Dolph Lundgren

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Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Dolph Lundgren at the 2012 Comic-Con in San Diego.
Born Hans Lundgren
(1957-11-03) 3 November 1957 (age 56)[1]
Spånga, Stockholm, Sweden
Occupation Actor, director, martial artist
Years active 1983–present
Spouse(s) Anette Qviberg (1994–2011)
Website
DolphLundgren.com

Dolph Lundgren (born Hans Lundgren; 3 November 1957) is a Swedish actor, director, and martial artist. He belongs to a generation of film actors who epitomise the action hero stereotype, alongside Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

He received a degree in chemistry from Washington State University in 1976, a degree in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in the early 1980s, then a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia in 1982. Lundgren holds a rank of 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate and was European champion in 1980 and 1981. While in Sydney, he became a bodyguard for Jamaican singer Grace Jones and began a relationship with her. They moved together to New York City, where after a short stint as a model and bouncer at the Manhattan nightclub The Limelight, Jones got him a small debut role in the James Bond film A View to a Kill as a KGB henchman.

Lundgren's breakthrough came when he starred in Rocky IV in 1985 as the imposing Russian boxer Ivan Drago. Since then, he has starred in more than 40 movies, almost all of them in the action genre. He portrayed He-Man in the 1987 fantasy/science fiction film Masters of the Universe, and Frank Castle in the 1989 film The Punisher. In the early 1990s, he also appeared in films such Dark Angel (1990); Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), alongside Brandon Lee; Universal Soldier (1992) opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme; Joshua Tree (1993), opposite Kristian Alfonso and George Segal; Johnny Mnemonic (1995), opposite Keanu Reeves; and Blackjack (1998), directed by John Woo. In 2004, Lundgren directed his first picture, The Defender, and subsequently helmed The Mechanik (2005), Missionary Man (2007), Command Performance (2009), and Icarus (2010), in which he also starred. After a long spell performing in direct-to-video films since 1995, 2010 marked his return to theaters with The Expendables, an on-screen reunion with Stallone, alongside an all-action star cast which included, among others, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Mickey Rourke. He reprised his role as Gunner Jensen in The Expendables 2 in 2012 and The Expendables 3 in 2014.

Early life[edit]

Childhood[edit]

Lundgren was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1957,[2][3] into an academic, middle-class family in the suburb of Spånga.[4] Some sources wrongly state 1959 as his year of birth,[5][6] but Lundgren himself has confirmed it to be 1957.[7] His mother, Sigrid Birgitta (née Tjerneld), was a language teacher, and his father, Karl Johan Hugo Lundgren, was an engineer and economist for the Swedish government.[8][9] He has two sisters and an older brother.[4] Lundgren was raised in the Lutheran church.[10] Lundgren has said that his father was physically abusive and vented his frustration on his wife and eldest son. He has stated that, during his tirades, his father would call him a "loser", which motivated him later as he grew more ambitious to prove himself.[4] He has said, 'I still love my father, no matter what happened. There are many things about him I still admire. As a child, I was probably too much like him, very stubborn—perhaps that's what he couldn't deal with."[4] He cites his troubled relationship with his father as the reason he developed a desire to participate in heavy contact sports such as boxing and karate.[4]

Dolph has said that, as a child, he was insecure and suffered from allergies, and even claimed to be a runt.[4][11] As a teenager, he grew up with his grandparents in the community of Nyland, north of Kramfors. He showed a keen interest in drumming and had aspirations to become a rock star.[4] At age of 7, he also tried judo, Gōjū-ryū and took up Kyokushin karate at age of 10 and began training with weights as a teenager.[11] Lundgren is also a keen football fan and supports Everton F.C. when he is in Europe, but has developed more of an interest in international football tournaments such as the European Championships and the FIFA World Cup since he moved to Los Angeles.[12]

Education[edit]

Lundgren stated that "my dad always told me that if I wanted to make something special with my life, I had to go to America."[4] After graduating from high school with straight As, he spent some time in the United States in the 1970s on various academic scholarships, studying chemistry at Washington State University and Clemson University. He received a degree in Chemistry from Washington State University, then served his mandatory two years in the Swedish Marine Corps at the Amphibious Ranger School. In the late 1970s, he enrolled at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.[4]

Amidst his years of studying, Lundgren honed his karate skills by training hard in the dojo for five years, attaining the rank of 2nd dan black belt in Kyokushin in 1978. He captained the Swedish Kyokushin karate team, and was a formidable challenger at the 1979 World Open Tournament (arranged by the Kyokushin Karate Organization) when he was only a green belt. He won the European championships in 1980 and 1981, and a heavyweight tournament in Australia in 1982.[13] Dolph continued training kyokushin karate after leaving his tournament career, when his new career allowed, and eventually graded to 3rd dan in July 1998, in the Shinkyokushin organization of Kyokushin karate. The formal grading took place in Stockholms kyokushin karate Gym, in Stockholm, Sweden. Lundgren is often seen on Shinkyokushin tournament events, doing karate exhibitions during breaks.

