The legendary action star tells all about Sylvester Stallone's magnum opus
Dolph Lundgren is one of the many "tough guy" icons that is set to appear in Sylvester Stallone's upcoming action extravaganza The Expendables. Next week, he has his own film coming out that he wrote and directed called Command Performance. And boy, is it a doozey! True fans of the action genre won't want to miss this story of a rock and roll drummer named Joe who battles terrorists at a Russian pop venue. It is one of the funnest movies of 2009, and a blast of fresh air for those tired of the many wimpy actors currently ruling our Cineplex scene. We recently caught up with Dolph on the streets of Los Angeles to chat with him about his latest project. You can read all about Command Performance in our DVD section. While discussing the process of bringing his truly violent rock explosion to the screen, Dolph also went into detail about The Expendables, its potential sequel, and working with longtime friend Sylvester Stallone. Here's what this giant force of badass brutality had to say:
Are you of the same mindset as Sylvester Stallone? That today's male star is far too wimpy to be of any use? Is that why you're back on the scene with The Expendables? To prove what real men are all about?
Dolph Lundgren: (Laughs) How'd you know? I never came with a conscious plan to replace anyone else. Stallone does feel that way. He is a real tough guy in real life, and he gets to act that out. If you meet him and work with him, he is what he is. He is a guy that works out every day. And he fires guns. That's what he does. People's tastes vary and change. I guess there have been a lot of actors that have been trained to fight and look tough, starting with The Matrix. Now, Stallone figures that he is going to put some real men out there. That is why he hires people like me, who are big and used to do sports for real. That's why he's picked guys like Couture and Statham, and Lee.
How important was the use of humor in bringing Jensen to the screen?
Dolph Lundgren: When I set out to shoot Command Performance, I didn't realize how important it was. I had an instinct about it when we wrote the script. Seeing the movie, I think it could have even more of it. I think it does work. It suits me somehow. I am a giant blonde guy. Am I going to just stand there and look stoic? No, then I just become Ivan Drago. This guy needed to be likable. That was also true with The Expendables. Stallone wrote this great character for me. He's crazy but funny. In a comedic way. He's a good guy and a bad guy at the same time. Stallone really pushed me to get those comedic moments to work. It's something that I hadn't really ever done before. It was hard for me, especially with Stallone directing. And we have all of these other guys there. Stallone is a pretty tough director. You don't mess with him. But those scenes certainly proved that comedy in these types of films is very important. I think it works for me. Maybe that will be my secret weapon in the future of my career. I hope, anyway.
What's a favorite joke about your own stated persona?
Dolph Lundgren: Its usually something from Rocky IV. When people meet me, and they've never seen me before, that's what comes to their mind. Sometimes they'll be, "Hey, what'd you kill my brother Apollo for, man?!?" Or, "You killed Apollo! I am really upset about that." That's one thing. Other people always say, "Hey, I want to hear you say 'I must break you.' Can you say it like you did in the movie." Some fans are a little more familiar with my work. They will sometimes tease me about Masters of the Universe. I think they'll start quoting The Expendables after it comes out. I'm a little bit nuts here. I am so violent and crazy in the movie. All of those mercenaries are violent, but this guy, Jensen, is a crazy Swede. He is the worst. I think there will be plenty of jokes coming out of that.
Can you talk about the violence in the film?
Dolph Lundgren: I think the violence is important. It all depends on the genre. Rambo was ultra-violent, and I think it worked. You have to give Stallone credit. You have to respect him for taking that shot, and taking the violence all the way. He was the first one to do that in a long time. It fricking worked. I couldn't believe that he did that. The Expendables is violent, but its not as violent as Rambo. It's funnier. It has a little more humor. There are some moments were guys get blown across the room. They get stabbed and shot, and shit like that. But its not as bad as Rambo. The tone is a little bit more entertaining. It's not as dark. In Command Performance, it's a little bit in-between. Its entertaining and light, but there is some violence. Its not nearly as violent as Rambo, but it is pointed in that direction. It all depends on what type of film I am making. If its darker, and the bad guys have done some really awful things to people, like rape kids, then the audience wants them to get it in a very bad way. You have to really hurt them. That's such a heinous crime. You can't just be nice and shoot them.
