Over a career spanning four decades, Dolph Lundgren remains one of the legends of action cinema. As part of a club of European powerhouse action stars led by Arnold Schwarzenegger and including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sven-Ole Thorsen, and Matthias Hues, Lundgren shaped a career from his debut acting credit as ‘Ivan Drago’ in “Rocky IV”, with numerous roles that are simply, iconic.
Whether it’s on the big screen in blockbuster flicks that include “Masters of the Universe”, “Dark Angel” (opposite Matthias Hues), “Universal Soldier” with Jean-Claude Van Damme, or independent action films such as “Showdown in Little Tokyo” (with Brandon Lee), and an appearance as Konstantin Kovar on TV’s “Arrow”, Lundgren has never stopped working to bring us larger-than-life characters, thrilling plots and sterling action that have solidified his status as an action hero.
In his latest film, “Castle Falls” (which he also directs) Dolph stars as Ericson, a prison guard in desperate need of money for his daughter’s life-saving operation, who searches through a derelict building (Castle Heights Hospital) scheduled for demolition, in search of $3 million hidden somewhere in there.
However, Ericson is not the only one looking for the hidden stash, as hot on the trail is retired fighter Mike Wade (Scott Adkins), and an armed criminal gang lead by Deacon (Scott Hunter).
For all three parties, the clock is ticking on the race for who will get their hands on the money first and get out before the building is reduced to a mere mass of rubble.
Kung Fu Kingdom were honored to sit down with Dolph recently to talk to him about his most famous breakout role with the release of “Rocky IV: The Ultimate Director’s Cut”, and “Castle Falls” due for release in a few days on December 3rd. So, without further ado…please welcome Dolph Lundgren!
Welcome to Kung fu Kingdom, it’s great to connect with you! How have you been holding up during the coronavirus pandemic?
Thank you! Well, I was in LA, basically for a year, more than a year in fact and then really didn’t go anywhere. But I did do the film, “Castle Falls”, so it was actually good timing because I had a lot of time to prepare for it and also post because there was nothing else going on.
But I mean, yeah, I’m taking the vaccine, suffered a bit like everybody else with not seeing my kids and a few things like that. On the whole I’d say it’s been pretty good.
Dolph on KFK’s Mission: His Passion for Martial-Arts Philosophy & How it Helps Young People
Our mission at Kung Fu Kingdom is to encourage 100 million people around the world to get into martial arts for all the positive benefits it brings physically, mentally, and socially. What do you think about this goal?
I think it’s a great goal. Look, I started martial arts when I was 14 because I was insecure and had low self-esteem. I had been sick as a kid, I had asthma and allergies. I was attracted to martial arts for the toughness of the training, but also, there’s something about the philosophy.
I realized it had to do with self-development and self-improvement. In modern society these ancient qualities of bravery, self-control and respect, the spiritual qualities, are left out of our lives these days.
I think that’s why martial arts is very good because it can bring young children and teenagers into that focus that will help them not only in the dojo, but also in life.
Agree 100%! Your most famous role is that of Russian powerhouse boxer ‘Ivan Drago’ in “Rocky IV”. That’s now enjoying a resurgence with the recent release of “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago – The Ultimate Director’s Cut”. Given your background in Kyokushin Karate, how challenging was it for you when filming the fights with Sylvester Stallone to constrain yourself to boxing techniques?
Well it took a little bit of effort on my side even though I had done boxing both when I was in college and also in New York.
Whilst I was auditioning for “Rocky IV” I was training in the local gym and had thought about becoming a professional fighter. It was a little crazy, but somebody offered to represent me as a pro.
I’d also done point fighting with WAKO when I was younger, so it wasn’t that hard for me. You had to pull back punches and so forth with Sly, and I had some boxing experience.
When you watch the movie, you’ll see there’s a certain style to Drago, he has that kind of fairly long stance which is a martial arts stance, longer perhaps than that of regular boxing so I thought that was interesting. I found it’s not that difficult to adapt, and I was quite well-suited to take on that role.
Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago | The Ultimate Director’s Cut Trailer
Sly Could Take Dolph’s Crushing Blows: He Gave as Good as He Got!
