48 Movies Killing People: An Interview with Dolph Lundgren

The action star talks The Package, Small Apartments, Rescue 3, The Expendables 3 and Universal Soldier 5.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Dolph Lundgren may be the busiest man in Hollywood. After appearing in theatrical releases The Expendables 2 and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, he still had the video release One in the Chamber and the film festival movie Small Apartments. Small Apartments is finally out on DVD and some theaters via Tugg.com, and he has another new movie, The Package, with Steve Austin, out on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and download. We’re amazed Lundgren had time to talk to us, but we got to speak with him by phone last week about his latest movies, and upcoming info on his two active franchises, and new projects with Tony Jaa!

Read CraveOnline's interview with Dolph Lundgren's The Package co-star, Steve Austin.

CraveOnline: One thing I’ve always wondered: Has there ever been a Dolph Lundgren movie with a Todd Rundgren song in it?

Dolph Lundgren: [Laughs] No, but there should be. What a great idea. Okay, if I produce anything I’ll look for that. I think I had that T-shirt back in the ‘70s.

Now, you’ve always been busy but have these last two years been especially fruitful for you?

Yes, they have because I did the Rocky picture and lived in L.A. for a while, then I moved to New York, got married and then around ’99 I moved to Europe. Basically I had two daughters and my wife didn’t want them to grow up in Hollywood, so we went to Spain and it was beautiful. We lived there for about 12 years but it didn’t really help my career much. In 2009 I ended up deciding to move back here because I had the Expendables picture and ended up getting divorced on top of that. Then I’ve been here for a couple years and it’s been very helpful. Living in L.A. or living in the States is so much more conducive than Spain because you’re just out of the loop there.

I decided that after I did this Expendables picture that it was kind of cool to play an interesting character, perhaps not the lead, but somebody who’s maybe second, third, fourth lead who was interesting and a bit of a challenge to play. So that’s what I decided to do, and comedy and other things to see how that feels and try to learn something from that. That’s what I’ve done the last few years.

With The Package, was it your idea that The German be a chef?

No, that was in the script. That was the reason I actually did the picture, that scene because I thought a guy who’s lethal and cultured enough to give this lecture about fruit’s qualities and how it can help your body, various vitamins and supplements and antioxidants, I thought that was interesting and I hadn’t seen that before. So yeah, that was fun. That was a fun thing to play.

Since he’s The German, did you have to do another different accent?

No, no. Actually it’s in the script. I think there’s a small point that he actually wasn’t German. I think I say that somewhere, but [he’s] Swedish. I think it’s too on the nose. They can call him The German, they can call him The Swede, the Dane but he doesn’t necessarily have to do an accent. I think sometimes it takes away from the character. He’s so colorful anyway, I thought that was a little too much.

With these movies, and with The Expendables and Universal Soldier franchises, are you in higher demand than ever?

It’s getting there, I think. I think part of it is also that there’s such a turnover now, both in music and acting. There are so many new faces every week. There’s a new rapper, there’s a new star, the new this, the new that, but if you can hang around a while, if you can hang in there and [still] look good, maybe there’s a certain comfort in that to the audience and the people who make the movies too. They kind of know what they’re getting. I think that’s what’s happening a little bit. The fact that I do live in the United States now and decided to work a little more on my craft, to be a little more ambitious in my career [helps]. When I lived over in Europe, I just took jobs to pay for things. I didn’t really think about it too much. I didn’t really put that much work into it for 10 years.

You were making movies that premiered on video in the VHS days. Are you getting seen a lot more now that there’s DVD, Blu-ray and VOD also?

I think so and I think big franchises like The Expendables certainly help. I did the whole press tour, especially on the second one, all over Europe, in Japan, we were in of course New York and L.A., London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin so all that publicity and exposure helps a lot. Now I’m doing this television series called “Rescue 3,” shooting May through September. That’s syndicated TV. I haven’t done much TV but apparently they say that’s even more exposure because they said one episode gets seen by more people than saw The Expendables. It’s crazy. That’s why TV is so big. It just cuts through everything.

But even for The Package and One in the Chamber to be on VOD and Blu-ray seems like it gets into a lot more homes than the older movies.

