Action star Dolph Lundgren talks about his new film on DVD, The Expendables and other future films
Before 1985, Dolph Lundgren was a name only known in martial arts circles from the numerous titles he won in karate. After his film debut in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, that same year Lundgren took audiences by storm with his powerful performance as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, which catapulted his career. Lundgren still has a thirst for action, as you can see in his latest film, Direct Contact, which hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on June 2. I had the chance to speak with Lundgren over the phone, and here's what he had to say about his new film, and much more.
So can you talk about how the film first came to you, and I was curious if Danny Lerner and Les Weldon wrote this part for you specifically?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah, I believe they did. Yeah, the script came to me and I have a two-picture deal with Nu Image, with that picture and another picture I wanted to make called Command Performance, that was shot after Direct Contact. I also wanted to shoot in Bulgaria, so yeah. We went through the script a little bit and (director) Danny Lerner has been great to work with and Avi Lerner and all those guys. I like working with them. They're projects are more flexible than other people you work with. You can always change things as they go along and I just like to work with them.
You've been making these kinds of action films for years now, but was there anything new that you had to pick up for this film? There are a lot of close-quarters combat stuff in this movie, so was that part of the training you had to do?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah. Well I have a Bulgarian sparring partner, an MMA guy, that I work out with, so we always work out and spar, so yeah, I had to do some extra training for that. I had this relationship with this girl in it that was kind of interesting, because it's kind of a love-hate relationship that is always fun to play. It's fun to go back to Bulgaria too. I was prepping the other film I was doing there too.
The film was rather fast-paced and relentless, and I noticed they even kind of sped through the opening credits as well, so was that the kind of pace they were going for the whole time?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah, I think so. That's what Danny wanted to do. He wanted to do a non-stop action-fest and get as many bodies in there as possible. I think the story also, having a twist where you're trying to save somebody who doesn't want to be saved, that's pretty good. It seems to work.
Your scenes are primarily with Gina May and Michael Pare in the film, so how did you enjoy working with those two actors?
Dolph Lundgren: Oh, very much so. Michael Pare, I've known him from way back as an acquaintance, that was a pleasure. And Gina was very sweet and very good to work with. She did a good job playing this character.
You talked a bit about going back to Bulgaria, so how often had you worked there before and did you go to any new parts of Bulgaria while you were filming this?
Dolph Lundgren: Let me see, we mostly shot in and around Sofia, which I know well. I did my first film there in 1997, which was the first Nu Image picture, so I was in it for the whole operation. It was interesting because, in those days, it was a lot more dangerous. They were using real dynamite to blow stuff up. You had to check your AK-47 and make sure it wasn't real, back in those days. But there's a big studio there now. They're building two more soundstages there. I shot Command Performance there, which I directed after Direct Contact and I'm finishing now. I've done another one or two movies in between and then I shot a little piece of Universal Soldiers: The Next Generation there, so I've been there for probably 10 projects or so.
Like you mentioned, you've directed some of your previous films, so can you talk about working about a producer and director like Danny Lerner and what kind of presence he brings to the table for this film?
Dolph Lundgren: Well, Danny is extremely experienced as a producer. He's done like 100 movies or something like that. He's one of the more experienced guys in the business, especially action movies, so as a director, he can bring all that to the table. He's a very very nice guy, a very nice man, and we're personal friends so it just makes it so much easier. He's very quick. There was only one day we went over. We went home early every day and there's a certain elegance in that. I've tried to do the same too as a director. I always try to not overdo things.
There are a number of pretty intense action scenes, chase scenes and fight scenes in the film, so I was wondering if you had a favorite action or fight sequence in the film?
Dolph Lundgren: Well, let me think. I like the fight at the end. I thought that was great. They have a lot of safety issues over there and it's basically up to the actor. I'm walking through fire a little bit there (Laughs). If this was done in the West, we'd have a double do this stuff, but that's fun. I had a shorter fight with my current sparring partner, who's Bulgarian, and I got in a little fight with him, which was in a corridor towards the end, and he actually kicks my ass (Laughs). It was a good little sequence.
One of my favorites was the motorcycle chase scene, so was that actually you riding on that?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah, I did some of that stuff, some of the motorcycle driving. It's a bit dicey in Bulgaria because, you're not quite sure. They have good people, but still, you've got to really look over the equipment before you get on it. You're not sure if the wheel is going to come off this time, or not (Laughs).
Can you talk a little bit about The Expendables that you have coming out? Have you wrapped on that?
Dolph Lundgren: No, we're about halfway through. Most of my stuff is still left. I've done a couple of scenes and it's a pleasure working with Stallone again. He's a very experienced guy. You know, I direct myself, so I appreciate his advice because I can pass it on. Few people have more experience than him, a lead in a big action movie. I mean, how many big movies has he done in his career? Maybe 30? Big studio pictures? That was fun, so now that I get to suck up his advice and it's really fun for me. It's a pleasure. It's a really good character for me too. I'm the outcast-of-the-family sort of thing. I go back and forth between the good family and the bad guys, so there's a lot of great stuff and certainly a lot of action.
So, your character plays both sides then?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah. I get to play both good and bad. It's a little crazy. He's a guy with a heart, and Stallone is no friend of his in the movie. He was my old buddy and we end up parting ways, it gets ugly and there's sort of a surprise. You'll see.
You talked a bit about Command Performance, and I have to say the trailer looked awesome, so I was curious if there was a release date planned for that as of yet?
Dolph Lundgren: We just finished the film now and, because it's a smaller movie - it looks big and whatnot - it needs to be screened to the distributors and we'll find out what's going to happen in the U.S. in the next couple of weeks. We'll know more in a month or two.
You also have Universal Soldiers: The Next Generation as well, so how has that work been going?
Dolph Lundgren: Well, I did a small cameo. John Hyams is the director and he's a pretty good writer. That's a really violent movie. It's a very hardcore violent movie. They have a lot of MMA guys in it, we break a few skulls. It was fun to work with (Jean-Cladue) Van Damme again and with John Hyams. I haven't seen much of the film, because I only worked on it for two weeks, but I'm sure it's going to turn out good.
Finally, Direct Contact comes out on DVD next week, so what would you like to say to your fans or fans of these action films to get them to pick this up on DVD next week?
Dolph Lundgren: Yeah. I think people should pick it up. It's another action film with a cool-looking chick in it (Laughs) and plenty of hardcore action. Also I want them to get ready to these other four movies I have coming out in the next year, so it should be good.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, Dolph. Thanks so much for your time and I'm definitely looking forward to your new films.
Dolph Lundgren: Thanks. I appreciate it. Take care.
You can see Dolph Lundgren in action once again when Direct Contact hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on June 2.