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Introducing...Dolph Lundgren

Published: 19 Mar 2007 17:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2007 17:27 GMT+01:00

In this week's Introducing..., the column that points out the brightest stars in the firmament of Swedish celebrity, Paul O'Mahony looks at Hollywood's favourite Cold War Russian muscleman, Dolph Lundgren.

Who is he and why is he famous?

Dolph Lundgren is the Swede and one-time scholar who went to Hollywood and morphed into a musclebound action hero. Over the course of his illustrious career, the renowned thespian has starred alongside acting giants such as Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Roger Moore and Keanu Reeves.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, eh?

In acting terms maybe, but he was very much the bride academically. In younger years he was quite a whizz in the lab. Having first attended the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, he went on to receive a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney.

How very implausible. Next you'll be telling me he only ended up in the USA because he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT, or something equally ludicrous.

As a matter of fact, that is precisely what happened. And somewhere along the line he hooked up with eighties diva and pop cultural icon Grace Jones.

Wow. She must have made sparks fly in Dolph's laboratory?

Did she ever. It was a chemical romance. He pulled up to her bumper, baby, in his big black limousine. And he stayed there for four years. Never did two box haircuts gel so well together, and Dolph soon dropped the academic dream in favour of a more glamorous existence.

There but for the Grace of Jones. Didn't they star together in a Bond movie?

Oh yes. Jones played superhuman security guard May Day in the James Bond film 'A View to a Kill'. Since she was seeing Dolph at the time, she asked one of the producers - probably Albert R. Broccoli because he had the best name - if a role could be found for the striking Swede. Dolph got to play Venz, an evil KGB henchman. Early in the film, May Day killed French detective Aubergine. Venz didn't have much to do except look Soviet and remote, although at one point he did get to point his weapon at May Day.

Didn't he play a Soviet boxer in one of the Rocky movies?

Yes indeed. Dolph got his major Hollywood breakthrough when he played Ivan Drago, Rocky Balboa's Cold War nemesis in Rocky IV. Drago is callous to the point of Stalinism in his bout with Apollo Creed. Having pummelled the American into submission in the second round, Drago remarks, "If he dies he dies". Which was a terrible thing to say about a man who had featured in the three previous Rocky movies.

Yes, very harsh. And surely the end of Lundgren's on-screen flirtation with the Soviet Union?

Not at all. Even as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, Dolph was still out there fighting the Cold War in Red Scorpion. In a joyous return to chemistry, the former student got to use chemical weapons in a fictitious African country. The film represents a terribly subtle comment on the evils of communism. As a Soviet agent, Lundgren's character is entirely emotionless. Having been abandoned by his comrades however, Nikolai undergoes a conversion. Suddenly he is all smiles and full of the joys of life in a capitalist mindset. He soon gets on with the happy business of killing reds.

Good for him. They were simpler days, weren't they?

Joyous times. But his service to the USSR was not in vain. Last year he was awarded a medal by Russian Special Forces for "playing so many heroic Russians on film".

You have to be kidding? They always lost in the end.

Quite so. Maybe the Russian Special Forces enjoyed the unflinching realism of it all. Who knows? Anyway, should Russia ever tire of Lundgren, he may stand a chance of cracking the Asian market.

Why Asia? Are his finely honed acting powers much in demand there?

Not exactly. But he is a dab hand at martial arts, so much so in fact that he won the European full-contact karate championships in 1980 and 1981. And he got to wear his black belt with pride while tackling drugs barons in Showdown in Little Tokyo.

Is that how he came to be so fit?

Partly. But there could be certain substances involved too. As Ludmilla, his wife in Rocky IV, told an interviewer: "Like your Popeye, he eats his spinitch!" When he had eventually consumed enough of the stuff he was ready to play He-Man, Master of the Universe.

They don't get much bigger than that.

They certainly do not. And those certainly were the halcyon days as far as is career was concerned. As the years wore on Dolph gradually slipped deeper into B-movie obscurity, though it doesn't seem to have done him much harm.

In what way?

In interviews he gives the impression of being at peace with the world. In 1994 he married jewellery designer Anette Qviberg and together they had two daughters.

So has he finally given up acting and relit the Bunsen burner?

Not quite. The Dolphmeister - or Hans as was originally known - has recently directed a couple of films, 'The Defender' and 'The Mechanik'.

Hans? You mean he chose the name Dolph? He wasn't saddled with it from birth? The plot thickens to a consistency not seen since Rocky IV...

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

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