Dolph Lundgren was born in 1957 in Stockholm in Sweden. He came to fame with the popularity of action heroes who were muscleed and fit and adept at martial arts. Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger were all very popular at the same time. Lundgren has a degress in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney. He made his film debut in the James Bond thriller “A View to a Kill” in 1985. His other films include “Rocky Four”, “Showdown in Little Toyko” and more recently “The Expendables”.
Men’s Health Interview:
been kind to Dolph Lundgren. They’ve call him “grinning and glistening” when they’re trying to be nice, and “expressive as wood” when they’re not. “Watching (Lundgren) think hard is a painful experience,” noted aWashington Post review of 1989’s Red Scorpion. “May well be the only man in the universe who can make Mr. (Jean-Claude) Van Damme look like an actor,” a New York Times critic wrote of Lundgren in 1992’s Universal Soldier. Film academic Christine Holmlund, summing up Lundgren’s career in the 2004 book Action and Adventure Cinema, wrote “Lundgren is limited by his size and dead pan delivery: though often compared to Arnold (Schwarzenegger), he has less range.”
For someone who’s had such a difficult time convincing critics of his merit, he’s one of the few action stars who gets respect (and real fear) from his audience. In 2009, three armed and masked burglars broke into Lundgren’s home in Marbella, Spain, tied up his wife, and went about ransacking the place. But then one of them noticed a Lundgren family photo in the bedroom and recognized the action star. He alerted his cohorts, and they made the unanimous decision to flee the crime scene immediately. Apparently they were less concerned with Lundgren’s wooden acting than his ability to break their collective faces. Perhaps they were afraid of ending up like Apollo Creed, who Lundgren famously “killed” in the 1985 filmRocky IV.
To be fair, it’s not completely irrational to be terrified by Lundgren. As Roger Moore, who worked with Lundgren in the James Bond film View To a Kill, once said “Dolph is larger than Denmark.” That’s hyperbole, but just slightly. Lundgren, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, stands at a golem-like 6 foot 5 inches and weighs in at around 250 pounds of pure neck-snapping muscle. Oh, and he also has a black belt in Kyokushin kaikan karate. While filming Rocky IV, he punched Sylvester Stallone so hard that he sent Sly to intensive care for nine days. If that’s not intimidating enough, he’s also smart. Lundgren has a masters in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney, and speaks five languages (Swedish, English, German, French and Japanese). He also dated musician Grace Jones during the 1980s, hung out at the infamous den of disco iniquity Studio 54, and lived in New York City when it was fun and dangerous.
Lundgren’s life has admittedly sometimes been more interesting than his movies. But in recent years, Lundgren has been on the verge of something like a comeback. He was the most two-dimensional part of 2010’s all-star action epic The Expendables, and he returns for the sequel, The Expendables 2, this Friday, August 17. It may not be thought-provoking cinema, but Lundgren’s performance should keep his house safe from burglars for at least another year.
I called Lundgren as he was waiting in LAX to board a flight to Madrid, as part of his world Expendables 2 media tour. He was soft-spoken, humble, and quick to laugh, particularly at himself. In other words, the exact opposite of every movie character he’s ever played.
Men’s Health: Expendables 2 has a lot of stars, and presumably a lot of egos. Did everybody get along?
Dolph Lundgren: Oh yeah. There was just a core group that worked together on most of the movie. It was Sly (Stallone) and me and Jason (Statham) and Terry (Crews) and Randy (Couture) and the Chinese guy, Jet Li. We were the ones working all the time. When guys like Bruce (Willis) and Arnold (Schwarzenegger) came in, it was just for a week or two. But everybody was excited to be part of a team and in a big movie. Some of these guys, like Chuck Norris, haven’t done a film in like seven years. So nobody came with big egos.
MH: Just big entourages?
DL: A few guys had that. They’d show up with a lot of people, especially Arnold and Chuck. Bodyguards and entourages, all that stuff.
MH: I understand the former Governator having bodyguards. But what does Chuck Norris need bodyguards for? I thought he could kill a guy with his pinkie.
DL: (Laughs.) I don’t know about that. Having bodyguards is just part of being famous, I think.
MH: How many bodyguards do you have?
MH: Because you don’t need them, or you could crack somebody’s spine just by staring at them?
DL: (Laughs.) I’m not that good.
MH: Among action stars, is there cheating?
DL: Cheating how?
MH: Like steroids. I talked to Charlie Sheen and he said he used steroids while he was making Major League. And that was a baseball movie.
DL: (Laughs.) That’s funny. Charlie took steroids? That’s probably the mildest form of drug he ever took. No, I like Charlie. I like him a lot. He’s a nice guy. But him saying he took steroids, that’s like me claiming I took aspirin. Anyway, what’s your question?
MH: Are steroids common in action movies? Part of the job requires having big, rippling, cinematic muscles. It must be tempting for some of these stars.
DL: Oh sure. It never was for me, because I was already a big guy when I started making movies. I didn’t need to be any bigger. So steroids didn’t make any sense. But if you’re a regular-sized actor and you’re in a movie where you’re supposed to be some pumped-up guy who takes his shirt off, yeah, steroids make sense.
MH: You’ve seen it?
DL: Well, I… (long pause.) I haven’t witnessed the injections personally. But I recognize when it’s happening. You know which guys are doing steroids and which ones aren’t.
MH: You can tell just by looking?
DL: Oh yeah. It’s pretty obvious. You can see the difference. There’s a soft roundness to steroid muscles that you don’t get when you’re lifting weights or doing martial arts or things like that. I don’t judge anybody. Everybody has their own life and people do what they want. It’s like smoking pot. If you experiment with it, it doesn’t mean you’re the devil, and it doesn’t mean you’ve ruined your body. It just means you tried it.
“Men;s Health” interview can also be accessed online here.