Of all the action heroes featured in 2010’s The Expendables, none has had a career resurgence as much as Dolph Lundgren. The man, most known as the Russian fighter from Rocky 4, is being appreciated once again for his kick-ass role alongside his former boxing foe, Sylvester Stallone.
Movie Fanatic caught up with Lundgren to have him take us inside The Expendables 2 and one thing immediately becomes clear… this man is brilliant. The Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford and a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT, even gets to put his education to work in The Expendables 2 as we learn his character Gunner is a chemical engineer with a massively high IQ.
Movie Fanatic: Was it nice to portray your character as the super smart person you are?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah. Stallone did that [laughs]. It took me 25 years to graduate from the Russian Siberian Express from the [mimics Russian accent] “I must break you.” It was fun to do. I suppose it finally paid off after 25 years!
Movie Fanatic: Was there any competition on the set as to who could literally pull the most weight?
Dolph Lundgren: I don’t think there’s any kind of positioning. You just try to do your job and you try to deliver what’s expected of you. It’s too late once you start shooting. If you’re not in shape by the time you get there, you’re never going to do it. It’s too hard and the schedule's too tough. You had better get in shape if you’re going to last through the picture.
Movie Fanatic: You get to show more of Gunner’s personality traits in The Expendables 2. Like, he’s not that smooth around women!
Dolph Lundgren: The first time I meet the girl, she shows up and we’d all been drinking -- especially Gunner. He’s really drunk. Not a happy drunk! He ends up having an argument with this girl he just met. He’s coming on to her a little too hard and they wind up having a fight. So he gets kind of kicked in the head by this Chinese chick and that was funny.
Movie Fanatic: Was it true you were supposed to die in the first film?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah, I was supposed to die in the first movie. In the original script I wasn’t supposed to make it but Stallone -- or somebody -- decided, “Yeah, let’s keep him alive. He seems like an interesting guy.” I don’t know who, but it was probably Sly!
Movie Fanatic: You mention Gunner’s drunk earlier, I thought he got clean from the first film?
Dolph Lundgren: He got clean from the other stuff. The stuff in the bag [smiles]. No plastic baggies in this one… just the sauce. He’s Swedish. He’s got no choice. All Swedes have to be drunks. They’re Vikings -- they kill people.
Movie Fanatic: What’s your favorite memory of working with Sly on The Expendables 2?
Dolph Lundgren: He’s got that sort of innate instinct where most people wouldn’t go for that. He’ll pull out this [mimics Stallone], “Dolph. I’ve got this knife and I like it.” And he’ll whip something out this big [pulls his hands almost three feet apart]. Who’s gonna think of that?! Like this is the Navy SEAL knife, this is the Russian commando knife, which one do you want? But he’ll take it and manufacture something like what he gave me. He thinks in a different league! That’s kind of why he is who he is. That’s why he has a special talent.
Movie Fanatic: Your bad guy is Jean-Claude Van Damme. What do you think he brought to the franchise?
Dolph Lundgren: He gave 108 percent… maybe even 109. From what I saw, he made the bad guy very mercurial and kind of extremely unpredictable and strange. Most people are aware his career has gone up and down just like everybody else, and maybe even more so than other people. I think the audience will have an interest and curiosity of, “Who is this guy and what’s gonna happen?” For all of us, our own personality is loaded on top of the character that makes it even more interesting for the audience.
Movie Fanatic: And the expansion of the roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger had to be a plus for everyone involved…
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah it was. I think that Arnold and Bruce thought it was interesting to hang out with that gang of ten -- the hard hitting, super macho guys full of guns. It doesn’t get any more macho than that. You can’t beat that! They also realized, "Yes, I may be a big star, I’ve done a lot of movies. But this is special." In that genre, it doesn’t get any more brutal and macho than this.