Dolph Lundgren at the world premiere of "Creed II" in New York earlier this month. Photo: Andy Kropa/TT
With Lundgren reprising his most famous character, the Russian boxer Ivan Drago, we thought we’d take a closer look at his life and career. Here are seven things you might not know about the Swedish actor.
1. He’s still alive and well.
If you thought Lundgren had fallen off the face of the earth before you spotted him in the 'Creed II' trailer, rest assured that he is doing well and has continued his acting career. The 61-year-old looks like he could still step into the boxing ring and he's still steadily appearing in films. It's safe to say, however, that most of his recent roles have failed to garner much notice, except for maybe the three (soon to be four) times he’s appeared in 'The Expendables' movies alongside a bunch of other ageing action heroes.
But Lundgren seems poised for another turn in the limelight. In addition to returning to the Rocky franchise, he also has a high-profile role in the upcoming 'Aquaman' film that will be released just before Christmas.
2. Swedish? I thought he was Russian.
Understandable. Lundgren’s performance as the Apollo Creed-killing Drago was so iconic that a whole generation of film fans would be forgiven for believing he grew up behind the Iron Curtain. But no, he’s Swedish alright. Lundgren was born in Stockholm and remained there until he moved to his grandparents' home in the town of Nyland in Västernorrland County at the age of 13. He returned to the capital to attend KTH Royal Institute of Technology, where he obtained a degree in chemical engineering.
3. Wow, he sounds smart. I thought he was just a meathead.
You better believe he’s smart. After finishing at the Royal Institute, he went on to get his master’s in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney before landing a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT. Alas, that was derailed when he was spotted by 80s pop cultural icon Grace Jones, who was so impressed with his hulking frame and rugged good looks that she took him on as a bodyguard and lover (more on that later).
But even early on, his physical prowess matched his mental abilities. In his early 20s, he won the European full-contact karate championships, so it’s not like he was a total bookworm.
4. What was that about Grace Jones?
Right, so Lundgren and Jones had a bit of a whirlwind romance that resulted in him moving to New York City in order to be with her. When she played a leading role in the 1985 James Bond film 'A View to Kill', she convinced him to try out for a bit role as a Soviet henchman. He got the part, which in turn opened the door for 'Rocky IV' and others.
But spare a thought for poor old Dolph. He told the Irish Times this week that those late 80s years were awfully rough. He said it was downright “exhausting” to have group sex with all of the women Jones would bring back from the nightclub. Poor guy.
5. If that sounds wild, wait until you hear this.
After Lundgren’s romance with Jones petered out, he hooked up with model and actress Paula Barbieri, who’s best known for being OJ Simpson’s girlfriend at around the time of the Nicole Brown Simpson murder.
In 1994, Lundgren married fellow Swede Anette Qviberg and together they have two daughters. In 2009, their home in Marbella, Spain was burglarized by three masked men. The burglars tied Qviberg and threatened her with a knife before spotting a photo of Lundgren and fleeing in terror. Sadly, Lundgren told Parade that the incident “traumatized” his wife and eldest daughter and just two years later the couple divorced.
6. He hasn’t exactly been a critical darling
'Rocky IV' led Lundgren to a late-80s heyday that included star roles in 'Red Scorpion' (playing a Soviet soldier, naturally), 'Masters of the Universe', (portraying none other than He-Man himself) and the title role in The Punisher, a performance which was savaged as “some of the worst acting ever to disgrace the screen” by filmcritic.com founder Christopher Null. Null also called Lundgren “one of cinema’s worst duds ever”, so it’s safe to assume he’s not much of a fan. Watching the trailer, it's hard to disagree:
With late career titles including such gems as 'Sharknado 5: Global Swarming' and ‘4Got10’ (get it?), Lundgren remains better known for his imposing 1.96m frame than his acting chops.
7. But perhaps that’s about to change
Lundgren’s most famous role gave him a laughable total of nine lines of dialogue, the most famous of which is the meme-worthy “I must break you.” But in 'Creed II', Lundgren promises that his performance is more well-rounded.
“This time it’s a character study,” he told The Irish Times. “I didn’t want to do the Drago thing again. I didn’t want to play another one-dimensional Russian villain.”
Early reviews of Creed II have been quite positive, so it sounds like the big Swede succeeded. If he didn’t, who would have the courage to tell him to his face?