rocky IV or Universal Soldier and really explored your current work!
Well, I hosted the Swedish version of - it's something called the Eurovision Song Contest. It's kind of like Who's Got Talent, the show? And I was the host, and every host usually does a performance. And they were trying to figure out what kind of song I should do, and somebody came up with the idea of Elvis, because he was physical, did some action stuff. And there's a new version of - A Little Less Conversation. And it was fun, I did some singing, chopped some ice, a little dancing, it was cool. But i won't be doing that anytime soon again! My 2 daughters were embarrassed!
HA HA HA!
But it was fun. I enjoyed it. I really did.
Hi Dolph! Thanks for coming! I was wondering, what is your favorite book?
I read a lot. I read a lot of history. I read a really good one, just finished it, called TEAM OF RIVALS, about Lincoln. It's about how he threw his cabinet together after the election, and how he rose from being a backwoods lawyer whom nobody knew to one of the most famous historical lawyers in not only American history, but WORLD history, and it all happened in 5 years.
He was unknown in 1860. But by 1865, he became a major historical figure forever and ever. Which is just amazing, the way it happened.
In what ways did the action genre changed since the eighties in your
Well, the technical innovations of CGI and wire-work has changed it a lot. Because now you can make almost anything happen onscreen and it looks totally real. So the performer doesn't necessarily need the skills that you needed in the '80s. You don't have to be able to fight, or jump, or run, because you'll have a double, or they'll figure out a way to make it look like you're doing it, which opens up the action genre to really good actors who maybe aren't as physical. They're trained, but they're not professional athletes or fighters like we used to be. We had to have very, very good skills because there was no way to make it happen after you shot the scene, it had to happen in front of the camera. This is why now, if you win an Academy Award, you can become an action movie actor - or at least give it a really good shot! Then you can go straight into the Marvel movies. And if you have to do action, there's a way to make it look real. I think it's great, opens it up to more people.
Hi. I was surprised by how many films you have acted in, what do you think your body count is?
That's a good question.
I don't know.
But I remember on EXPENDABLES 1, one of the British magazines, I think it was LOADED or MAXIM or something, they did a body count for all of the EXPENDABLES stars - Stallone, Schwarzenegger, me, Statham, Jet Li - and it was a body count and a box office record count. And I know I didn't win the box office record, but I did win the body count.
So at least I have something to take to the grave.
How was it working with Keanu Reeves?
It was really cool.
I worked with him before he did SPEED, so it was before he was an action star. But we did an action movie together called JOHNNY MNEMONIC. I played a crazy preacher. He was a really cool guy. He seemed really humble and nice. I enjoyed working with him.
Hey Dolph, which Martial Art would you suggest is the best to study?
Well, the most important thing with martial arts is a good reputable school. When you walk in, it's clean, they have good manners, they are not loud, or overbearing, or cocky - all of those attitudes, you may think signify somebody's tough, but it usually signifies that somebody's a coward. The real Martial Arts are very quiet and very well-behaved. That's what you should look for, first.
And then you should look around at styles. But if you have a good vibe, it should be something that feels positive. When you get a positive feeling when you walk in - you should feel constructive, not disruptive.
Hi Dolph! What is the most funny story from The Expendables you can remember?
Wow, there are a lot of funny stories.
I think that - it was funny. The first scene that I did, in EXPENDABLES 1, was with Stallone. In the garage. And it was the first time I'd worked with him in 25 years.
And I'd take off the medallion, I hand it to him, because I got fired. And when I gave it to him, I decided to push him a little bit. And the crew thought I was fighting him, like in Rocky! The people in the crew didn't know me, they thought it was the staredown from ROCKY 4. And when the scene was over, he turned to me and said "Push me harder next time."
And that kind of sums up our onscreen relationship.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
I've received a LOT of advice.
But in the business - I heard Clint Eastwood, who's 85 years old, who's had the biggest grossing movie in America, AMERICAN SNIPER, he started out as an action guy, a cowboy, and when he was about my age, he kinda started moving over to directing - his advice was "Keep playing your OWN game."
Meaning - yeah you can listen to other people, but do what YOU feel is right, and your destiny will catch up with you.
Don't chase it.
If you hadn't pursued acting, what would you be doing? Any career in mind with your training chemical engineering?
I guess I'd have to, to pay the bills! I suppose, haha! I would be engineering, or petroleum engineering was my expertise. I suppose I could have a karate studio maybe. Because I used to be a karate instructor. But yeah, one of those two, probably.