In 1982, Lundgren graduated with a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney, finishing with the highest results in his class. During his time in Sydney, he earned a living as a bouncer in a nightclub in the renowned King's Cross area. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983. However, while preparing for the move to Boston, he was spotted in the nightclub he worked at in Sydney and was hired by Grace Jones as a bodyguard, and the two became lovers.[14] Their relationship developed dramatically, and he moved with her to New York City.[15]

New York City[edit]

The Limelight in Manhattan, a former church, where Lundgren worked as a doorman

While living with Grace Jones in her New York City apartment, Lundgren dabbled in modeling at the Zoli Agency but was described as "a bit too tall and muscular for a model's size 40".[4] He earned a living as a bouncer at the Manhattan nightclub The Limelight; housed in a former Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, working with Chazz Palminteri.[4]

In the daytime, he studied drama at the Warren Robertson Theatre Workshop and has said that "my time in New York City opened up my adolescent Swedish eyes to a multitude of different people and lifestyles, mostly in the arts. I hung out with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Iman and Steve Rubell, danced at Studio 54, and studied acting with Andie MacDowell and Tom Hulce."[4] Standing 6'5" (195 cm), with a heavily muscular frame and distinctive looks, he stood out, and was told by friends that he could make it in movies.[4] He would later quit studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after two weeks to pursue acting.[16]

Film career[edit]

1980s[edit]

On set of the James Bond film A View to a Kill, Jones suggested that he try out for a part in film which led to his feature film debut playing the very minor role of a suited KGB henchman named Venz.[17][18] In the film, Dolph is seen briefly in the scene in which the KGB's General Gogol (Walter Gotell) confronts Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) about leaving the KGB at a racing ground and ends in a minor brawl in which Lundgren's character Venz points a gun at Zorin. Roger Moore, in his last performance as James Bond, once memorably said "Dolph is larger than Denmark".[14] Lundgren found the entertainment business more attractive and rewarding than chemical engineering so he decided to pursue a career in acting despite having no formal training.[14] Upon learning that Sylvester Stallone was on the lookout for an imposing fighter to play Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (1985), Lundgren sent off videos and pictures of himself to a distant contact of Stallone, which eventually got through to him. Lundgren tried out for the role, but as he stated himself, he was initially turned down for the role because he was too tall.[17] However, he eventually beat 5,000 other hopefuls to land his breakout role opposite Stallone, Carl Weathers and Brigitte Nielsen. To improve his physique and athletic abilities for the role of Drago, he trained intensely in bodybuilding and boxing for five months before the film was shot. Lundgren said, "We trained six days a week—weights in the morning for about an hour, then boxing in the afternoon. We did a split of chest and back one day and then shoulders, legs, and arms the next. We boxed for an hour and a half, practiced the fight choreography, and did bag work and abs."[19] He weighed 235 pounds (107 kg) – 245 pounds (111 kg) during the filming,[19] but in the film he was billed at 261 pounds (118 kg); one publisher said of Drago, "He's a hulking 261 pounds of merciless fighting machine, the best that Soviet science & medicine can create".[20] His lines "If he dies, he dies" and "I must break you" are amongst the best known of the Rocky series and have been cited in popular culture.[21][22]

Lundgren as Ivan Drago

Sylvester Stallone said in an interview: "During [the filming of] Rocky IV, Dolph had hit me so hard I had swelling around the heart and had to stay in intensive care at St. John's Hospital for four days."[23] Lundgren later fought in a real boxing match against former UFC fighter Oleg Taktarov, and lost via decision.[24] Lundgren has highlighted the premiere of Rocky IV at Westwood Movie Theatre as the moment which changed his life, remarking, "I walked in to a Westwood movie theater as Grace Jones' boyfriend and walked out ninety minutes later as the movie star Dolph Lundgren. I was shell-shocked for years from the mind-boggling and daunting experience of being a student-athlete from tiny Sweden suddenly having to live up a new action-star persona."[4]

Lundgren received his first lead role as the mighty He-Man in Masters of the Universe (1987), based on the popular children's toyline and cartoon. He starred alongside Frank Langella, Meg Foster, Chelsea Field, Billy Barty and Courteney Cox. Lundgren weighed his all time heaviest during the filming at 250 pounds (110 kg).[19] The film was a critical failure and viewed as far too violent for a family picture.[25][26] It is referred to as a "flop" by Variety magazine,[27] and has a 13% "rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[28] Lundgren was criticized for being too wooden as a leading man, and it was dismissed as "a glossy fantasy starring monosyllabic Dolph Lundgren."[29] Citing the reason Lundgren would never successfully make it as a top leading actor in Hollywood, one author said, "Lundgren is limited by his size and dead pan delivery: though often compared to Arnold, he has less range."[30] Lundgren released a workout video on VHS in 1987 called "Maximum Potential".[31]

Lundgren next starred in Joseph Zito's Red Scorpion in 1989, opposite M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T. P. McKenna and Carmen Argenziano. The plot centers on Lundgren's character Nikolai, a Soviet Spetsnaz-trained KGB agent who is sent to an African country where Soviet, Czechoslovakia and Cuban forces are helping the government fight an anti-communist rebel movement. Nikolai is ordered to assassinate the movement's leader, but eventually turns against his government by switching sides. The film was partly shot in Namibia and it was claimed that Grace Jones joined him during production in Swakopmund, insisting on staying in a $3000 a month villa, even though his new girlfriend at the time was reported to be Paula Barbieri.[32] The film was poorly received and has an 11% "rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Stephen Holden of The New York Times said as follows: "Dolph Lundgren's pectorals are the real stars of Red Scorpion, an action-adventure movie set in the fictional African country of Mombaka. Filmed from below so that one has the sense of peering up at a massive kinetic sculpture, his glistening torso, which over the course of the film is subjected to assorted tortures, is the movie's primary visual focus whenever the action slows down. And since Mr. Lundgren remains stone-faced, rarely speaking except to issue commands in a surprisingly hesitant monotone, his heaving chest actually communicates more emotion than his mumbling lips."[33]

