Back in 1985, Swedish powerhouse Dolph Lundgren burst onto the international movie scene as Ivan Drago from Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV. Since then, he has become one of the mainstays of tough-guy action flicks.
In 2004, he had a chance to emerge from his on-screen persona and direct The Defender. “I was always interested in telling stories,” Lundgren told FilmSchoolRejects. He recalls painting as a young man, and even forcing his brothers and sisters to act out games as a child. When the original director of The Defender got sick, the producers approached Lundgren to take over the job.
“I didn’t sleep for a month,” Lundgren recalled. “But otherwise, it was good.”
Now, Lundgren is a triple threat on the action film market, routinely writing and directing his films (and with his masters degree in chemical engineering, he could probably run the pyrotechnics as well). Missionary Man, recently released on DVD, is his third shot at doing all three jobs. “I’m learning to like it,” he said. “It’s a tall order, but it’s satisfying.”
Lundgren looks forward to a future where he could actually direct a film without starring in it as well, but he knows that funding is often secured on his name as a star. And as he gets older, as a director, it allows him to be more cautious about his action scenes.
“With experience, you don’t do stupid stuff,” he said. “I can prevent some of the stupidity by directing. But as you get older, you have to watch yourself a little more.”
Still, he freely admits that with all the responsibilities as director, the stunts aren’t the challenge. “That’s not the hardest part,” he said. “That’s the easiest part, doing the fighting.”
Missionary Man is Lundgren’s homage to westerns and revenge stories. There’s references throughout to underdog action pieces like Billy Jack and the early Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. “I was going for the classic western storyline, about redemption and revenge.” Lundgren explained. In this film, he uses motorcycles instead of horses, and it’s still about a stranger who rides in to help the oppressed people of the town.
Missionary Man doesn’t pull its punches with the violence. (Lundgren starts by slapping around some cowboys, then shooting a juke box and a television before graduating to a gunfight in which he literally blows a man’s face off.) However, I was aware of the noticeable absence of naked women.
“I’m sorry about that,” Lundgren told me. “The next one will have naked women. I tried to do one without naked women. But the next one will have a strip club and naked women in it.”
Relieved, I could continue with the interview, and I had to ask the burning question that is on everyone’s mind. If you look up Dolph Lundgren on Wikipedia, they have him listed as a classic action hero along with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. If they were all in a room, duking it out, I wanted to know who would be the first to go down, and who’d be the last one standing.
Lundgren chuckled and got a little uncomfortable. “Well, these are all nice guys,” he replied. “I don’t want to hurt them. What do you think?”
I told him that I thought Seagal would be the first to drop. After all, I’m in terrible shape, and I could probably still outrun the dude.
“Well, I don’t want to say anything bad,” Lundgren replied. “He used to be a good martial artist. I haven’t seen him lately. I don’t know what he looks like.”
Lundgren then directed me to YouTube, where you can find a video of himself in an exhibition fight with Russian powerhouse Oleg Taktarov, which he did in late 2007. “That’s recent,” he said. “So then look at some of the other folks and see what they look like, so draw your own conclusions on who would be left standing.”
Sound Off: Who do you think would win in a fight, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris or Dolph?