Why The Gentle Giant Has Turned His Back On Hollywood
by Sarah Carledge, Hello! Magazine, #674, August 7, 2001
When little Ida Lundgren comes home from school, her father Dolph sweeps her up in his arms to give her a hug. He places her on the banister and catches her gently as she slides down to meet him. It's a little ritual that father and and daughter share as mother Anette watches from the top step of their home in Spain.
This tenderness may seem at odds with the action-man image of the Hollywood actor. The former karate champion has been playing he-men ever since his debut opposite Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. It's a role he finds hard to shake off but, as he says, it's a business - and the one he knows best.
Dolph manages, however, to combine his work with an ordinary family lifestyle which he cherishes. The Lundgrens divide their time between a Victorian house in London and a luxurious villa in the hills above Marbella.
It's the summer holidays now, but instead of revelling in her free time, five-year-old Ida has gone back to her old school to see her friends. "At the moment she is an only child and her friends are important," says Anette, who is five months pregnant with their second child. "We've told Ida she will have a brother or sister soon and she is very excited about it."
"The bond between father and daughter is very special, so I don't mind having another girl," says Dolph in his faultless American accent. "A boy would be nice as we don't have one, but it makes me nervous because I don't know if I'm up to it."
He's aware that Ida could easily follow in his footsteps. "Yes, she's a little actress," he admits. "If she wanted to act I would encourage her. I think with kids you should support them in whatever they do - unless it is totally idiotic.
"If someone had told me what I'd be doing a year before I went to New York, I would have thought they were crazy," he continues. Indeed, the 41-year-old actor must be the only chemical engineering graduate to make it big in Hollywood. He was on his way to take up a Fulbright scholarship at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when he was waylaid.
"Then, through Grace, a lot of doors opened. It's not that Hollywood suddenly came and said, 'oh, you're Grace Jones' new boyfriend so here's a big movie.' I just thought I could make a living doing something in her world, so I started studying acting. My parents didn't know and I didn't know how to tell them. They thought I was at MIT. They would ask how school was and I would say fine - not quite a lie as I was at acting school!
"Grace was very famous at that time and I guess, together, we were a bit of an imposing team. Eventually, my parents heard about us."
While Grace helped provide Dolph with an entry into the show-business world, his wife Anette, 38, has given him an escape to normality which he cherishes. "I think he was attracted to me because I wasn't interested in having a boyfriend, least of all a Hollywood star," she says.
Anette was working in a New York restaurant when she met Dolph. They had first been introduced in Sweden where she was working as a fashion stylist, but she didn't take any notice of him at all. "If you're Swedish you're not interested in Swedish men," she laughs.
But in America it was different. They were both ex-pats looking to make a new life, but they had their roots in common. "I think he found me a challenge becausse I treated him normally. When we started going out, I would make him stay in my tiny apartment which I shared with a friend. He would arrive with all his Louis Vuitton luggage and it would take up the whole of the sitting room! I didn't like going out in limousines and I made him live an ordinary life and introduced him to all my friends."
Dolph was still living in Los Angeles os the couple conducted a coast-to-coast romance for two years. Finally, Anette capitulated and moved to the West Coast, although she did impose a time limit." I told him if I didn't like it after six months I would leave," she says. "In fact, I stayed a year but by that time I had had enough! So we moved back, initially to New York and then to London."
They married in Stockholm in February 1994. Dolph serenaded her at the wedding with his version of It's Not Unusual. "That was my biggest gig," laughs Dolph, who plays the drums with friends at home in Spain. His kit is stored in his garage but he plans to build a music room, as well as a gym, when they start constructing on a plot of land adjacent to their house.
"We bought it because we didn't want anyone building next door to us and spoiling our serenity," says Anette. "I've been coming to these hills since I was five years old, when the only two houses were my uncle's and this one. I remember the taxi drivers wouldn't come out this far because we were up a dirt road. Now its all built up, but when we're in our garden you would still think we were in the middle of nowhere."
It had always been Anette's dream to won the beautiful house opposite her uncle's, so when the chance came to buy it she jumped at it. "it was very rundown by the time we bought it, so I have virtually redone the whole thing," she says. Since then, she has been sought after in Marbella as an interior designer but says she can't accept commissions at present because she still travels around the world with Dolph and would never find the time to finish a project.
"As a woman you have to decide how far you want to give in as a wife because you also want your life. But if you decide you want children when your husband is working in movies, then you have to give in more. I had to choose; I couldn't have a career because it wouldn't work out with our plans for being a family."
In many ways, Marbella suits them because they can lead a normal life despite Dolph's fame. He goes to the gym every day and picks up Ida from school. It's clear that Anette thinks its good for him to do ordinary things, although he enjoys the odd moments of recognition and will willingly signs autographs if asked.
He has a few flash toys, like the blue Ferrari which was originally owned by a Saudi prince. "He gifted it to someone who worked for hm and I bought it off her for a song," he says. "Last year I went with the local Ferrari club on a trip to San marino, which was great fun."
"I would like to say that America has been really good to me," he points our. "If you're willing to work hard, put it all on the line and become somegody, then America is a good place - especially when you're young. I wouldn't have progressed and learned as many things or been as mature as I am now if I hadn't gone. You also have to know when to call it quits unless you want to stay there for the rest of your life, which we didn't want to do.
"Being an action star, there's a risk of believing it's for real and that you have to be the tough guy in real life, which to me is stupid. I guess you can keep it up until you're 50 if you're in good shape, but I have to say I wouldn't mind doing some other type of business in Marbella and find more time to be with the family."
You can sense his frustration at the way things have turned out. Whereas Anronld Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme became Hollywood icons, Dolph never made the grade. Perhaps it doesn't pay to have brains as well as brawn.
"The British film industry is very creative and I would love to be involved with it in some way," he says. "I'm not saying I would ever give up my main income with action movies because people are always waiting for the next one to come out, but it would be great to have a different experience.
"One of the reasons for moving to London was a need to be back at the heart of Europe. London is a great place for anyone who works in Hollywood because you can still be part of the movie business but live an international life. Most of our friends in London and Hollywood have nothing to do with films and I have Anette to thank for that.
"I was a chemical engineer from Sweden who got lucky, got a big movie and got stuck in LA. But when I met Anette and began a life with her, I got my Swedish roots back."
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