Lundgren then starred as Marvel Comics character Frank Castle (a.k.a. The Punisher) in the 1989 film The Punisher. The film was directed by Mark Goldblatt, with a screenplay by Boaz Yakin. Although it is based on the Marvel Comics character, the film changes many details of the original comic book origin and the main character does not wear the trademark "skull". The Punisher was filmed in Sydney, Australia and also featured Louis Gossett, Jr., Jeroen Krabbé, Kim Miyori, Nancy Everhard and Barry Otto.[34] The film received mainly negative reviews, currently holds a 24% "rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[35] Christopher Null gave the film 1 out of 5, stating the film was "marred by cheeseball sets and special effects, lame fight sequences, and some of the worst acting ever to disgrace the screen."[36] Whilst criticizing the film's storyline and acting, Time Out magazine concluded the film was "destructive, reprehensible, and marvelous fun".[37]

1990s[edit]

1990–1994[edit]

Lundgren in 1990

In 1990, Lundgren starred in Craig R. Baxley's sci-fi thriller I Come in Peace (also known as Dark Angel) opposite Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues and Jay Bilas. Lundgren plays Jack Caine, a tough Houston cop with an inner sensitivity,[38] who does not let the rules of police procedure prevent him pursuing his mission to wipe out the White Boys, a gang of white collar drug dealers who killed his partner while he was waylaid stopping a convenience store robbery. Lundgren said of his role, "What attracted me to Dark Angel is that I get to do more than just action. There's some romance, some comedy, some drama. I actually have some clever dialogue in this one. I get to act.[39] One author said "Universe (1987) or Dark Angel (1990), demonstrates that nature and his [Lundgren's] hairdresser have suited him perfectly to Nazi genetically engineered baddie roles."[40]

In 1991, Lundgren starred in Manny Coto's action film Cover Up opposite Louis Gossett Jr.. Lundgren portrays Mike Anderson, a tough American reporter and US Marine veteran who finds his own life in jeopardy after stumbling across a political cover-up over a Middle Eastern terrorist plan to release toxic gas and kill thousands of people. The primary terrorist group in the film is the fictional group Black October, in reference to Black September.[41] The film was shot in Israel and Lundgren stays at the famous King David Hotel.[41] Although the film was not a major success, Robert Cettl in his 2009 book Terrorism in American cinema: an analytical filmography, 1960–2008 argues that the film reveals an alarmingly realist insight into US-Middle Eastern politics and terrorism since the 2000s, dealing with an al-Qaeda-esque terrorist organization and the conspiracy theories that some believe the US government is using the Middle East as a cover-up.[41]

Later in 1991, Lundgren appeared in martial arts action film Showdown in Little Tokyo opposite Brandon Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Tia Carrere. Lundgren plays a police sergeant named Kenner working in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles who is partnered with Johnny Murata (Lee), a Japanese American who are sent to infiltrate the operations of new Japanese drug gang named the Iron Claw manufacturing a lethal methamphetamine while using a local brewery and nightclub as a front for the operation. Along the way, Kenner discovers that Yoshida (Tagawa), the head of the drug gang, is a member of the Yakuza who killed his parents in front of him as a young boy in Japan and the case becomes violent and personal.[42][43] The film received a mainly negative reception from critics and was criticized for its violence; Vincent Canby of the New York Times described it as "violent, but spiritless."[44] Variety wrote "Lundgren can hold his own with other action leads as an actor and could easily be Van Damme-marketable if only he'd devote as much attention to quality control as he does to pectoral development."[45] David J. Fox of the Los Angeles Times however described the film as a "class act".[46] In 1992, Lundgren starred in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year in the sci-fi action picture Universal Soldier directed by Roland Emmerich. Lundgren (as Sergeant Andrew Scott) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (as Luc Deveraux) play U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War who are sent to secure a village against North Vietnamese forces. However they end up shooting each other dead after Devereaux discovers that Scott has gone insane and has resorted to mutilating the villagers and barbarically cutting off their ears, taking an innocent girl and boy hostage.[47] They are later reanimated in a secret Army project along with a large group of other previously dead soldiers and sent on a mission as GR operatives. At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Van Damme and Lundgren were involved in a verbal altercation that almost turned physical when both men pushed each other only to be separated, but it was believed to have only been a publicity stunt.[48][49] Universal Soldier opened in theatres on 10 July 1992, a moderate success domestically with $36,299,898 in US ticket sales, but a major blockbuster worldwide, making over $65 million overseas, which earned the film a total of $102 million worldwide, on a $23 million budget.[50] Despite being a box office hit however, it was not well-received; mainstream critics dismissed the movie as a Terminator 2 clone, or as a typical, mindless action film.[48][51][52][53] Film critic Roger Ebert said, "it must be fairly thankless to play lunks who have to fight for the entire length of a movie while exchanging monosyllabic idiocies", including it in his book I hated, hated, hated this movie.[48][49]