Yeah, you’re right, you do. Then you have all the pay-per-view and cable and all that stuff. It is hard work to keep your name out there because there are so many new faces and new people coming up that as you get older, yeah, it’s tough. You have to work at it but I do think that if you play characters that are interesting and colorful, even if they’re not the lead, so that no matter how the film does, you come across well, I think that’s the most important thing.

I saw Small Apartments at SXSW last year. You talk about working on your craft, was that a chance to do something really different?

Yeah, that was actually the first thing I did when I got back to L.A. I’ve known Jonas [Akerlund], he asked me to do it and it’s just like a favor, because I know him. He’s a video director and a friend of mine so it was kind of bizarre to say the least. Some of the scenes and the costumes, it was more like going on “Saturday Night Live” and doing a skit or something like that rather than a movie. I looked at it more like that but it was cool. It was certainly liberating to show up like that on set. It was cool.

As an action hero you have a lot of charisma and personality. To play a motivational speaker in Small Apartments, did you have to have even more?

[Laughs] Well, what was more of a challenge to sort of put that across because what he’s saying is basically bullsh*t. It doesn’t make any sense. If you read it and think about it, it didn’t make any sense, but it’s formulated in such a way that it does seem to motivate people and it’s kind of arousing when he’s thinking about it. That was the trick about that character, to put that across like you totally believe it and still with a bit of a glint in the eye, sort of laughing with the filmmaker. That was a challenge. I hadn’t done that in a film before. Same like in The Package with the fruit smoothie and lecturing his victim on how to stay healthy while he’s shooting the guy.

They say Small Apartments is the first movie where you’re not shooting a gun or hitting people. Can that be true?

Yeah, it is the first one actually. It’s the first film I didn’t hold a gun since Rocky IV but of course in Rocky IV I hit a few people. So that was kind of cool. It was a milestone. 48 movies killing people and now I get to just talk.

Are you trying to move into more dialogue roles, maybe not move away from action, but have more options?

Yeah, why not? As a matter of fact, “Rescue 3” is an action series so I’ll be doing 40 episodes without killing anybody. That’ll kind of balance my career from all those violent scenes I’ve been in. We basically save people.

How long did you work on Small Apartments?

Not much at all. I think I worked about four days, something like that.

How did you know Jonas?

Actually, I knew him from Sweden. He’s a famous video director. As a matter of fact, he was married to my ex-wife’s cousin so I hung out with him socially in Sweden about 10 years ago.

Are you doing a Tony Jaa movie?

You know, yeah. Suddenly his people called and said, “Does Dolph want to be in a Tony Jaa movie?” This was only two months ago. I had to look him up and he seems like a really talented guy. He has been asked to come to America, I think for The Fast and the Furious and a few other things but he turned everything down. So we thought that yeah, if I go over there and work in his picture which is a Thai action comedy, believe it or not, so that should be a fun experience. If I do his film, then he’ll do a film with me where he co-stars with me. Since he hasn’t been seen over here, if we do that fairly quickly, like after The Expendables 3 or something, then that could be very cool. Me and him together could be watchable.

He’s really the next generation of action.

That’s what I hear. A lot of guys I talk to, like I have this trainer I work with who’s a martial artist, he knew him right away. This other guy in London knew him, this Karate guy, he knew him too. So he’s known, not by the general public, but by people who know about movies.

Expendables 3 casting started as soon as Expendables 2 came out. What do you think of getting Nicolas Cage and Jackie Chan on board?

Yeah, I think those are great ideas. Jackie Chan, I’ve known him, he’s a great guy. I know he’s very watchable and fun. He’s perfect actually. Nicolas Cage is a great actor and he’s done some good action movies too. I think the more the merrier. If you’re going to beat Chuck Norris, Van Damme, Arnold and Willis that came in the last one, then you’ve got to find some big names. I think the franchise depends on that. That’s Stallone who’s in charge and he has to find those people for the audience to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, because that’s part of the deal. I think they will. I heard maybe Wesley Snipes also could be in it. He’d be great because he’s a great fighter and he’s a great actor.

Well, the long shots are Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford. Do you think that’s at all possible?

