There’s a few people Ivan Drago would tip his hat to…
Words – Richard Galpin
_ Warren Robertson was my first acting coach. I had gone to New York in the early Eighties with my girlfriend Grace Jones. I was a chemical engineering student with a scholarship to MIT and karate champion but I went to an acting class as Grace had studied with Warren. It made me feel good as I could do emotional things and express myself. Warren was into all the emotional stuff, like primal screams, and he pulled me to one side and said, ‘Dolph, the reason you feel unfilled in your life is because you are an artist and should be in the creative arts rather than working with test tubes or beating people up in the gym’. One year later I was doing the Rocky picture.
_ The first real film set I was on was Rocky 4. I’d had a walk on part in A View To A Kill but this was my first meaty role. I have to thank Sylvester Stallone as he gave me some hints when we started filming as he is obviously an actor as well as a director. We got to hang out a fair bit as we were training and sparring together.
_ Brian Fitkin was my sensei when I was 15, he became like a mentor to me. My dad was an officer and a tough guy, he was kind of abusive and the reason I got into karate because I felt insecure – he made me feel weak as I couldn’t protect my mum as he beat her up too. I was looking for a role model and I looked up to Brian quite a bit. He taught me never to give up and keep moving forward no matter what, you should take whatever happens to you and if it’s bad you should turn it into something good.
_ I wish I had received more guidance when I moved to Hollywood. There are a lot of people I wouldn’t like to thank as I had a few crooks in my life when I was younger, who I went into business with and gave me the wrong advice. I made a lot of mistakes but somehow I survived them by hard work, some luck, some charisma and a faithful fanbase. You can’t look back at this stuff you have to move forward. For the past three years I’ve worked with a manager called Craig Baumgarten. He’s really smart and for the first time I think I have someone I can bounce ideas off to make better choices. It’s about time.
_ The guy who got me into directing is Sidney Furie, he’s a really experienced guy who’s worked with Marlon Brando and Michael Caine. He tries very hard to make the actors feel comfortable and if they want to write a few lines then he’s fine with it as long as it works. He was supposed to direct The Defender which I was starring in but he got sick. I had worked on the script with Sydney and the producers asked him who they should replace him with and he said, ‘Why don’t you ask Dolph if he wants to direct?’ It went pretty well and then I did another four. I haven’t directed for a while as I’ve been concentrating on my acting again.
_ I’m thankful for The Expendables. The character I play, Gunner Jensen, is quite complex, he’s tortured and has a lot of problems. Stallone called me out of the blue and said, ‘I wrote this script, check it out and let me know what you think?’ I started reading it and right away there was this big Swedish guy who drinks and kills people and I was like, ‘Hmm I guess that must be my character’. I said yes straight away. The second one I didn’t really want to do it as I didn’t like the script, but Sly fixed it by giving my character more depth and now I’m part of the team with everyone else. The first Expendables was about the dark side of being a mercenary and this one is about doing fun stuff together.
_ I think people think I have this split personality as they see this big action star but then I’m really good at maths. They find it very weird. I had a couple of good professors in Sweden I can thank for that. I went to the Royal Institute of technology and I had a scholarship for MIT which I went to for three weeks but then quit because I wanted to do acting. It takes me a while to get my head back into it as I’m getting old, but I try and help my kids with their maths problems.
_ I’m thankful for my mum as she put up with so much crap from my old man. She brought up four kids with no help – I don’t know how she did it. My dad was a very smart man, almost over intelligent, but he was very abusive in some ways as I think he had a lot of problems from his childhood. But he did give me some valuable advice; he told me that if I was going to make it I had to leave Sweden and go to America. So I did.
_ I’ve got lots of different fans. There are the ones who love Universal Soldier or Masters of the Universe, then there are girls who want to have sex with you and then I had one guy on death row who wrote to me and it was signed “Dolph Lundgren”. That’s his name. I’m like, ‘That’s weird, that’s also my name’. I have an ex-FBI guy that I give this stuff to and check that they’re not going to get out anytime soon. Some of them see me as a role model, particularly physically as I keep myself in shape. I still work out five days a week but if I’m tired I don’t go and lift super heavy weights anymore. You have to be clever as you can still do crazy stuff but you feel it the next day.
_ I’ve always looked up to Clint Eastwood. He’s a man who never gives up, he just keeps going. He was my age in 1983, I think I’ve had a long career but he’s had a really long career. He was just this cowboy kind of guy and then he did Dirty Harry but he was still considered just a right wing gun freak, then people realised he was a smart man, an artist and he started directing and he’s now one of the world’s top directors. It didn’t come for free, he had to work for it. I doubt I will get to work with him, but I can watch his movies and steal some of his stuff. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.