In 1993, Lundgren starred opposite Kristian Alfonso and George Segal in Joshua Tree, directed by Academy Award and BAFTA-winning stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong.[54] Lundgren plays Wellman Anthony Santee, a former racecar driver who has turned to hauling exotic stolen cars with his friend Eddie Turner (Ken Foree). One day he is framed by police officer Frank Severance (Segal) for the murder of a highway patrolman, also killing his friend Eddie. Santee is sent to prison after recovering in a prison hospital, but escapes during transfer and takes a female hostage named Rita Marrick (Alfonso) at a gas station, not suspecting that she's a cop. On the run from the law, involving exotic cars and desert scenery, Santee must prove his innocence and prove Severance guilty of being involved in the car ring and for murder. Much of the film was filmed in the Alabama Hills of the Sierra Nevada and the desert of the Joshua Tree National Park of southeast California.[55]

In 1994, Lundgren starred in Bruce Malmuth's Pentathlon as an East German Olympic gold medalist pentathlete on the run from an abusive coach (David Soul).[56] Lundgren trained with the U.S. pentathlon team in preparation for the role,[57] which later led to him being selected to serve as the (non-competing) Team Leader of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Modern Pentathlon team during the Atlanta Games, to promote the image of the sport and to coordinate planning and other details between the team and the United States Olympic Committee.[58] The film was seen negatively by most critics; Film Review said it was "appallingly acted and monotonous"[59] and Video Movie Guide 2002 described it as a "silly Cold War thriller".[60]

Later in 1994, Lundgren appeared in Perry Lang's Men of War (scripted by John Sayles) alongside Charlotte Lewis and B. D. Wong as Nick Gunar, a former Special Ops soldier who leads a group of mercenaries to a treasure island in the South China Sea. The film was mainly shot in Thailand, with Krabi and Phong Nga making up most of the island scenery. The film was well received by some critics. One author said "Men of War invokes the most vividly remembered fighting in a foreign land of recent Western history. This innovation, associating the muscle image with the Vietnam experience, is carried over into other contemporary muscle films."[61] Another said, "fine performances by an all-star Dolph Lundgren as a mercenary assigned to "convince" a cast in this offbeat and disturbing film."[62]

1995–1999[edit]

In 1995, Dolph appeared in Robert Longo's Johnny Mnemonic, co-starring Keanu Reeves. The film portrays screenwriter William Gibson's dystopian cyberpunk view of the future with the world dominated by megacorporations and with strong East Asian influences.[63] Reeves plays the title character, a man with a cybernetic brain implant designed to store information. Lundgren plays Karl Honig, a Jesus-obsessed hit man and street preacher who wears a robe and carries a shepherd's staff.[63][64] The film was shot on location in Toronto and Montreal in 12 weeks, filling in for the film's Newark, New Jersey and Beijing settings.[65] The film was premiered in Japan first on 15 April 1995 and features a previously composed score by Michael Danna, different editing, and more scenes with Lundgren and Japanese star Takeshi Kitano. Critical response was negative overall; Roger Ebert said, "Johnny Mnemonic is one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema, a movie which doesn't deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis."[66] The film was a financial disappointment, grossing $19,075,720 in the domestic American market against its $26m budget. The cloak worn by Lundgren in the film is now located in the lobby of the Famous Players Coliseum in Mississauga, Ontario, it was his last theatrical release film until 2010.[67] Later in 1995, Lundgren appeared in Ted Kotcheff's The Shooter, also known as Hidden Assassin, an action drama in which he plays Michael Dane, a U.S. Marshall who gets caught up in politics when he is hired to solve the assassination of a Cuban ambassador. He featured alongside Maruschka Detmers, Assumpta Serna, Gavan O'Herlihy and John Ashton. his first film Direct-to-video. The Motion Picture Guide to the films of 1996 said, "in peak condition, Dolph Lundgren leaps trains, kicks the crap out of assailants, and handles a rifle like a pro. He's still a terrific athlete, but shows signs of histrionic mobility here."[68]

A wall mural of Lundgren outside a cinema in Damascus, Syria

In 1996, Lundgren starred in Russell Mulcahy's Silent Trigger, about a sniper (Lundgren) and his female spotter (played by Gina Bellman).[69] Lundgren plays a former Special Forces agent who joins a secretive government agency (called "The Agency") as an assassin.[70] The movie takes place in and around an unfinished city skyscraper, shot in Montreal.[71] The Motion Picture Guide to the films of 1997 said, "this stylish but empty thriller gives square-jawed Dolph Lundgren another shot at straight-to-video immortality".[69]

In 1997, Dolph starred in Frédéric Forestier's The Peacekeeper, playing Major Frank Cross of the US Air Force and the only man who can prevent the president being assassinated and with the ability to thwart an imposing nuclear holocaust. The threat is from a terrorist group, which has stolen the President's personal communications computer with the capability of launching the US arsenal to threaten global security. The film co-starred Michael Sarrazin, Montel Williams, Roy Scheider and Christopher Heyerdahl, and was shot on location in Montreal.[72] The film was praised for its exciting action sequences.[73] Doug Pratt described the first half of the film as "excellent" and described Dolph's character as "tenacious",[74] although Robert Cettl wrote "the Peacekeeper trades on the presence of B-movie action star Dolph Lundgren, an actor who never became as popular as his action contemporaries Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.[75]

