It’s been over two decades since we saw him on the big screen as the evil Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It was Dolph Lundgren’s big break in the entertainment world. The Swedish born actor has directed and starred in over 30 films since his fierce match up with Sylvester Stallone. Dolph comes back to discuss the role, his sports and athletic background, what he is up to today, and the Rocky DVD sets.
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Chris Yandek: First off how are you?
Dolph Lundgren: “Hey. Thanks. Very well.”
CY: The Rocky Anthology five movie DVD set has just been released. What are your thoughts on the five movies being re released in a box set on DVD?
DL: “It’s a good idea. I’d like to get a set myself.”
CY: What was the last time you watched yourself in Rocky IV?
DL: “I think it was probably a couple of months ago. It was on TV in Spain. I live in Spain now. I watched part of it with my kids, my two daughters. They were impressed.”
CY: Are you amazed it’s been 21 years since you starred as the Russian Boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV?
DL: “Yes, I am amazed. It’s been one interesting ride. I came over from Europe as a chemical engineering student and ended up moving to Hollywood and starring in action movies. I have been in 30 or so ever since.”
CY: What was the nine month audition process like against 5000 other hopefuls for the part of Ivan Drago?
DL: “It was tough. I didn’t realize how many guys were up for it. Stallone showed me books and books of other guys who were up for the role. It must have been hundreds. I heard it was 5000. After I met him, I had to put on some weight, workout weights more than usual, do some boxing. Then I went out to Los Angeles for a screen test. I went up to my hotel and came down for breakfast the next morning and the elevator opens and it’s this big blonde guy looking like me. Then I went down to breakfast and there is another guy that looks like me. I realized it’s not just me. There are other guys up for it. We were the last three left. We did a screen test at MGM and the next day Sly called me and I got the role.”
CY: Why do you think Sylvester Stallone didn’t give you Ivan Drago much dialogue in the film?
DL: “Well, I think he is a very clever guy Stallone. He knew the less the character spoke the more mysterious it was going to be, the more threatening, and the less accessible which worked. To tell you the truth, you go to Russia and see some of these tough guys, they don’t say much over there. A couple of words a week max.”
CY: Since Rocky IV you have directed a few films and been part of more than 30 other films. Did that movie put you on the map as someone in the entertainment industry?
DL: “Definitely. Yeah. Before then nobody knew me. I was just a kid who was a Swedish chemical engineering student who did martial arts. From one week to the next I became famous in most of the world. It was a tremendous experience. I am still not quite sure how it happened.”
CY: What were the boxing scenes like with Carl Weathers who starred as Apollo Creed who you ended up killing his character off the Rocky series?
DL: “Well, Stallone was my co star and boss. He wrote and directed the picture. He decided on that. I just followed orders basically. Our fight was quite short. It was only two rounds. We didn’t rehearse that much. With Stallone I rehearsed for five months.”
CY: What was the reason Sylvester Stallone decided that your character would kill off Apollo Creed and not just beat him badly?
DL: “I think he needed to revitalize the franchise a little bit. By killing off a well known and well loved character like that, it was pretty clever. It made people really see him want to beat this Russian.”
CY: What were the boxing scenes like with Sylvester Stallone and how real were the punches you guys were throwing at each other?
DL: “Well, look you can’t throw the punches all the way through. There wouldn’t be a movie. We’d both be in the hospital. We did throw some real punches to the body, a couple of headshots to get those high speed slow motion close ups. There was a bit of both. Physically it was a very grueling experience, the training and the photography. I think that even though I was a very highly trained athlete at the time it was very tough. For Stallone who wrote it, directed it, and was up in the ring, it was really a remarkable achievement. I realize that now when I direct the movies myself.”
CY: What was the atmosphere like during the fight scene with Sylvester Stallone for you with thousands of people there representing the Russian nation cheering you on even though you are originally from Sweden?
DL: “It’s a surreal experience. You are in this big stadium with 5000 extras looking like a Russian with Russian colors and 5000 people cheering you on. It does feel a bit like it’s the real thing. You can’t help yourself. A lot of things are captured on film with my innocent character that has been trained by the state. It was a lot of those things that were true for Dolph, for my person. I was this young kid that came to Hollywood and nine months later I was in this big big picture. There was a parallel between my life and the character’s life.”
CY: Being in there with Stallone, were you not as surprised as many others were when he chose to make Rocky Balboa 16 years later after Rocky V, which is coming out this December?
DL: “Well, in one way yes. He’s up in the ring fight again, but on other the hand, he is a clever guy. He is a good writer. I can see why he knows this will be the last one. I think so anyway. It’s hard for him not to do another one because it’s his baby and it put him on the map. I am sure he identifies with the character. He feels like he has one more in him to get in shape and get out there and do it one last time which would probably be the last time ever. I can understand why he did it and I really think that people are curious and I think it’s going to do well.”
CY: Besides your acting and directing background you have a third degree black belt and won the European Full Contact Championships in 1980 and 1981. Tell me about your fighting accomplishments and how it’s helped you overall.
DL: “Well, sports became a way for me to find my personality and identity in life. I had a lot of problems as a young kid like we all do with my own confidence, trying to grow up, and become a man and whatnot. Sports helped me get there. It helped me get my role in Rocky IV. It has helped me ever since in my movies and dealing with a lot of hard times between pictures and my life. I would say it’s the one thing that’s kept me going over the years.”
CY: Finally, tell me what’s coming up for you and what you are up to today overall in the entertainment industry.
DL: “I just finished directing a picture in inner Mongolia and China, an action adventure. I am planning another movie that I am going to star and direct in America. I am shooting in Texas probably. We are scouting locations. It’s kind of a Midwestern on an Indian reservation dealing with drug trafficking through Indian lands.”
Dolph Lundgren is part of the special feature “The Opponents” on the two disc movie DVD set titled Rocky The Collector’s Edition. You can find more information and purchase a copy at the following link:
You can also see Dolph Lundgren starring in Rock IV as the Russian boxer Ivan Drago as part of the five movie DVD set titled Rocky Anthology. You can find more information and purchase a copy of the set at the following link:
You can find Dolph Lundgren’s official website at www.dolphlundgren.com