Scholar Dolph's no hunky meathead
By Candace Burke-Block, Calgary Herald, July 4, 1992
Not all hunks are meatheads. Dolph Lundgren, the 6-foot-5- inch, 240-pound Swede who shot to fame opposite Sylvester Stallone in 1985's Rocky IV, was a serious scholar before he decided to give acting a shot.
Lundgren attended the Royal University of Technology in Stockholm and then spent several years studying in the United States.
He earned a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney in Australia and was subsequently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to pursue his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Between hitting the books, the actor found time to be the captain of the Swedish full-contact karate team and was a winner of the European Heavyweigh Full-Contact Karate Championship in 1980 and 1981, as well as the Australian Heavyweight Division title in 1982. He has a second-degree karate black belt.
So when did acting come into the picture? "I was always involved in artistic things when I was a kid - painting, music and a bit of acting," says Lundgren, lounging at his beach house near Los Angeles.
"But my father wanted me to pursue engineering for a while, so I did. And I got pretty good at it. But that's a different lifetime."
Now that Lundgren is a star, how does his dad feel about his acting career?
"He's comfortable (with it), but he doesn't approve really of the movies I'm making," Lundgren says, without a trace of a Swedish accent.
"He wants me to be more sophisticated and wear a suit and be a gentleman and be charming and all that. I'm working my way toward it . . . in a few more years."
The decision to chuck engineering was made in 1983, when Lundgren was living in New York City before starting MIT.
"I got into studying in this acting workshop with (coach) Warren Robertson," he says. "I got a little hooked on acting and started training."
To earn money he did some modeling, but didn't go far because of his size.
"This size is short for the NBA, but in general it's a little too tall for modeling," he says.
But it's not too tall for action films. Lundgren made his debut with a small role in A View To A Kill (1985), then went on to do Rocky IV, Masters of the Universe (1987), Red Scorpion (1989), The Punisher (1989) and I Come in Peace (1990).
Now he stars opposite Jean- Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier, scheduled for release next Friday.
It's the story of a secret military project designed to create perfect warriors - men who don't experience pain, emotion or memory.
Lundgren describes his role as "a psychotic Vietnam vet who gets killed in action and then is biogenetically rebuilt into the perfect soldier. Jean-Claude plays my character's former private with whom he was in deadly conflict in Vietnam. And now my character wants to continue the war."
Lundgren's film persona will be further developed in Joshua Tree, which just began filming.
It's about a convict who escapes from prison and then takes a woman hostage. She turns out to be a police officer; the two eventually fall in love.
Lundgren compares the craft of acting to sports.
"Acting is interesting because you are your own instrument, you're inside your own instrument," he says. "It reminds me of being an athlete because that also means you're inside your instrument and it's a 24-hour thing."
Acting, he says, has gotten him out of his head and interested in emotions.
"Where I used to be totally analytical and intellectual, now I'm much more emotional, which is kind of nice," he says. "It was the way I wanted to be when I was a kid, but I wasn't really allowed to because of my strict Swedish parents."
Unfortunately, no woman is in his life at the moment with whom to share his newfound sensitivity.
"I'm afraid my work is too tough, and no one can put up with my garbage," he says.
"But I would love to have a family and settle down at some point when I have a little more control over my future. So I don't have to go away and leave anybody at home while I work on location."
Lundgren finds himself in a curious position in Hollywood.
"People don't really know me, but I think they see me as a bit of a wild card," he says. "They recognize me and most people know my name, but they don't really know what I've done, so it leaves it kind of open, which means that I can do what I want more or less.
"I look at myself as being 34 years old and just starting out. Leading men usually mature around 40, so I have plenty of time."
(Burke-Block is a New York- based freelance writer)