What did you have for breakfast? I want to grow up big and strong like you
Ha ha ha ha!
A bottle of tequila. JUST KIDDING!
No, I had an... omelette and some whole-wheat toast. I had some mint tea, and grapefruit juice! Yeah, this morning here in New York, yeah.
What's your favourite movie/quote featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger?
I think probably - I like Conan, the first Conan.
Hi Dolph! Who would be the ultimate victor if all of the characters you've played got into a fist fight?
Ha ha ha ha ha!
Shit! I'd be a mess. A lot of blood around.
Let's see...it would be messy, yeah. The preacher in JOHNNY MNEMONIC would probably win. But then you have He-Man, with the sword. I think the preacher is so driven, he had such inner fire and conviction, maybe he would win in the fight!
Rocky the Musical?!?!
No! I know there's a musical in New York... I heard about it, but didn't see it. I think they did a Rocky musical. But I'll have to check out Rocky IV the Musical!
Ha ha hah ha!
I hope they can do a good Ivan Drago!
I'll play Elvis in Russian shorts! It'll be like a hybrid role.
Hi, Dolph. Thank you for all the childhood memories. Do you know anything about the Masters of the Universe 2 that was planned by Cannon Films but was eventualy aborted because of the high licences fees?
You know, I didn't hear about that. I think Cannon had financial difficulties when MASTERS 1 came out. All I've heard is that they're planning a sequel now, for the past few years, a remake rather, of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. It'll get made sooner or later, I'm pretty sure, because it's one of those beloved franchises. And it'll get a modern adaptation. I met the writer in LA, I guess he wanted me to be in the new one somehow. I dunno, maybe I could play He-Man's uncle or something.
How well do you remember filming The Shooter in Prague? Do you have any story you could share?
Yeah! It was right after the fall of Communism. It was a rough city in those days. Beautiful, but I remember that there was not a lot of - my favorite food was the beer and soup, hahaha! Because that's the food that was the best. I remember that. I think we shot right at the Palace of the - what was his name now- the guy who started the movement that toppled Communism - anyways, we shot there at the palace, on the ROOF of the palace - I'm trying to remember his name now - anyways, I'll remember his name later, but it was a great city.
Hi Dolph, what was being part of the Expendables cast like?
Well, it was a lot of fun. It was an honor to be with some of these guys, like Harrison Ford, Stallone, Arnold, guys I watched when I was younger. And it's also fun to work with Stallone again, because we'd stayed in touch over the years, and it's always fun to work with people you know.
How would you describe your overall exeprience on working on "Masters Of The Universe?"
It was hard for me, because I was starring in the movie, having to play the bad guy in Rocky, and now playing a hero, and I didn't have a lot of experience. But I did have a lot of fun. Because the subject matter, and the fantasy aspect of the film was very, very strong. So at the time, it was difficult, but now when I look back it was actually a fun experience.
Hi Dolph! What is your favorite type of pie?
I think it would be pecan pie with ice cream and whipped cream.
I wish I could have it right now, hahahaha!
Not hot, though, just warm.
Could you tell us more about Hail, Caesar? How is it to work with the Coens after working mostly with directors who are specialized in action films?
You know, it was a really wonderful experience to work with directors who are very much into the character. Every shot is very important to them. Every word. Every nuance. And even though we only worked for 2 days, it was fun to work with Channing Tatum, it was interesting to meet him, and my daughters are fans of his - I guess he was a bit of a ROCKY fan, so it worked out well. And I think it'll be a good film.
Hi Dolph! Would you ever revisit the Bond franchise in a larger role if asked?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, usually they have Europeans in there, doing various things. It's a combination of action and drama that's pretty good. So why not. Yeah! Sure.
Hey Dolph, what's your favorite meal?
Alright, well, I suppose it would have to be a really really good steak, medium, charred on the outside, a baked potato, and maybe some reallyreally great desserts - like I've been working out a lot lately - so some REALLY good apple pie with some ice cream, some red wine. Opus One is a great wine!
What was your favorite place to shoot a film and why?
Well, I think there's 2 good places I can think of. I have never shot a movie in New York, no. I never have. I like shooting in Los Angeles, because then I can stay in home! And the most beautiful was for a movie called MAN OF WAR, which we shot in Thailand - every morning, we'd get up and travel on 10 big boats at sunrise, and on breaks we would go swim in the ocean. It was like a paid vacation.