In 1998 he appeared in Jean-Marc Piché's action/supernatural horror film The Minion alongside Françoise Robertson Lundgren portrays Lukas Sadorov, a middle eastern templar and member of an order who are charged with guarding the gateway to Hell that, if opened, will unleash all evil.[70] The only thing that can open it is a key which is sought for by the Minion, a demonic spirit that transfers itself into the nearby host body when his previous one is killed off. Awakening in New York City, the Minion tracks down Karen Goodleaf as Lukas arrives to America to protect her and the key. Michael Haag in his book Templars: History and Myth: From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons (2009) said, "The budget for this film was $12 million. A pity they did not spend a cent on research (citing that one reference was 600 years out). Dolph Lundgren is a butt-kicking Templar monk with a spiked leather glove whose sacred duty it is to do what the Templars have always done and stop a key that has kept the Anti-christ imprisoned for thousands of years from falling into the right hands.".[76] The DVD and Video Guide of 2005 described the film as being "possibly one of the worst films ever".[62] Later in 1998, Dolph appeared alongside Bruce Payne and Claire Stansfield in Sweepers as Christian Erickson, a leading demolition expert and head of an elite team of specialists, trained to disarm mine fields in a humanitarian minesweeping operation in Angola.[77] In the event his son is killed and he discovers that mines are being planted during the war to kill people in the area. The film was a joint American and South African production. The Video Guide to 2002 said, "that noise you hear isn't the numerous on-screen explosions but action star Lundgren's career hitting rock bottom."[78] He also featured in the TV pilot Blackjack (directed by John Woo) as a former US Marshal who has a phobia of the color white, who becomes the bodyguard and detective of a young supermodel (Kam Heskin) who's the target of a psychotic assassin (Phillip MacKenzie).[79][80] Shot on location in Toronto, the film was originally meant to be the pilot episode of a series focusing around his character, Jack Devlin[80] but it was not accepted as a series as it was poorly received. One review said "the narrative is laughably stupid" and the DVD and Video Guide to 2005 said, "dull, lightweight, made-for-TV action fully to a satisfying climax".[62][81]

In 1999 he appeared in Isaac Florentine's Bridge of Dragons as a "human killing machine" mercenary named Warchikj alongside Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who Lundgren had previously worked with in the 1991 film Showdown in Little Tokyo, Valerie Chow, Gary Hudson, John Bennett and Scott L. Schwartz.[70][82] He then starred in Storm Catcher alongside Mystro Clark and Robert Miano under director Anthony Hickox, portraying a military pilot who is falsely accused of treason in a plot to overthrow the US Government.[70][83] He is blackmailed into plotting an attack in which he would bomb Washington with a new jet called the "Storm Catcher" by a renegade general (Miano). Film review dismissed the film and Lundgren's performance as "more Lundgren lunacy".[84] Finally he starred in Hickox's next picture, Jill Rips, based on a 1987 novel by Scottish writer Frederic Lindsay. He portrays Matt Sorenson, a former boxer and San Francisco cop who avenges the brutal death of his younger brother, Michael. Intent on finding his brother's killer, Sorenson infiltrates the powerful inner world of politics, business intrigue and casual sex and sadomasochism.[85] His obsession to discover the killer's identity mounts as a series of other men are found murdered in a similar fashion, and he loses all objectivity and becomes a vigilante. The DVD and Video Guide to 2005 said, "not very believable but, as usual, it's fun to watch Dolph Lundgren in action."[62] Film Review "shuddered" at the concept of the film and remarked that Lundgren "should be a long-forgotten action-star."[86]

2000s[edit]

2000–2004[edit]

In 2000, Lundgren starred in The Last Warrior as Captain Nick Preston under director Sheldon Lettich. This post apocalyptic movie is set in 2006 in the context of a 9.5-magnitude earthquake which kills millions of people, with Preston leading a motley military patrol on the island to help survivors in the pole shift-affected world.[54] The film was partly shot in Eilat, Israel. Later in 2000, Dolph appeared in Damian Lee's Agent Red (also known as Captured), alongside Alexander Kuznetsov, Natalie Radford and Randolph Mantooth. The film is set during the Cold War, and is about two soldiers trapped on a submarine with a group of terrorists who plan to use a chemical weapon against the United States. Lundgren's character, Matt Hendricks, must work with his wife, a virologist, to prevent the scenario occurring.[87] After the film was completed, producer Andrew Stevens thought it was too poor to be released and multiple people had to be hired to at least make the film half-competent.[88] The film was very poorly received, given its "shoestring budget"; the DVD and Film Guide of 2005 wrote, "low-budget mess stars Dolph Lundgren as a navy special operations commander trying to keep a deadly virus out of the hands of terrorists. This subpar effort sinks to the bottom of the ocean in a tidal wave of cliche."[89] During an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in May 2008, Gladiator director Ridley Scott said Lundgren had been considered for the part of undefeated fighter Tigris of Gaul in 2000, but was eventually rejected because "as an actor, he just didn't fit in with what we were trying to achieve".[90]

In 2001, Lundgren starred in Hidden Agenda, directed by Marc S. Grenier. He plays Jason Price, an ex-FBI agent who protects a witness. In 2003, Lundgren featured in Sidney J. Furie's Detention, opposite Alex Karzis, Kata Dobó, Joseph Scoren and Anthony J. Mifsud. He portrays a soon to be retired high school history teacher and ex-Special Forces soldier Sam Decker who has one last detention to proctor; he must band together the trouble makers and misfits in detention to defeat a drug ring intent on taking over the school.[91][92]