[Laughs] Clint I heard. Yeah, it’d be good just to meet him. I think I met him once but to be on screen with him, he could just whip out a .44 and say, “Well, do ya’? Punk?” [Laughs] That’d be good.

What do you hear about a Universal Soldier 5?

Oh, gosh, look, I hear that John Hyams is working on a story. People are excited because this one, even though it wasn’t a wide release, it got very good reviews, people seemed to like it. John did a terrific job. I think he had to fight for a lot of his ideas and he didn’t have free hands to do what he wanted, but if he did another one, the cool thing is that he’d probably get carte blanche, more money and to do what he wants to do. That’d be cool to see, even if I’m not in it. We’ll see, maybe. He’s very driven. He has some dark ideas floating around his head about violence. I’m sure he’ll put them up on screen next time even more so. I saw the uncut version of the picture by the way. I hadn’t seen the DVD version. I just saw it the other day because I had to look for some close-ups. I was watching it and it was all cut out because the one I saw in the theater when they screened it for us was so violent, we were like, whoa. There were heads, body parts flying everywhere but now they’ve cut a lot of that out.

Did you ever think you’d still be making Universal Soldier movies?

Certainly not, no. I’d never done any sequels. I haven’t wanted to do them. No, I didn’t. It’d be as weird as to put on Ivan Drago trunks again. I would never do that but somehow John Hyams managed to reinvent it on the last one. Expendables has a sequel but now everybody does sequels. It’s just part of the game. In the old days it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t necessarily true if you get Gone with the Wind and then it did will, you have to do Gone with the Wind 2 and 3 and 4. They didn’t think like that.

You said “I must break you” on your “Chuck” episode, but is that the only other time you’ve said it since Rocky IV?

Yes. Well, I’ve said it to people here and there on talk shows. On camera, no. I think on camera, I think Stallone owns that line. I don’t want to get sued. I don’t want to say it too much. I’m trying, like I said, to keep that in the past and look to the future for new, fresh films.

What new things do you get to do in your upcoming movies?

As soon as I moved back in 2009 and did The Expendables, I decided, “Yeah, let me give it a shot to see if I can come up with some fun stuff to do.” I decided to just do stuff that I felt were outside my comfort zone, new things just to try it to see what happens. So Small Apartments was the first one I did. Then I did a little thing with Cuba Gooding [One in the Chamber] which came out. Then I did The Package where I also play a wacky kind of guy, a guy who’s dying from a blood disease. I did that and then I did Expendables 2 which was another ensemble piece, a little comedic.

Then I did this competition kind of reality show I hosted which is very comedic. It’s about guys who try to repeat stunts from famous action movies and I’m the host of that. That comes out in June. Then I got two other movies, one is called Battle of the Damned which is a little straight, small action movie about robots and aliens and zombies. I shot it in Malaysia. That was kind of fun but it was more straight action, but I thought it was a cool little picture. I did this thing in China [Tomb of the Dragon] also that’s coming out where I costarred, played the bad guy but it’s a PG-13 movie so it’s got a lot of CGI and stuff, a creature, with Scott Adkins who was also in Universal Soldier 3D. I did a role in that also because it was fun. I had a chance to give a whole big speech in there.

Like I said, I’m doing this TV series “Rescue 3” where I rescue people instead of killing them. Then there’s The Expendables 3 maybe coming up. Then I did a film with Randy Couture last year, a small movie which I kind of played a regular guy, a cop, which I hadn’t done much. I realized I hadn’t played regular guys that much and that was kind of fun. I’m doing another one now, I just play a regular guy. He happens to be a bodyguard but he’s not a superhero or anything like that. Just trying to bring a little more simplicity to it. That’s what I’m working on right now.

What’s the reality series called?

“Race to the Scene.” That’s where I’m just hosting where guys recreate action stunts, from Terminator 2 or Speed, jumping from the bus, whatever it is. “Rescue 3” is a dramatic series. That’s where I play the leader of this unit that are saving people off the coast of California. It’s based on this unified command structure we have, Coast Guards, lifeguards and firefighters working together in a marine environment. So it’s got a lot of boats and choppers and stuff like that. That’s 20 episodes, more character based action without any violence. That should be kind of refreshing in my career anyway. I won’t be picking up a gun or beating anybody up. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.