Dolph Lundgren ('The Final Inquiry')
'The Lundgren Inquiry'
Dolph Lundgren grew up in Stockholm, Sweden, where he attended the Royal Institute of Technology. He also lived in Nyland, in Kramfors Sweden, as a teenager. Spending time abroad in the U.S. on various academic scholarships, he attended Washington State University and Clemson in South Carolina.
While on his way to Boston to continue his studies, he stopped in New York City and there his life took a radical turn. He met with noted drama coach Warren Robertson, and decided to give acting a try. After beating out 5,000 hopefuls and winning the role of Drago opposite Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky IV", Lundgren went on to star in many feature films.
A world-class athlete and winner of several international karate competitions, Lundgren took up martial arts at 14 and is now a 3rd Dan (third degree Black Belt) in Kyokushinkai (full-contact karate) and attends the Swedish Kyokushin camps yearly. His accomplishments in the sport include being the captain of the Swedish Kyokushin karate team and the winner of the European Heavyweight Kyokushin Karate Championship in 1980 and 1981, as well as the Australian heavyweight division title in 1982.
In 2004, Dolph Lundgren made his directorial debuts with the hard-core action dramas "The Defender" and "The Mechanik", in which he was both starring and directing.
And now Lundgren co-stars alongside Daniele Liotti, Max von Sydow, F. Murray Abrahams, Monica Cruz and Ornella Mutti in the Italian/Spanish/US co-production "The Final Inquiry", based on the 1986 eponymous film by Damiano Damiani.
With several projects in development to star and direct, Lundgren just finished his third picture as a director, a modern western called "Missionary Man".
Chatting recently to Dolph, I first wondered how he had transformed himself into this period-piece in such a manner as to evoke the true depth of character that was brought to the screen? ""That's a good question. Obviously in costuming, hair and make-up, production design, everything is very important for movies. So, for the actors the first thing to happen - because I eventually went to Italy - is I read the script and I liked the historical aspect of the picture. I'm very interested in history. And the first thing they showed me when I got to Rome was the clothes."
"So, they showed me the hair, the make-up, the look of the character and it was very, very interesting because you kinda transform yourself into somebody that lived 2000 years ago. In my case a simple barbarian. He's a guy from Eastern Europe and he ends up being the bodyguard and later friend to Rome's greatest general Titus Valerius Tauro [Daniele Liotti] who gets sent down to the city of Jerusalem to investigate the recent death and possible resurrection of a crucified man named Jesus of the Nazarene."
It has to be said that this role is probably one of the most diverse of characters you've ever undertaken on screen! How did you mentally prepare? "Yeah, it's very different. Because I look different, it takes place 2000 years ago and I've never played any period pieces before. That was the big difference for me. So, some of the preparation is from the outside in. Basically, you transform yourself. You look at yourself in the mirror, you look totally different and you know that's a good place to start for a role like that."
Did you go back and watch any of the prior movies made on the subject matter, perhaps? "I'd seen the picture before and I thought it was very good. I didn't watch it for this particular role to prepare or anything. I thought my character was very interesting. A very unique character. I can't really think of another character like that. He's kinda like a faithful servant who gives his life for his master. I thought it was a nice character and well suited for my physique too."
Talking of your physique as you get older it must get harder to maintain?! "Yeah, it is harder," he laughs. "Yeah, and you can't allow too many slip ups. You can't go out as late. You can't drink as much. Even though being a Viking I enjoy the odd Tequila shot. So, you gotta watch that. You gotta watch your diet more. And then you gotta be very careful with your training. You wanna stay in shape, but you don't wanna get injured either. And as you get older your body gets a little bit weaker, but I'm making it a priority."
"I like to train early in the morning and I really find the busier I get pretty much if I don't get my workout done then it doesn't happen. It really just takes a lot of mind power to do it."
It's said that you carry an injury or a scar away with you from every movie you make! So, I was wondering what injury or scar came back with you from the filming of 'The Final Inquiry'? "Well, let me think now, because I made a movie or two after that. And I usually remember the last one because that's the one you feel when you walk around, you know."
"But yeah," he laughs, "in the last one I had a motorcycle fall on my leg and foot. In my last picture 'Missionary Man' I dropped the motorcycle 'cause I got rid of my stunt double because I wanted to save the money and put it somewhere else. So that was the last one so I still feel that a little bit."