In 2004 he starred in an unusually high number of films. He first appeared opposite Polly Shannon in Direct Action under Sidney J. Furie, portraying Sergeant Frank Gannon, an officer who has spent the last three years on the Direct Action Unit (DAU) task force, fighting gang crime and corruption and after he leaves he is hunted down by former colleagues for betraying the brotherhood.[93] Next he appeared in Ed Bye's Fat Slags, a film adaption of a comic strip The Fat Slags which appeared in the "alternative" British comic Viz. His role was little more than a cameo role alongside Geri Halliwell, Naomi Campbell and Angus Deayton. Reviews of the film were so poor that it remains on the IMDb's Bottom 100 as one of the worst movies ever made.[94] He next appeared in Christopher Kulikowski's science fiction picture Retrograde alongside Gary Daniels and Joe Sagal. It tells the story of "a group of genetically unique people who travel back in time to prevent the discovery of meteors containing deadly bacteria."[95] Shot in Italy, the film received the support of the Film Fund of Luxembourg.[95] Finally he made his directorial debut, replacing Sidney J. Furie who got ill during pre-production, with The Defender, in which he also starred alongside Shakara Ledard and Jerry Springer, who played the President of the United States. Lundgren plays Lance Rockford, the bodyguard of the head of the National Security Agency, Roberta Jones (Caroline Lee-Johnson), in a war on terror.

2005–2009[edit]

Lundgren in 2007

In 2005, Lundgren starred and directed his second picture The Mechanik (The Russian Specialist), playing a retired Russian Special Forces hit man Nikolai "Nick" Cherenko caught in the crossfire with Russian mobsters. Sky Movies remarked that The Mechanik is "hardcore death-dealing from the Nordic leviathan" and said that "The Mechanik delivers all the no-nonsense gunplay you'd want of a Friday night".[96]

In 2006, Lundgren played gladiator Brixos in the Italian-made historical/biblical drama, The Inquiry (L'inchiesta), also known as The Final Inquiry, alongside Daniele Liotti, Mónica Cruz, Max von Sydow, F. Murray Abraham and Ornella Muti. It is the remake of the 1986 Italian film directed by Damiano Damiani and starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel.[97] Set in AD 35 in the Roman Empire, the story follows a fictional Roman general named Titus Valerius Taurus, a veteran of campaigns in Germania, who is sent to Judea by the emperor Tiberius to investigate the possibility of the divinity of the recently crucified Jesus.[97] The film, shot on location in Tunisia and Bulgaria, featured a score from Andrea Morricone, the son of the acclaimed film score composer Ennio Morricone.[97] It premiered at the Capri-Hollywood and the Los Angeles-Italia Film Festivals.[97] One reviewer on a website catering for historical movies said of the film, "The Final Inquiry is one of those movies you are glad you ran into.... I had such low expectations for this movie, but was glad to have been proven wrong. I know about the negative reviews this movie has gotten and some of the criticism is well deserved while some of it is a bit unfair."[98]

In 2007, Lundgren directed and starred in the Mongolia-based action adventure, Diamond Dogs. Lundgren portrays the character of Xander Ronson, a mercenary hired by a group of American fortune hunters to act as their guide and bodyguard, while they search for a priceless Buddhist artifact deep within the Chinese wilderness. They get more than they bargained for, however, as they come face to face with Russian mercenaries also after the artifact. The film, a Canadian-Chinese production, was shot on location in Inner Mongolia.[99] Later in 2007, Lundgren wrote, directed and starred in Missionary Man alongside Charles Solomon Jr.. Described as a "modern western" by Lundgren,[100] Dolph plays a lone, bible-preaching stranger named Ryder who comes into a small Texas town on his 1970's Harley-Davidson motorcycle to attend the funeral of his good friend J.J., a local Native American carpenter, only to later get mixed up in a series of brawls with a local gang. According to Lundgren, it had long been a desire of his to direct a western, having long been a fan of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, yet he did not want to spend the time and money building an old western town and hiring horses, so decided to set it in modern times with a motorbike instead of entering the town on a horse in the manner than Clint Eastwood would.[100] Lundgren's co-writer, Frank Valdez's wife's brother happened to be a notable actor working in Texas and invited Lundgren's team to shoot there.[100] The film was shot on location in Waxahachie, a southern suburb of Dallas and was produced by Andrew Stevens and it was specially screened at the 2008 AFI Dallas Film Festival.[100][101]

In 2008, Lundgren starred opposite Michael Paré in the direct to video action flick Direct Contact. He plays the role of Mike Riggins, an imprisoned ex-US Special forces operative in Eastern Europe, who is offered his freedom and money to rescue an American woman, Ana Gale, who has been kidnapped by a ruthless warlord. This was followed by another direct to video film Command Performance (2009), a hostage action drama in which Lundgren, a proficient musician in real life, plays a rock drummer forced to face terrorists at a concert in Moscow. The film co-starred Canadian pop singer Melissa Smith, playing a world famous pop singer in the film and his own daughter Ida on her screen debut, who played one of the daughters of the Russian president. The story was inspired by a concert Madonna put on for Russian President Vladimir Putin, although Dolph has also likened the pop singer to Britney Spears.[102] [103] Filming took place over 5 weeks between August and September 2008 in Sofia, Bulgaria and Moscow, Russia.[104] The film premiered at the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival on 18 July 2009.[105]