With films like The Expendables, do you see Hollywood going back to making more of these types of films? Or is it completely up to the icons of the genre to bring the true action flick back to life?
Dolph Lundgren: That is a good question. A lot of people are wondering that. It's on the cusp right now. On the one hand, you have these huge budget films that cost millions of dollars. They are effects driven, they don't have well known actors in them, and they are making money. Well, some of them are. One the other hand, you have Stallone and Statham, and guys like DeNiro and Pacino, and Costner, who are all trying to make movies about real people. They are interested in character driven projects. But at the same time, it's all action heavy. I'm on of those guys. I think that people are going to find more interest in the human condition, especially with them being weaned on so much reality television. They want character driven stuff along with real violence. Cage fighting is very popular with the kids right now. They see and know what one punch can do to someone's face. You can't give someone five hundred punches in a film anymore. You beat on them, and they continue to stand there staring at you. That doesn't work. People just don't buy that anymore. I think that will change the genre a little bit.
It's always in the back of my mind that you and Sly are at odds with each other, which I guess comes from a childhood of being reared on films like Rocky IV. Are you guys actually friends? And what was it like to get the call for this film?
Dolph Lundgren: We've been friends ever since Stallone hired me for that first picture. He was my boss and my mentor in many ways. I'd never seen a film camera. I didn't know what I was doing when I showed up in Los Angeles twenty-five years ago. We've always continued to be friends. I never expected that we'd ever do anything else together. We are both getting pretty old. He started doing Rambo sequels. I don't fit into those. Then, out of the blue, he calls me for this picture. He said, "Look, here is this script I am working on." He was very nice about it. He told me, "Take a look at this role. Tell me if you like it. I want you to be Jensen." I read it, and of course I really liked it. Stallone is a great writer. He wrote one of the best screenplays ever written. Rocky. It is one of the biggest classics of all time. I think in the past, he was shying away from writing his own stuff, because there is a lot of pressure when you star in something that you write. But I was reading this script, and I was laughing. My character was so great. I was so happy to take the role. On film, there is a certain thing between us. We have a great screen presence together. He is Italian and dark. I am the blonde Nordic type. When we are together on screen, it looks very good when they cut back and forth between us. I realized that when I saw The Expendables just on the monitors, when we were filming. We are really good friends, and I am very thankful for what he has done for my career. Anything he wants me to do, pretty much, more or less, I will do.
Have you seen the movie yet?
Dolph Lundgren: Not the whole thing, but I did some ADR earlier this week. And I did get to see some of the other scenes in it.
Do you have a particular favorite scene that you can share with the fans that are so hungry for information on this film?
Dolph Lundgren: (Laughs) I think this is going to be a great movie. And now it has Bruce Willis and Arnold in it, too. I really love some of the scenes that I am in. I love the comedic stuff, where I am acting a little bit crazy. And I like the dramatic stuff between me and Stallone. We have two or three scenes together. Those are my favorites. Its so old school. It's a confrontation scene between two men. Its real, character-driven material. Stallone writes really well. I was very pleased to make that come alive on screen. I think people are going to really dig it.
This looks like another awesome movie for you. Do you think Sly is setting up a franchise? Will we be seeing you return for The Expendables 2?
Dolph Lundgren: No, he hasn't mentioned a sequel. But people are obviously talking about it. They are starting to hold that up. Look, I think you want to get to square one first. I have never done a sequel. Wait, I did do a sequel to Universal Soldier. But I have only done that one sequel during my whole career. Stallone is huge on sequels. I don't know what is going to happen. Even so, I think people are going to love this film. And want another one. They are going to be thrilled by what they see on that screen. Especially when I am going up against Sly. We are both friends and enemies in this movie. I think it's going to be really good.