"On 'Inquiry' what happened was - and this one I still have a bit of an ache from - we shot a lot of stuff in Tunisia, Northern Africa because it's difficult to shoot in Israel these days. And I'm riding my horse; a special horse that's huge of course to make me look kinda normal. And in Tunisia they had this local horse trainer - a nice guy but he was a little bit undisciplined - and so I had to train to do some stuff on the horse. And the first day I was there he said you want to rear up your horse for the battle scene. So, I stood up in the stirrups and pulled the reins up, and what happened was that he failed to tell me this is like a falling horse. That's what they call them. They're trained to fall over and play dead if you pull the reins too hard. Which, I didn't know the difference."
"So, here I am. One second I've got the horse up on its hind legs and the next he goes over to play dead. So, I fall on the ground and I see this 800lb thing coming at me! Now, what happened next happened in a split second, but because I've been in sports I kinda rolled out of the way, managing to get me out of the way, but he still fell on my leg. So he kinda screwed up my gluts, you know. I still have a little bit of a pull back there from that."
"And the other is from swinging a big axe. Mr. Brixos has this huge axe that he kinda fights folks with and that kinda got me a little thing in my back. So those two are my scars from 'The Final Inquiry'."
Are you a religious man in general? "Well, I don't go to Church every week. I do have a lot of interest in the history of religion and how it affects people. I mean, you can't help but be moved by it when you go to old Churches in Europe. It does have a place in my family's lives. Not on a regular basis though because I travel a lot."
Is it true that you were actually born Hans not Dolph? "Yeah, and then I took my grandfather's name Dolph when I got in the business."
Is it true or an urban myth now at this stage that you actually broke a rib or two on Sylvester Stallone during the filming of 'Rocky IV'?! "No, he did go to hospital for two weeks after we shot the opening sequence. I don't know. We both got hit. I know he was very overworked and was very tired and he did get hit a bit. I don't know exactly what happened, but it wasn't intentional if anything happened anyway."
Is it true that Stallone asked you to come and have a part in the latest installment 'Rocky Balboa' but that you declined? "No, it was actually the opposite. He didn't ask me at all. But I do think that I was the first one and the only one who was asked to supply file footage from the other movie. I signed that right away and didn't ask for a dime for it because I'm also very conscious of the fact that I owe Stallone my career. But no, I was never asked and in hindsight I think it's kinda nice to leave that character the way it is. The way it was. It makes him a little iconic and a little special to everybody else too."
Is there a role you've previously undertaken that you would love to reprise and bring back sometime soon? "We'll, I know they're remaking 'The Punisher' again for the second time. They're doing 'Masters of the Universe' so that's being taken care of by other people. But one picture I kinda liked with a larger than life character was one called 'I Come in Peace.' It was kinda like an action-comedy and was a fun movie to make. I really enjoyed that one."
"But you know, I don't really feel the urge to pull on tights, muscle up and say 'Hey, I'm the strongest guy in the world and I can kick anybody's ass' anymore! I'm kinda drawn now to more interesting roles for other reasons. So, if I can make a living doing that and directing stuff I'd rather do that. I've done so many of those other types of roles that I don't really feel like it now."
Is it true that you were made an honorary member of the Special Forces last year in Russia? "Yeah, it's true, yes," he laughs. "Yeah, I went over there last year to greet these Special Forces guys at this big conference of a few thousand of them. It was pretty daunting really. So now in Russia I'm really, really famous these days. More so then I think anywhere else. I haven't met Putin yet, but I'm working on it," he laughs. "I did meet some of the KGB guys though."
Did you bring anything back with you? "Well, I'd like to shoot a movie in Russia because being Swedish and all it kinda reminds you of Sweden. Some of the people, the countryside and everything. So that would be fun and I look forward to it."
It seems that Dolph the actor is now branching out successfully into Dolph the movie director. Congratulations! "Well yeah, thank you. I think it's about time. Instead of just sitting in my trailer making phone calls, complaining about my wardrobe and hair," he laughs. "No, I'm just kiddin' 'cause actors are great. But when you're a director it's your story and there's a lot more pressure. But there's also a lot more satisfaction. You can really move the audience to some extent."
"And on a more practical level I really care about my career more than anybody else. So, I'd rather - especially on a smaller budget - make a good movie myself and not screw it up and not have to rely on somebody else."
Finally, if you could put the record straight about any ongoing and yet horribly false rumors about Dolph Lundgren what would they be?! "Well, one is I'm not Russian. Two is I don't have a twin brother. And there is also this Japanese magazine that has this rumor that Dolph Lundgren is this ten foot tall barbarian from the North Pole who was raised by polar bears," he laughs. "Well, the answer to that last one is ... yeah, it's all true," he laughs, long and loud.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'The Final Inquiry' DVD Purchase Link
'Missionary Man' DVD Purchase Link
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