EXCLUSIVE: Dolph Lundgren Is Universal Soldier: Regeneration!
Super soldier Andrew Scott is back to battle Luc Deveraux in this highly anticipated sequel
Action icons Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are back to battle each other in the explosive new sequel Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Genetically altered killing machine Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) is finally being brought out of retirement nearly eighteen years after the original Roland Emmerich directed Universal Soldier wowed audiences with its fireball spectacular. Now, Terrorists are threatening worldwide nuclear catastrophe and reactivating the decommissioned soldier is earth's only hope for survival. Rearmed and reprogrammed, Deveraux is forced into brutal battle against a next-generation super soldier (Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski) whose dastardly mission is to seize the crippled Chernobyl nuclear reactor and unleash a lethal radioactive cloud across the countryside. While leading an assault against this heavily armed behemoth, Deveraux soon discovers there is another "UniSol" in the game. Yes, Andrew Scott, Luc's vicious enemy from the past, has also been reanimated and upgraded and will stop at nothing to destroy mankind. Now these elite fighters are locked, loaded and programmed to kill each other no matter what the cost. And the fate of millions hangs on this high-octane showdown that will surely live on in legend.
We recently caught up Dolph Lundgren to find out more about this exciting DVD release, which is in stores this week. Here's what our favorite Nordic ass-kicker had to say for himself:
With both Andrew Scott and Luc Deveraux being reanimated super soldiers, how do you guys address the aging issue in the film? Are you able to have fun with that in the context of the story? Or is Van Damme a little sensitive about that?
Dolph Lundgren: (Laughs) Look, I don't know what discussions went on with Van Damme. This is being played in real time, which means his character has aged. He has to take a serum to keep him going. My character is caught in the in-between because he's been frozen in suspended animation. He's being brought back for a certain purpose in the picture. I don't want to spoil it for you. Van Damme's character is being used dramatically. He has to retrain and reequip himself to face the enemy. Where as my guy doesn't have to do that at all.
All jokes aside, both of you look great in this film and could demolish pretty much any new action star out there with one fist. What is your workout regime like when entering into a project such Regeneration?
Dolph Lundgren: I still train about four or five times a week. I guess I am addicted to it. I also do a lot of martial arts now. More than I have done in awhile. I like to go back to martial arts because it makes me feel good. I do weights a few times a week. Not a lot of heavy weights. I do it just to keep my muscle toned. With the martial arts, I am doing pretty basic stuff. I do some sparring. If I get a chance, I will go swimming or running in-between. I keep in pretty good shape between films. If I need to bulk up for a role, I will do more weights. If I need to slim down for something, I will do more cardio. That's usually how it goes.
Have you ever felt like going the Copland route and letting yourself go for a role? Or is that something you're not interested in doing?
Dolph Lundgren: They would have to pay me a lot of money. And it would have to be a really good role. It would have to be something of great importance for me to get fat. I don't know about that. I don't think people want to see me fat. It comes from the eyes. Film is about what you are thinking. It's about what's inside. Whether you have a gut or not? I don't think that's important.
Why did it take nearly eighteen years to get both you and Van Damme back in a proper sequel?
Dolph Lundgren: That's a good question. I wasn't a producer on this one, so I don't have all the details. I don't think sequels were as popular back when the original came out. They didn't do too many of them. Now it's standard procedure. If the first weekend grosses come in big, they go right into making the sequel. Back then, they didn't do that. It was something that was rediscovered. And suddenly the built-in audience meant something. That gave them incentive to bring us back for one more round.
Everything goes in an ebb and flow, and all of our 80s action icons are really seeing a resurgence at this moment in time. Just a few years ago, this might have been considered another Direct-to-DVD toss off. But people are genuinely interested in it again. Do you think that affected the quality of the project from all involved? That maybe you guys were working harder to please an audience that is once again very interested in these types of films, and especially in seeing guys like you and Van Damme back in them?