In 2009, The Dolph Lundgren Scholarship was instituted in his name, which is awarded to the student with the best grades at Ådalsskolan in Kramfors, the school where he himself studied.[106] Lundgren then reunited with Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier: Regeneration, where he plays Andrew Scott's clone. The film was released theatrically in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and directly to video in the United States and other parts of the world. Since its release, the film has received better than average reviews for a straight-to-DVD franchise sequel, with film critic Brian Orndorf giving the film a B, calling it "moody, pleasingly quick-draw, and knows when to quit, making the Universal Soldier brand name bizarrely vital once again."[107] Dread Central gave it 3 out of 5 knives, saying "there is almost nothing but solid b-level action until the credits roll."[108] On the negative side, Pablo Villaça of Cinema em Cena said in his review that while he praised Van Damme's performance, he criticized that of Lundgren and described the film "dull in concept and execution".[109]

Later in 2009, Lundgren directed and starred in the hit-man thriller Icarus (retitled in the US and the UK as The Killing Machine).[110] He plays a businessman named Edward Genn, working for an investment company, who has a shady past as a KGB special agent known as "Icarus". He tries to escape from his past life, but his identity is discovered and he is hunted down, placing the lives of his wife and daughter and himself in jeopardy. Retitled in the US and the UK as The Killing Machine, it opened theatrically in Los Angeles on 10 September 2010, for an exclusive one-week engagement at Laemmele's Sunset 5 Theater in West Hollywood.

2010s: Return to film[edit]

Lundgren with the cast of The Expendables at ComicCon 2010

In 2010, Lundgren made a guest star appearance on the TV series Chuck in the fourth season premiere episode, "Chuck Versus the Anniversary", as Russian spy Marco, with references to Rocky IV's Ivan Drago.[31] He then played a drug-addled assassin alongside Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the action film The Expendables, which opened in theatres on 13 August 2010. The film is about a group of elite mercenaries, tasked with a mission to overthrow a Latin American dictator. It was described by Lundgren as "an old-school, kick-ass action movie where people are fighting with knives and shooting at each other."[111] This was his first U.S. theatrical release film since 1995's Johnny Mnemonic, (although The Inquiry (The Final Inquiry) and Missionary Man both played theatrically for one week in Dallas and San Diego in December 2007). Film production began on 3 March 2009, with a budget of $82 million.[112] Filming commenced 25 days later in Rio de Janeiro and other locations in Brazil, and later in Louisiana. The film received mixed reviews from critics but was very successful commercially, opening at number one at the box office in the United States, the United Kingdom,[113] China[114] and India.[115]

Lundgren was one of three hosts for the 2010 Melodifestivalen, where the Swedish contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest is selected. In the first installation on 6 February, Lundgren co-hosted the competition together with comedienne Christine Meltzer and performer Måns Zelmerlöw. Lundgren's appearance was hailed by critics and audience, particularly his rendition of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation".[116][117][118][119][120]

The Expendables 2 started principal photography, with Simon West at the helm and Lundgren reprising his role, in late September / early October 2011, and wrapped January 2012. The film was released by Lionsgate on 17 August 2012.[105] Lundgren played the lead role in Uwe Boll's In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds and supporting roles in Jonas Åkerlund's Small Apartments (wrapped at the end of April 2011, now in post-production) and a thriller produced by Joel Silver called Stash House co-starring Briana Evigan and Sean Faris (to be released 11 May 2012 in US theaters and VOD). Another Universal Soldier film began filming in Louisiana on 9 May, 2011 and filming has wrapped on One in the Chamber (directed by William Kaufman) co-starring Cuba Gooding, Jr..[121] Another film produced by Brad Krevoy's MPCA (Motion Picture Corporation of America) is The Package was directed by Jesse Johnson) co-starring alongside Steve Austin ; filming wrapped in March 2012 in Vancouver and released in February 2013. Lundgren also completed the films Legendary: Tomb of the Dragon alongside Scott Adkins, Battle of the Damned, Rush (aka Ambushed) with Randy Couture and Vinnie Jones, and Blood of Redemption (with Billy Zane and Vinnie Jones). Dolph hosted his first TV English-language show, Race To The Scene, currently airing Thursdays at 9 on Reelz.

Lundgren just wrapped Skin Trade a personal action drama about human trafficking that he wrote and produced and starred in alongside Tony Jaa and Ron Perlman.[122][123]

Training and diet[edit]

Lundgren in July 2010

Although Lundgren never competed as a professional bodybuilder, he has been closely associated with bodybuilding and fitness since his role as Drago in the mid-1980s. Bodybuilding.com said "looking like a man in his 30's rather than his 50's, Lundgren is the poster boy of precise nutrition, supplementation and exercise application that he has practiced for over 35 years."[124] In an interview with them he claims to often train up to six days a week in the gym, usually one hour sessions completed in the morning, saying that "it's just one hour a day, and then you can enjoy the other 23 hours".[125] Although he had begun lifting weights as a teenager, he cites Sylvester Stallone as the man who got him into serious bodybuilding for a period in the 1980s after arriving in the United States.[125] Stallone had a lasting influence on his fitness regime and his diet, ensuring that he ate a much higher percentage of protein in his diet and eating 5 or 6 smaller meals a day.[124] Lundgren has professed to never have been "superstrong", saying that, "I'm too tall and my arms are long. I think back then [Rocky IV] I was working with around 300 pounds on the bench and squat.[19]