Certainly! Your karate training means that you can take and deliver powerful strikes, and Stallone was known for encouraging you to ‘go for it’ in the ring. How impressed were you that he could take your crushing blows? Did he give as good as he got?
I was impressed with his physicality, I do remember that. I was 10 years younger and you know when you’re 27, somebody who’s 37 seems like ‘over the hill’. Anybody over 30 shouldn’t be in the game, that’s how you think when you’re a fighter.
So I was impressed by his physicality and the fact we both took shots to the body, and even a lot to the head for some of those slo-mo shots. We both got hit, but I was impressed by him for sure.
Dolph’s Latest Movie: Castle Falls
Cool! So let’s talk about your latest film, “Castle Falls” – how did that come about?
Well, I had a short project with Scott Adkins that fell through so I was looking for a ‘two-hander’, found the script, and decided to step up the guard character to make him kind of more or less equal with (Scott’s character) ‘Mike Wade’.
And then the fact that it was set in a building in almost real time made me think that I can probably shoot this on a short schedule because we don’t have to move around 50 locations.
I thought it was about time to direct as I’d last done it 10 years ago, and I’d been wrapped up in The Expendables, “Creed II” and “Aquaman“. I didn’t know it was gonna be as tough as it was, but I took it on and I’m glad I did it.
Castle Falls – Trailer
I see. So, what is it about being a director that you enjoy, what challenges does it present in balancing the roles of actor and director for you?
Well, being being a director means you’re the boss; it’s your vision, you’re the artist.
It’s a visual medium, and you have to put all those pieces together with the music of the story, the lighting, the performances and the action, and I just find it challenging to do something that involves more multitasking.
It’s a playful thing to be an actor, and it can also be tough. Being a director, you get a chance to show other sides of your own spirit and you get to put that into the movie. You can show your taste, your own look at life, humanity, and things like that, which I really enjoy.
On Working with Scott Adkins
Such a good point. Scott Atkins co-stars with you and you’ve worked with Scott a few times previously over the years. What do you think of him as a fighter? And were you guys tempted to do a little friendly sparring behind the scenes and compare knowledge given that you’re both lifelong martial artists?
You know if I had more time, I would’ve sparred with him! However, I was super busy and we had to get all the fights choreographed. We did have one fight together in the movie, which was really hard for me because he’s younger than me and has more recent experience, but I think I held my own pretty good.
Scott contributed a lot to the film because of the choreography, the way he shot the fights, and the way he helped to edit the fights; he even helped cut the trailer. He’s a smart guy, easy to work with and perfect for this job. So I really enjoyed it but maybe next time around, we’ll also do a little sparring!
Dolph’s Pulled Bicep Tendon & Fighting Single-Handed
Sounds good! So what was the most physically demanding fight or action scene that you undertook for the film? Were there any injuries or mishaps on set?
Well, I would say the main one for me was the fight with Scott, because I pulled my bicep tendon, I ripped that so I had to fight with one of these hands down. There’s a tendon that’s attached in two places up here [points to bicep] and I ripped one of them so it was getting kind of painful. That was tough. I think that fight was hard.
Tough, 17-Day Shooting Schedule
Then generally, as a director, you know, you’re always on the go and shooting in the building. We were 10 stories up, some of the stuff was shot and there was no elevator! So everybody had to walk, the crew, everybody, had to walk up, and then walk down for lunch, and walk back up.
It was like 40 stories-a-day on some days, not that it was a big deal for me, but it was a tough shoot in that respect, plus the fact that we had four shutdowns with COVID on this already short schedule. That brought us down to 17 days. Compare that to “Aquaman” with 110 days!
Dolph Lundgren’s Message for Kung Fu Kingdom Followers & His Fans around the World
Quite a difference! So, Dolph, what special message, or warrior wisdom would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?
Well, I would say: The warrior never gives up, he keeps coming no matter what. It’s not about how hard you get hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and still get up.
Awesome! We all strive to live by that I think…Thank you very much Dolph for taking the time to speak with us at Kung Fu Kingdom today. It’s been a real honor and a privilege. Best of luck with the film, keep in touch!