Dolph Lundgren: This resurgence happened fairly quickly. It happened within the last year, and this film was shot right around the time that all started. We had The Expendables just starting to go into production. Sly's Rambo hit big. Then, as it usually happens in Hollywood, there are one or two hits. And everyone else wants to jump on the bandwagon and do the same thing. They start bringing back Predators, and what not. Unfortunately, I was very busy when this film went into production. I was shooting The Expendables at the exact same time. And I was directing a movie, too. So I couldn't be in Universal Soldier: Regeneration too much. Our director, John Hyams, likes MMA. He is a big fan of violence and action sequences. That's why he wanted to shoot the film in the style he did. That is why he brought in MMA fighters. Hyams wanted to have a big fight between me and Van Damme. It was very much about body contact. There are not a lot of fast moves, or anything fancy. It's brutal. We're beating the shit out of each other. We are going through walls. Its very old school, these fights. That sounded like a good idea to me. With MMA being so popular, that has changed the business a little bit. Yes, we have super heroes and so forth. We have wire gags and stunt doubles. But there are certain people who are missing body-contact fighting in these movies nowadays. I think that's why the old 80s guys are needed again. At least we hope so.
You are acting against Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski" in this film. Do we see you guys engaged in a fight? How would you compare working with him to working with a more classically trained actor and fight choreographer? Did you find him to be a little more aggressive in what he was trying to accomplish on screen?
Dolph Lundgren: Actually, I didn't have any scenes with Andrei. I met him. He's a nice guy. I worked with some other Bulgarian actors that I know. As well as Jean-Claude. I think he did a good job in the film. He is very believable as this mean, badass killer soldier. Because he is very big. And he is very powerful. Working with Jean-Claude is a lot of fun. Because he's a great actor who also happens to be a fighter. That combination doesn't usually come together anymore. Usually, you have to fight the stunt double and then act against the actor. In his case, you are fighting with a real guy. It takes a minute to get used to that. Because it doesn't happen any more.
The idea of the Universal Super Soldier stems from this idea of the Manchurian Candidate, which Jesse Ventura recently did an expose on for his show Conspiracy Theory. Did you at all research this idea, and do you think its possible that the UniSol could become a reality in the future?
Dolph Lundgren: I did do a lot of research into this. Research is always a good idea. I looked most at the advances in nano-technology. That's when scientists go in at the cell level to try and infect the host and then heal it. They try to change the body. I also looked into cryogenic freezing. Sometimes they take just the brain, freeze that, and store it. They think that in five or ten years, they will be able to create a new body for the brain. That you will be able to live again, and come back. All of that stuff is pretty interesting. I did do a lot of research on it. This is possible. A few hundred years ago, if you had told folks that we'd be flying to the moon and talking on the Internet, they would have thought you were crazy. Its maybe not something you and me will ever see in our lifetime. But maybe we'll see it a hundred years from now.
That brings up an interesting concept. They could actually replicate you in the future. Would you be happy with that? Especially if Dolph 2.0 went on to make films you wouldn't have necessarily been okay with signing onto?
Dolph Lundgren: (Laughs) That's a good question. I suppose I will try to enjoy my life now while I have it. Who knows what's going to happen in the future? I'm not going to freeze my body. One life is enough for me. Some people take this gamble. That someone will be able to bring them back in the future. I'm not going to do it. (Laughs)
What was it like stepping back into the iconic shoes of Andrew Scott? Did the character come right back to you in an instant, or did you have to go back and watch the original movie? Did you have to worry about any particular through-line when it came to recreating him on screen?
Dolph Lundgren: No, I didn't go back and look at that film. I was in it, so I remember it pretty well. John Hyams didn't want to use anything from the original movie. That was his idea. To start a new franchise. It was a bit bizarre. I had never done a sequel before. Not one that I was the star of. This was the first time out of forty movies. It was weird to play this same character again. And it was strange to see Jean-Claude again. Suddenly I was back where I was seventeen years ago. The character here is a little bit different. With Roland Emmerich, who directed the first film, everything is very colorful and entertaining. His films are a little bit over the top. In a good way. That's just how his movies are. The character I played was originally a bit over the top. There was a lot of humor that came with it. Emmerich was in on the joke. This new guy isn't. He is a little more menacing and internal. You might laugh when my character says things. He's off. He's gone mentally. But it's a little more realistic in a way. The new Andrew Scott is played a little closer to the vest. He's not so comedic.