In a January 2011 interview with GQ he announced he is working on releasing his own range of vitamins and supplements.[126][127] He has also written an autobiographical fitness book entitled Fit Forever being published in Sweden (by Bonnier Fakta) on 9 August 2011, offering tips he learned over the years to work out in various situations (with a busy schedule and a lot of traveling).[128] When in Los Angeles he trains at the Equinox Gym in Westwood and when at home in Marbella, Spain, he trains at the Qi Sport Gym in Puerto Banús.[124][129] Dolph does, however, also like to spar and practice his karate in the gym to keep in top shape aside from weight lifting.[125] He cites dead lifting and squats as the best exercises for muscle building.[129] Lundgren is not a heavy drinker, but has professed on many occasions to being fond of tequila and cocktails, citing his knowledge in chemical engineering as "making really good drinks".[103][126]

Personal life[edit]

Lundgren in 2010

Lundgren has often been the subject of hyperbole, with his IQ frequently cited as being around 160 and his height at 6 ft 6 inches (198 cm),[130][131] both of which he has professed to be exaggerated.[132] At his heaviest he weighed 250 lb (113 kg) during the filming of Masters of the Universe.[19] Lundgren speaks Swedish, English, some Spanish, some German, some French, some Japanese, and some Italian, but is not fluent in five languages as has often been reported.[131][132]

During the 1980s, Lundgren had relationships with Jamaican singer Grace Jones and model Paula Barbieri.[15] In 1994 he married Anette Qviberg, a jewellery designer and fashion stylist in Marbella.[129] The couple decided they liked the place so much that over the years they rented out accommodation there before eventually buying a family home.[129] They have two daughters: Ida Sigrid Lundgren (born 29 April 1996) and Greta Eveline Lundgren (born November 2001), both born in Stockholm.[31] Lundgren and Qviberg have cited the reason for living away from Hollywood is that they want to give their children as normal a childhood as possible.[4] In early May 2009, Lundgren's Marbella home was reportedly broken into by three masked burglars who tied up and threatened Qviberg, but fled when they spotted a family photo and realized that the house was owned by Lundgren.[133] Dolph later stated that he believed the intruders to be from Eastern Europe and had contacts in Bulgaria investigating them, but to no avail; the intruders are still at large.[134][135] As of 2011, the Lundgrens are divorced. Dolph has moved back to Los Angeles with his new girlfriend Jenny Sandersson.[136][137]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1985 View to a Kill, AA View to a Kill Venz
1985 Rocky IV Ivan Drago
1987 Masters of the Universe He-Man
1988 Red Scorpion Lt. Nikolai Rachenko
1989 Punisher, TheThe Punisher Frank Castle / The Punisher
1990 I Come in Peace Jack Caine
1991 Cover-Up Mike Anderson
1991 Showdown in Little Tokyo Chris Kenner
1992 Universal Soldier Sgt. Andrew Scott / GR13
1993 Joshua Tree Wellman Anthony Santee
1994 Pentathlon Eric Brogar
1994 Men of War Nick Gunar
1995 Johnny Mnemonic Karl Honig
1995 Shooter, TheThe Shooter Michael Dane
1996 Silent Trigger Waxman
1997 Peacekeeper, TheThe Peacekeeper Major Frank Cross
1998 Minion, TheThe Minion Lukas Sadorov
1998 Sweepers Christian Erickson
1998 Blackjack Jack Devlin Television film
1999 Bridge of Dragons Warchild
1999 Storm Catcher Jack Holloway
2000 Jill Rips Matt Sorenson
2000 Last Warrior, TheThe Last Warrior Captain Nick Preston
2001 Agent Red Matt Hendricks
2002 Hidden Agenda Jason Price
2003 Detention Sam Decker
2004 Direct Action Frank Gannon
2004 Fat Slags Randy
2004 Retrograde John Foster
2004 Defender, TheThe Defender Lance Rockford Director
2005 Mechanik, TheThe Mechanik Nikolai Cherenko Director
2006 Inquiry, TheThe Inquiry Brixos
2007 Diamond Dogs Xander Ronson Co-director
2007 Missionary Man Ryder Director
2009 Direct Contact Mike Riggins
2009 Command Performance Joe Director
2009 Universal Soldier: Regeneration Andrew Scott
2010 Icarus Edward Genn Director
2010 Expendables, TheThe Expendables Gunnar Jensen
2011 In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds Granger
2012 Small Apartments Dr. Sage Mennox
2012 Stash House Andy Spector
2012 Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Andrew Scott
2012 One in the Chamber Aleksey "The Wolf" Andreev
2012 Expendables 2, TheThe Expendables 2 Gunnar Jensen
2013 Package, TheThe Package The German
2013 Legendary: Tomb of the Dragon Harker
2013 Battle of the Damned Max Gatling
2013 Ambushed Maxwell
2013 Blood of Redemption Axel
2013 A Man Will Rise
2014 Puncture Wounds Hollis
2014 The Expendables 3 Gunnar Jensen
2015 Skin Trade Nick Cassidy

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Chuck Marco Episode: "Chuck Versus the Anniversary"
2013 SAF3 John Eriksson 12 episodes

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominated work Award Results
1985 Rocky IV Marshall Trophy for Best Actor Won

Special awards[edit]

Year Ceremony Award Results
2007 Málaga International Week of Fantastic Cinema Fantastic Lantern Won

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