How does Hyams stack up against the material? Aside from the more realistic aspects of the script, what do you feel he brought to this film that is unique and original?
Dolph Lundgren: Roland always made sure to bring more color into it. And make it a bit more entertaining than it was ever meant to be. Whereas, Hyams stuff is always more serious. Like I said, I try to get some comedy in there. Especially in the action scenes that I do. I tried to get some scenes in there that would remind you of that first picture. But a lot of the other stuff in this new film is very serious and realistic. It feels like it could be real. Especially with the pacing and the lighting, it is grittier.
Both you and Van Damme are burgeoning directors. I told you before, I absolutely love Command Performance, and can't wait for Icarus. Was it hard to hand the reins over on this film? Or do you enjoy letting someone else direct? And at this stage, how much of the film is a collaborative effort between you, Van Damme, and Hyams?
Dolph Lundgren: I just handed over the reins. I was a little concerned about it, because I was shooting a film up in Canada, and I was preparing for The Expendables. I was concerned about doing a good job because I didn't have that much time to prepare. My character was collaboration between John and me. He wrote it. But it was also something we talked about. We went over what we should and should not do. But it was totally John's vision. I just tried to be helpful. I know what its like to direct. You become a more considerate actor, I would say. After you have directed, you understand what is going on. You can help a little more on the set. But it's totally his vision.
How has being a director helped shape and change you as an actor, and vice-versa?
Dolph Lundgren: You can't help but think of the material as a director. You do come up with suggestions. You come up with shortcuts that you weren't aware of before. You try to be helpful to the director if he has a lot on his hands. Also, while rehearsing, you can make some great choices. You realize as a director that when you are cutting a film, you want to have alternatives. You need color and choices. You don't want four takes that are identical. As an actor, you try to perfect something. As a director, you know the best thing to get on film is not a feeling of rehearsal. You want to try new things with the material. Cut one, cut two, and cut three can all be slightly different and good. Then you have a choice. Because when you are acting in a film, you have no idea what scene the editor is going to choose. For instance, after you have directed, you feel more comfortable delivering a performance. Because you know the real performance is put together in the editing room.
You always play such a great villian. What do you personally get out of being the heel that being the hero in a film doesn't quite provide for you?
Dolph Lundgren: (Laughs) You are right, I like being the villian. I don't know if it has to do with my personality. You get to have a lot more fun as a villian. You don't have to stick to the rules. You can be a lot crazier. You can go off the rails. As a hero, you have to play it straight. The audience is going to live through you, so you have to be more neutral. They will be projecting their thoughts and their actions onto the main character. Nowadays, the acting style that has emerged from HD, because of the contrast and how sharp the picture is, it's more neutrally played. The main character is very minamalistic. That's what works in this digital age. Having to play against that isn't very satisfying. But you get a bigger paycheck if you are the hero. There is something good about it, too.
What was it like working with Van Damme again after all these years? How has he changed as both a performer and a fighter?
Dolph Lundgren: We are both getting older. I didn't have any acting scenes with him. But he is very smart when it comes to action. He has a very natural instinct about what works. It's unusual, because you are used to actors that are using doubles. You get used to fighting the double, but with him, you are fighting the actor. He stays in pretty good shape. We both work out quite a bit. So it was fun. It completed a circle somehow. It has been seventeen years. We're both still around and we're both able to return for this movie. It's kind of bizarre, because Andrew Scott is still fighting Luc Deveraux for some reason. It was pleasant to meet him again and work with him after all these years.
Was Van Damme at all upset that he didn't make it into The Expendables? Or are you guys saving him and Seagal for the sequel?
Dolph Lundgren: (Laughs) There is only one man that makes those decisions. Mr. Stallone. I don't know what he's got in his head. Me and jean-Claude didn't talk about The Expendables. I will admit, it was a great opportunity for me. And I am sure anyone else would want to be in my shoes and be in that movie. Anyone that is from the action genre. Because it is a fun group of guys. And Sly knows what he is doing. I think that film has a great chance of reaching a big audience. Maybe Van Damme can be in the sequel, if there is one.